AsiaChinaGuilin

The Last Frontier??

Guilin Travel Blog

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Northern Vietnam

The hotel had booked me on a 9.30 bus to Guilin. They told me that they would take me to the bus station by taxi about 8.15 or so - I was thinking it must be a long hike to this bus station - ended up only taking about 10 - 15 minutes and wasn't far away at all. First thing I noticed was there was no toilet on the bus - the hotel had said there would be one. I asked the hostess girl at the bus if the bus went straight to Guilin and got "I don't understand"- I started to think then that this was going to be an interesting trip but also remembered Jamie from Hoi An telling me that language wasn't really that big of a problem in China.

I was the only westerner on the bus. We stopped about 2 hours outside of Hanoi for snacks/toilet break as the buses all seem to do - there were 5 or 6 more buses parked here but I was still the only westerner.

Northern Vietnam

We continued on to the border - the scenery along the way was spectacular. There was a sign at one point which said something about 'the Last or New Frontier' which I though seemed very appropriate at the time. At the border we got off and entered the check point. The woman on the bus gave us all a plastic thing (like a name tag thingy) containg a sign with Chinese writing which hung off a string to wear on your neck. There was a counter where you had to present your passport and it seemed like numerous vietnamese queued at the windows. A young girl who was also waiting told me that I could just put my passport in - I managed to get closer to the windows and saw that all the ones standing there were just putting there passports throught the window and then cramming in as close as they could to the glass watching and ranting on in their lingo.

Northern Vietnam
Eventually one of the immigration officials came out of a side door with a handful of passports and started calling names. All of the vietnamese men crowded round the windows now moved and crowded around him. When he finished handing over the passports he had the ones left over moved straight back to the windows again. He came out a second time and this time cleared most of the ones waiting. Shortly after I was called to one of the windows - the guy asked me my name about 3 times and finally stamped my passport for exit and gave it to me.

From here I found my way outside and was put into a large golf buggy which carried us over the border to the Chinese checkpoint. After filling in some paperwork I eventually got to a point where they did the infra red temperature scan and failed!! He got me to go and stand in front of a airconditioner that they had near this and then come back again - this time I passed - thank god! Next stop I was asked for my itenary through mainland china and then proceeded to customs where bags were xrayed and I got an all clear.

Leaving Vietnam
Back outside onto another golf buggy which took us through the border gate and around to this relatively new large building for a 'Tourist Service Centre'. There was a bus there which from what I could gather was the one I had to get on - again no toilet. Asked where the toilets were and got directed around the side of this building - no toilets there - asked again and this time a guy took me across past another large building and pointed out a tin shack with a 'WC' sign on it. Got close to the entrance and the first sight was a local squatting directly in front of the doorway. The toilets were basically about 4 doorless cubicles with brick walls about 3 ft high with a drain full of water and god knows what else running through them.eHad a quick leak and got out - I think it would have been safer to have just hung him out behind the first set of buildings I'd been directed to.
Entering China

We were eventually allowed on the bus and on our way - a woman came round and collected our tickets and when I gave her mine there was a bit of a commotion between them. Eventually they found a guy who could speak a little english who explained that when we get to Nanning the woman will take me to meet the bus to Guilin. Again the scenery for the trip was magnificent. Sugar cane seemed to be the main crop in the area - the only strange thing was that I never saw any houses amongst the crops so I don't know whether they all live in towns/cities and commute to the farms or what the go is.

The roads in China were completely different to Vietnam - either 4 or 6 lane divided highways with very little traffic and no horns blaring.

Border Crossing - looking back from China
On the way to Nanning there were perfectly manicured gardens in the median strip which went on for miles. Various coloured bouganvillia were planted on the cuttings along this stretch.

We got to the bus station and the woman came and told me to follow her - we got off the bus in what seemed to be a basement area (full of buses) - I followed her up one flight of stairs past a KFC and then another where she went into a small office and eventually came out with another woman who I was told would show me where to get on the bus (they found a young guy who was a university student and could speak some english to translate for them). It was 6.00 pm (time zone had changed ahead 1 hour again) and my bus would not be leaving until 7.30. I asked if there was somewhere I could leave my bags to go to an ATM and get some food.

China
I was told to wait where I was and the woman would get me something to eat. After a while she came back with a styrofoam container which had rice and some kind of meat with onion and carrot and chopsticks. I tried a piece of the meat and found it had bones in it and wasn't very nice so ended up leaving this with a group of Vietnamese who had been given the same. The guy translating had gone as his bus had come but they had told me what gate I had to get the bus at before he left. I lugged my bags back down stairs and still could not see an ATM - went in KFC and they found someone who could speak a little english who directed me back upstairs - lugged the bags back up the stairs and found the ATM's. With Chinese currency at hand trekked back down to KFC for some edible food.
China
Then back up to wait for the bus.

In the moonlight many of the limestone karsts were clearly visible as we travelled. We passed one city which had 3 sky scapers with spectacular lighting on them. I thought we were due in Guilin at 11.30 but due to the time change we arrived at 12.30. I'd booked a room near to the bus station so I could walk to it as I didn't want to be lost at this hour of night. I found the hotel and also that the staff spoke little english, and hit the sack for the night (or maybe I should say hit the brick as mattresses here aren't soft.)

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Northern Vietnam
Northern Vietnam
Northern Vietnam
Northern Vietnam
Northern Vietnam
Northern Vietnam
Leaving Vietnam
Leaving Vietnam
Entering China
Entering China
Border Crossing - looking back fro…
Border Crossing - looking back fr…
China
China
China
China
Nanning Bus Station
Nanning Bus Station
Guilin
photo by: davidfeng