Southern China on the Heavenly Express

Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Flag of China  , Guangxi,
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I started the new week with what seemed like a monumental task to achieve - getting to Hong Kong via Nanning from Hanoi overland, within 36 hours. Usually I wouldn't bother with an entry for this type of thing, especially since I only stayed in Nanning for about 2 hours, but a number of aspects of the mission are definitely worth noting.

There was no way of researching my options with any great confidence and if anything went wrong after crossing the border I'd probably be toast, but I bit the bullet and got on the 5.40am train from Hanoi to Dang Dong (on the border) with my fingers crossed for a smooth passage. The train was a rattler and excruciatingly slow, but after meeting the locals for five hours we hit the massive (and growing) border complex around noon.

The Vietnamese border control was surprised by the amount of stamps in the passport and thought about holding me up, but a swarm of local tourists got the better of him so was let through, passing quickly through Chinese customs and immigration too, to found myself staring at the huge wall signifying the gateway to southern China. A frontier that has been a bone of contention for millennia had been passed.

Then everything became easy. A new and very comfortable bus destined for Nanning arrived out of the blue, removing the need for a taxi to a nearby border town (Pingxiang) and hoping for a well timed train to carry me onwards from there. We travelled through some rugged and beautiful countryside, speckled with large sugar plantations, with a cute Chinese stewardess doing the rounds every once in a while. Only once were we stopped by the authorities to check travel permits and visas, and by 8pm I was in Nanning - the goal for the day accomplished.

Still, I like to over-achieve so headed for a bus ticket sales booth across the road from our drop-off and found that numerous buses were heading onwards in my direction from Nanning later that night (one every half an hour til 11.30pm!). Man there are a lot of people moving around this country! I purchased a 9.30pm ticket to Guangzhou and took a taxi to a huge and ultra-modern bus terminal outside of town. I even had time for some KFC before boarding.

The bus itself was heaven - nothing like I've ever seen before and vastly better than anything I've ridden in Asia. Brand new with three double leveled rows of sleeper beds (around 40 beds in total approximately) made for supreme comfort and rest. Beautiful roads, a sleeping pill and a nice warm blanket ensured that I awoke at 6am as we cruised the streets of downtown Guangzhou. Sweeet!

After a three hour shuttle (including immigration) I was in Hong Kong and checking into the 4.5 star Mirimar Hotel in downtown Tsim Sha Tsui at 10am. Just over 24 hours and I'd covered so much ground that I was well in front of schedule and ready to meet Dad who would arrive later that night. I even had time to sort and extra visa for China (as entering Hong Kong or Macau is technically leaving the PRC, meaning re-entry would require a new visa).

So I needen't have worried about being late - China is amazing and fast to travel in these days, even in remote areas and from smaller cities like Nanning. Apart from language difficulties, I reckon this will be a great place to independently tour in coming years and will only improve as infrastructure is constantly updated and the place opens up. The modernity is startling.

Bring on Hong Kong and Beijing I say!

Next entry -> Hong Kong

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Where I stayed
mirima hotel
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