Our flight out of Jinan was scheduled for some time after 6, but due to the fact that we'd received less
than an inch of snow it was delayed quite awhile
. We met a group of IELTS testers in the airport to hangout with an eat bowls of ramen in the waiting lounge. Because of the delay we didn't get into Nanning until after 2 am. After getting out bags and hiring a private or black cab (which in this case was just a man and wife looking to make a few extra Yuan, not shady types) we got dropped in downtown Nanning at around 3:30. The hotel was nice and was normally Y450 a night, way above our price range, but because it was after 3 am and if we left before 11am they agreed to only Y150. Things can be more flexible in some ways over here. We took the room as opposed to wandering the streets, slept a few hours, and were up and on our way early.
The next obstacle was finding the Vietnamese consulate and getting an entry visa. You may think that as fellow Asian Communist countries relations between China and Vietnam would be nearly like that of the US and Canada, but not so. What a lot of people don't know is that while the Soviets were messing around in Afghanistan the Chinese made a move on Vietnam; kind of a forgotten war of sorts. Anyhow after an hour or two of searching we found the non-nondescript back alley entrance to the building that housed the consulate on the 23rd floor. After minimal paperwork and several hundred Yuan a piece, we were told to come back around 6 and collect the visas.
So once finding the place the rest was easy, and we wandered around a few hours then came back and just sat in the lobby for the last two
. We then quickly found a bus to the bus station, and got what was likely the last bus out for the day to Pingxiang, the last little town on the Vietnamese border. On average public buses in China cost 1-2 yuan, and our bus tickets for the 2-3 hour ride were 85 yuan a piece, also pretty standard. We arrived in Pingxiang, which can best be described as a dirty little border town with all the vices you may expect, such as more ripped off goods and hotels by the hour. We quickly found a cheap but clean hotel for Y150 a night with two single beds. No western toilet and out "window" looked into the hallway, but it was already dark, we needed to eat, and we were starting early in the morning so it really didn't matter. We did head out to explore and find something to eat. We found the night market and the 'eat street' after passing an outdoor concert with ear piercing singing by some very loud women, and finally settled in to some BBQ chicken legs and corn. It was delicious, but after we'd finished some Vietnamese guy came by and sat with us. He ordered something I'd seen before but never tried, it was some kind of meat wrapped around the skewer instead of speared by it. I took a bite, tried valiantly to chew but it was too sinew-y, then almost tossed my cookies when he told me it was pig's penis I was chomping on.
Random Vietnamese guy did however have some great tips for us, including a good hotel in Hanoi and a travel agent who didn't screw us. Next up, Vietnam!
So my plans to tour central southern China ended up falling through. I had really wanted to go around the south area around the town of Guilin, which is beautiful and apparently a big backpacker type destination, which translates to young people and cheap hotels. In the end I agreed to go with another guy around that area for awhile and then south into Vietnam. He's been in China some years and has a Chinese girlfriend so I was thinking I'd let him take care of the travel arrangements, which ended up being a mistake. By the time he got around to booking we couldn't get a train down there, which was sad even though it would have taken 32 hours or so. Train travel is fun as long as you have a cabin. So I'm planning on using that area as one of the final destinations when my folks come to visit this summer. In the end we decided to fly to the largest city close to the Vietnamese border, then bus to the border town and literally walk across the border on foot.