Entering China

Trip Start Dec 25, 2011
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Trip End May 10, 2013


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Flag of China  , Guangxi Zhuang,
Saturday, March 2, 2013

The next couple of days have the potential to be horrendous. Time for a new adventure, leaving behind the comforts and ease of travelling around South East Asia.

I'm going to travel from Hanoi (Vietnam) to Dali (China). This - hopefully, if all goes to plan - will involve a bus of 9 hours, followed by an overnight train of 12 hours a short taxi, then bus of 6 hours and then another taxi!! That's a lot of travelling to do back-to-back and I'm going to be knackered!

I bought my bus ticket a few days ago. The bus leaves from a nearby hotel, so at 6.45am, I caught a taxi over there. A bus was sitting by the side of the road. Noone seemed to be in charge, or checking tickets. No Chinese writing, or even a destination on the bus, so I had no idea if it was even the right one.

The bus was supposed to leave at 7.30am, but all that was happening then was people getting on and off and on and off, I didn't have a clue what was going on. Turns out it was the right bus and we left at 8am, with luggage filling the aisle.

I hardly slept last night and just wanted to relax and read my book. The man sitting next to me had other ideas and bombarded me with questions for the next few hours. He was nice enough and even bought me some pho (noodle soup) at the break time!

We arrived at the border at 11.30am. More confusement. After releasing I had to take all luggage with me, we were loaded onto mini golf carts for a 5 minute drive towards the border! The Vietnamese immigration was chaos. Vietnamese have no concept of a queue and push their way in. I did my best to push back. Wasn't in the mood! Then to get to the Chinese immigration, a 10 minute walk (with all luggage)!!! And a massive queue, which took over half an hour. They only had 1 desk open out of a possible 8.....why?!

At the Chinese side they were confiscating magazines, books, alcohol, anything that looked remotely exciting. I didn't have anything that excited them, so was let though with disappointment on their side!

Once through, back on a golf cart for another 5 minute ride to a car park. Really throughout the whole process, I have had no idea what I am doing. And again now, a couple of buses, which one do I go to?! Luckily I had the Chinese characters written down for 'Nanning train station' and was kindly pointed to the right bus.

By now it was 3 pm and we haven't even left the border! We've been here for 2.5 hours (as well as an additional hour forward in time zone change). Clearly running very late as we were supposed to be in Nanning by about 3.30/4pm.

Country number 19 - China


So, off I head. Into China. I'm apprehensive of travelling through China. I speak zero Chinese (I did try, but it's so confusing being a tonal language) and Chinese people generally speak zero English. The food also - they eat EVERYTHING. And I don't. I wouldn't say I was fussy per say, I'm just not accustomed to the type of food they eat. And already, at the border being made to feel like a criminal for potential possession of a magazine (which I didn't have and was in Vietnamese language, so why would I have one anyway?)!

The scenery was all rather boring. A big road with trees lining the edges, so you couldn't even see over! We finally arrived at nearly 6.30pm and luckily I had spotted the train station as we drove through the city, as we were dropped a 15 minute walk away, in a car park.

Nanning town was weird, huge and sprawling with clusters of tall housing buildings everywhere. Lots of building work being undertaken and very busy large roads. Motorbikes seem to have their own separate lanes here which seems a good idea. The temperature was a bit of a shock. Down to 9 degrees now!! Since I left Malaysia, the temperature has been slowly getting colder and colder. And I'm stood here in my flip flops....looks like these have no use anymore!

I have pre booked my train ticket to Kunming. I wasn't going to, but after checking online availability it was nearly all sold out! So lucky I checked and ended up booking through an agency. So first thing to do, try and retrieve my ticket - all I had to do was show my booking number (in Chinese). Easy! There seems to be a load of homeless people living inside the station concourse.

I have 3 hours to wait until my train, so after dinner (of a McDonald's equivalent!), I made my way to the waiting room. I was shocked at how dirty it was! Litter covering the floor. Well, just 2 hours to wait in this dirty room!!! Little bit weird - quite a few people have walked towards me, stopped and stood to stare for a while. True, I don't see any other white people here, but that's a bit weird.

My train arrived at 9.40pm. My ticket has an allocated coach and seat/bed on it, thankfully numbers are in English. Next weird thing - you hand your ticket in and get given a plastic credit card size ticket with your same seat number on. What's the point?

I was obviously an attraction. For the first 5 minutes of being on the train I had a surrounding harem of about 10 young people (about my age) watching me and practising to speak English. One decided to sit with me on my bed and chat for a while - she was nice.

Overnight trains are not like in Thailand (which seem luxury in comparison!). These ones have 6 beds in a little pod, in a stack of 3 bunks high. The amount of room you have diminishes the higher up you are - I was on the largest bottom bunk. The beds themselves are very narrow and quite hard, but I have a lovely squishy duvet! This time no curtain to hide behind, and being towards the end of the carriage, had the smell of the toilets wafting down! Nice.

First (half day) in China, ok so far!
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