Sunday, 4 December 2011

Guangzou to Vietnam – the long way round!

14 hour bus trip from Sanming to Guangzou and met up with pete and John. First of all we sorted out my journey to vietnam, or what we thought was the right journey! Turns out there are two places in China called “Pingxiang”, pretty much equidistant from Guangzou, and in pretty much the opposite direction! The only difference is the pronunciation (the most subtle of differences) and sure enough I went to the wrong one! So when I arrived in Pingxiang North and asked a taxi driver to take me to the border of Vietnam he was very confused, took me to the train station and it took a further hour and a few phone calls to Pete to work out the error. There was nothing else to do but laugh about the situation, no point in getting annoyed about it. So the helpful chinese rail staff, who I think felt really sorry for me made sure I got on the right train to Nanning (which was a 16 hour journey) then made sure I got on the right connecting train to the correct Pingxiang on the Vietnam border… for free J. On the train I got chatting to 3 sisters who couldn’t really speak any English but one of them had a train station app on their phone so we managed to get by. Then in Pinxiang I was told that it would take a further 2 days (no matter how much money I threw at it) to get my Vietnam Visa so had to spend two nights there! The first night I went to a KTV place and serenaded the bar staff with a few songs then headed to the only bar in town. On arrival at this place it was like something from a movie, everyone in the place was starring at me from the moment I walked in and didn't stop starring until I sat down with a beer in hand. And speaking of the beer, it was 2.50 a pint so I left after one as I wasn't prepared to pay that sort of money in Asia!

The following day was a complete waste of time, I tried getting a Vietnam map and a phrase book but failed with both of those missions. killed a few hours before heading to the hotel room armed with a cheap bottle of red wine. Turns out this cheap wine was actually really nice so I was chuffed with that. After watching Avatar on my ipod I decided I'd go back to the 2.50 pint place and nurse a couple of beers. As it happened 2.50 was all I needed as I almost immediately was invited over to drink with a group of chinese guys, then after they left I drank with another group of chinese guys and all the while they kept filling up my glass with their own beer rather than mine! Got a bit merry and did some podium dancing for a bit (not sure what possessed me to do that but fuck it!) then sent myself home pleased with a really cheap and fun night.

Next day I headed to the hotel to collect my Visa then grabbed a taxi to the border. It was really weird simply walking over a border (obviously passing through the various passport control stations) then suddenly being in a different country. Got a motorbike taxi to take me to the nearest town where I planned to buy a bike. I was told by a few people there (in a combination of broken English and make shift sign language that I needed to go to the next bigger town to buy a bike. So off I went to Lang Son and was dropped off at a new bike dealership. I was shown various 100cc peds and a couple of second hand bikes and decided on one that cost 400 dollars. So they went off to do the service on it and get it ready to go and meanwhile I sat down with the dealership owners and had lunch with them (for free). By this point about 3 hours had passed and I was getting a little itchy to head off only to be told something about the bike which took about half an hour for me to understand. They couldn't articulate that as it was a weekend they couldn't give me a reg plate until the monday so I'd they suggested that I ride to the next place (Halong Bay) and they would call me on monday and give me the reg plate for me to then somehow get one made in Halong bay. This sounded like it had disaster written all over it so told them that I'd just get a second hand bike instead. Anyway I decided on this 100cc honda bike (not a scooter) which was frankly falling apart and kept stalling when I took it for a test ride but as I'd been waiting for ages and it was only 220 dollars I figured I'd just take it. Besides, what it lacked in reliability it made up with in character :-). During the whole bike purchase process (by this time was like 4 hours) one of the workers had been flirting with me so I asked her out for a meal which I offered to pay for. 8pm came around and she picked me up from my shitty little hotel and took me down the road to this outside street market food place. All the chairs where made for 5 year olds and once again I was being starred at by all the locals. Every few minutes a different friend or family member of hers would show up on their bike and ask me if i liked her and wanted to marry her. This was funny and cute at first but became a bit irritating and awkward by the end. After the night finished she dropped me back to the hotel and off she went without even a friendly hug. She did pay for the meal though (I did offer but she wouldn't take my money) so I can't really complain. Next day I was to set off for Halong Bay but I want to start a new blog in case the internet goes down for some reason.

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