China border crossing to Vietnam
Trip Start Oct 06, 2005
29Trip End Dec 08, 2006
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It wasnt easy to determine the best way to make it into Vietnam from China, however, it turned out to be relatively siomple in the end. Having struggled to obtain a Vietnam visa (didnt think about it until too late in Beijing, expecting there to be many places nearer the border to pick up a visa (I turned up early at the Vietnam embassy in Beijing on my last full day there, having read that you can pay a bit extra to get a visa returned the same day, only to be told on arrival, despite a note on the window advertising it, that it was not possible); I tried again in Kunming which was advertised as 1 of only 3/4 places in the whole of China where a Vietnam visa can be obtained, only to find the embassy office located in a hotel building undergoing renovations and the office not only empty of personnel but furniture too; however, my third and last chance effort in Nanning proved very simple, and I was able to buy a same day visa for 600 Yuan (40 quid)).
Next came the problem of deciding how best to get to Hanoi from China. Turns out Nanning is the best starting point for this journey, so 4/5 days later after a 5 hour each-way excursion north to Yangshuo (via Guilin), I was back in the very dull city of Nanning (apparently it hosts meetings between local governments of SE Asia region and China, so is very modern, but has little of interest for tourist purposes - the 3 super-powers of KFC, McD and Pizza Hut have numerous outlets throughout the city, and Mr Walmart owns 3 shopping complexes in the heart of the city). From Nanning there are plane, train and bus options and although flying seemed easiest I ruled it out on the basis of my newly acquired cowardly aversion to plane travel. The only info I had been able to find out about the other two options seemed to suggest that I would need to take the bus or the train to PingXiang on the China side of the border, take a 15km Tuk-tuk ride to the border, take a taxi on the other side of the border to the nearest Vietnamese town and either pick up the train again or a local bus. I read another travellers blog entry describing such a journey and it took him nigh on a full day and entailed all sorts of misfortune. Luckily for me, I met a Canadian and his Chinese girlfriend on the train from Guilin to Nanning and she wrote my travel requirements down for me in Chinese, and when I took this note to the bus station (which fortunately she informed me had recently been relocated to the edge of the city as opposed to being 2 blocks from the centrally located train station as advertised in my 2 year old Lonely Planet - how would I have found this out on my own??) and found myself issued with a bus ticket direct to Hanoi, and which meant I was dropped off right at the border and picked up just the other side. Couldnt have been simpler. The journey took a painless 8 hours in total, with 45 minutes to navigate the border controls.