Tony dropped me off at the station and made sure I was a happy web designer. He is paranoid that I’ll pull the plug on his shiny new website as I haven’t had what could be described as the most hassle free stay at his place, but I’m more pragmatic than that so he’s OK with me, his website will be OK.
The Vietnamese train looked like someone had taken the plans for some posh German hi-speed train and had then had the mutoid waste gang build it for them. It was sleek but patched up and scratched up so I wondered what kind of wars this train had been in. Train wars, trainzilla versus train kong, it’s obvious this train didn’t come out looking too pretty, but that’s the Vietnamese, they might suffer indescribable losses in their scrapes but they win, pretty or not.
So we pootle off to the border where we arrived before midnight. We sat chilly in the cold night air in a cheerless waiting room as we went through customs, some poor women in another glass fronted room peered through a sign that implied she was looking out for people with contagious diseases, she looked like she needed a break.
So after our spartan Vietnamese train we then boarded our Chinese counterpart. A Vietnamese officer checked our passport whilst looking as casual as he could, ciggy hanging from his mouth and his army jacket loose he was trying to be a James Dean to his Chinese counterparts impassive and upright demeanour. They stood close enough at the train door to share a kiss but didn’t swap a word, I guess they are still a little pissed off with each other.
The Chinese carriage was the same design as the Vietnamese one, I guess both made in China, but here the similarity ends. The Chinese train was warm and comfy, carpeted on the floor and with guards that were polite and helpful. I settled into my carriage with three friendly and chatty Vietnamese and after swapping stories, as well as passport necessities with the authorities, slipped into the best nights sleep since I was snuggled up in Streatham.
We stopped in the morning at Nanning where I slipped out of the station and experienced China for the first time (I spent a year in Hong Kong but it was British at the time). I had a plate of Dim Sum and a bowl of noodles that were both delicious, then hurried back to the train where we boarded again. I was woken again at 1.30 as were were soon to pull into Guilin, I arrived refreshed and happy to be in China.
I am now sitting in a youth hostel with a great wifi connection near the river in Guilin. I will head to Yangshuo tomorrow where I will hire a bike and get out into the country side.