© 2011 notworkrelated - David Rutter & Helen Roscoe. All rights reserved. notworkrelated Nanning to Hanoi

China – Nanning to Hanoi – 7th January

We left Lotusland at 7.45am to walk to the International Tourism Distribution Centre only 15 minutes walk away which was perfect for us leaving Nanning. The bus station we came into from Yangshou was at least a 40 minute bus journey from the centre so we were pleased not to be making this journey again. We were joined by a few other backpackers at the bus station and saw the first bus leave packed with passengers at 8am, ours was at 8.30am and was considerably less full.

We had a hostess who handed out a bread snack and water to all passengers and it was quite a smart bus. We traveled through Southern China and saw more agriculture and rice fields along the way, it was still cold and dull. We stopped once for a toilet break and then again for lunch, we were only about 20 minutes from the border at this stage but we were provided with a free meal which consisted of egg and tomato, tofu and rice it wasn’t too bad. There were also quite a few touts waiting to exchange Chinese RMB to Vietnamese Dong. We didn’t have any Dong ready with us so we changed what we had left of the RMB which was around £10′s worth. The exchange rate isn’t great when you do this with touts so we’d probably recommend to change only what you need for taxi’s etc on the other side. One girl changed around £200 worth and we don’t think she did so well on the exchange rate.

The journey from Nanning to the border took around 4 hours and as we got the border the bus pulled into a parking lot, we exited with our bags and were carted off on a little gold-like buggy to the Chinese exit border. It took around 40 minutes to complete exit from China and entry into Vietnam, with 5 or so passport checks. It was pretty relaxed and we were asked a few questions on the Vietnamese side but they were friendly enough and off we went to another golf buggy before being shipped onto another bus. This bus was full and we could only just get a seat.

The journey to Hanoi took 5 hours with one break at a restaurant/service area. The bus was okay and again we had a hostess on board handing out water. We were pleasantly surprised with the journey as we had read about some horror stories on the Vietnamese buses, but all in all it was pretty swift. The traffic coming into Hanoi was very busy so it took a while to get into the city. Once we arrived a lady came on board and asked to speak to the westerners, we had read that this would happen so were a little skeptical as to whether to take her advice or not. Contrary to this though she was quite helpful and as a group of 4 she advised on how to bargain for the taxi and made sure we knew how not to get ripped off!!

We traveled with a Finnish couple we’d met on the bus to The Hanoi Rendezvous and agreed a price with the taxi driver. We knew that we’d be paying around 100,000 dong between us but at first he was quoting $150! Dave kept getting out of the taxi refusing to agree to that price and we eventually managed to get him to agree to our price. The journey was around 15 minutes (the taxi driver had said it would be 50 km!) be prepared for scams!! When we arrived at the Rendezvous he stopped the car a little away from the hotel and said it was much further asking for more money. We knew where the hotel was though and didn’t take any of his shit. We paid the price and that was that. Perhaps getting into Hanoi from your bus or airport is where you’re more likely to get ripped off by the taxi drivers as you’ll be new to the city so just be prepared for this.

At the Rendezvous we checked into our spacious 6 bed dorm room, practically each bed was a mini double with good spacing in between and a shared en-suite. We were paying $7 each for this which was considerably more than in China but it had great reviews and included a good breakfast. We inquired at reception about a few options for getting around Vietnam and as we had no guide book yet we went off to a bookshop called The Bookworm to get ourselves a Lonely Planet.

It was around a half hour or so walk through the busy city streets to Bookworm heading north of the city centre to the second lake. We picked up a photocopy version for 150,000 dong checking the quality first as often the maps are very pale so it’s good to go through the pages. We asked for their recommendation on a good place to eat nearby and were instructed to go to Food Shop (45). We enjoyed some excellent vegetarian Indian food and the ventured through the streets back to the Hotel. When we got there we saw Maayke (from Yangshou) and her friend who were also in the same dorm, we had previously arranged to meet them here so it wasn’t so much of a coincidence. We discussed trip options and then chatted in the cafe area for a while before hitting the sack.

(Leica M9, Summicron-M 50mm f2.0 & Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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