08.11.2012 - 09.11.2012
It was time to make our next big overland trip from Hong Kong to Vietnam via China!
First stop was a short 2 hour train journey from Hong Kong to Guangzhou East in China on their long distance transit train. Once through immigration we boarded the train full of butterflies of excitement about being on our way to another country. As soon as we got to Guangzhou East station it was clear we weren't in Hong Kong anymore and were back in China; queuing had gone out of the window again it was every man for himself getting through the ticket and passport check, kids were wearing trousers with a slit down the back and no nappy happy to do their business as and when and smoking and spitting anywhere and everywhere was the norm. But oddly it no longer felt strange anymore and was strangely reassuring as we were making this journey to the next unknown.
Next was an overnight train for 15 hours to Nanning but I think you have heard enough about sleeper train journeys and it was pretty standard and we knew the drill.
We had decided to change our original plan of getting another overnight train from Nanning for an 8 hour bus during the day instead so we wouldn't be wasting time sitting around twiddling our thumbs in Nanning. The only thing was we were arriving at 7am and you can't buy a ticket online and we had read only a few buses ran in the morning and that the bus station was 40 mins from the train station....so would we have enough time to find our way to the bus station and sort a ticket etc!
So we were relieved when we saw a tourist office advertising bus tickets to Hanoi.....this was sort lived as the price quoted was 2 and half times more expensive than what we had read up online. In the end as we didn't have much time and it would take 40 mins to get to the bus station we decided to pay the higher amount just so we got moving, it was still so cheap in comparison to a similar journey in the UK! But our resolve turned to anger when it turned out that the bus station was only 5 mins down the road and it was the tourist office guys brother who drove us there in his car, and when we got given the bus ticket at the station we saw that they had massively marked up the price but by then it was too late.
The moral of the story is double check locations on a map, don't leave yourself too little time so you make quick decisions and finally trust your instincts and your abilities to get yourself somewhere. It was our first slip up and at the end of the day we got to our bus and although we paid over the odds (and i felt like a muppet) the rest of the bus journey was really good with water provided, several rest stops and a free lunch along the way.
The scenery was worthwhile too surrounded by limestone karst mountains which we would have missed if we had taken the sleeper train.
The border crossing between China (Ping Xian) and Vietnam (Dong Dang) was an odd experience as we were driven across no mans land in yellow buggys and when we were at the Vietnamese side and handed our passports over they were passed around 5 immigration guys and one seemed to find Dans passport particularly amusing...no idea why. After being on an air conditioned bus the difference in the temperature and humidity at the border was huge, so much warmer. As we got back on the bus leaving China behind us I was struck by how green Vietnam is...all shades of green particularly as we passed through all the rice paddy fields with loads of farmers at work cutting down their crops
It was about 5pm as we made it to Hanoi and an impressive storm cloud was coming in over the city. As the sunset the storm cloud was pink and you could see forks of lightning inside it. Never seen a sky like it! When we stopped in the town it was dark and after running the gauntlet of taxi and motorcycle drivers jostling to take us, we negotiated a price and made our way to the hostel, following each turn on the map as we went as I was determined not to be ripped off again.
I'm pleased to say we made it to the Hanoi Hostel with no more mishaps and settled down at a live music bar called "Make some noise, feed your soul" and chilled out listening to a band with some great flamenco style guitarists and a couple of cocktails before hitting the sack!
More on our time in Hanoi to follow....but I ve run out of time to write it as about to jump on a bus for a couple of days in Sapa!