After leaving for Guangzhou we decided to not stay and try and make it to Nanning in the same day. We crossed the Hong Kong-China border early afternoon, again the Chinese officials questioned me. After using the net in starbucks we realised there was only 2 trains a day to Nanning, one we had already missed the other was at 21:00 that evening but from the other side of the city. Luckily we managed to get tickets that night to Nanning, unusual as normally train tickets need to be bought in advanced for long distances. Although we did treat ourselves to soft beds for the night on the train as we werent paying for accomodation. We remembered at a previous station seeing a sign for the soft berth lounge so we set out to see if there was one here to our delight there was. Comfy leather sofas instead of sitting on the floor and smoke free.
The following morning we arrived in Nanning. With no hostel booked due to the change in plan we set out on the hunt for a home for the night. We found a really nice hostel thanks partly to the help of a friendly old man. Following a trip around the shops and Wal-Mart we headed out for dinner with Tom who we met in the hostel. So as to avoid the local specialty- Dog Hotpot (tastes like beef looks like chicken) for dinner we went to a vegitarian restaurant. Turns out was actually a Budidist restaurant so couldnt get a beer either but tasty nonetheless.
After an early night we got up at 6am the next day to get the early morning train to enter into Vietnam. We got talking to 3 Vietnamese girls sat opposite us who luckily spoke English, which turned out to be a godsend. They were on their way home from Uni in china back to Hanoi. They were amazed we got this far without speaking any local languages. Arriving at the train station near the Chinese border we were swamped by locals offering us taxi's and to change money. Sticking with our new friends we all got in a minibus and headed to the border. Although only a local villager real taxis are hard to come by here and with our lack of language skills thought it best.
Arriving at the "friendship pass" border crossing it looked more like a Museum with Golf carts ferrying people up and down the hill than a border. The chinese side was orderly and official as like all other official building/processes in China. The vietnamese side was a different story altogether. Walking into a run down building we were greeted by a hive of activity. Not sure what was going on we were advised by our train friends to go through the crowds of people to the end of the building fill in the form and then go back to the start and give in our passports and completed form. After saying goodbye to the girls we met on the train they come running back into the building and shouted to us theres a bomb. Thinking there was some sort of break down in communication due to the language barrier the building shock with the sound of an explosion. Looking around worried everyone else just carried on their normal business. Border crossing here seems to be alot different than anywhere else, you put your passport in the pile and then wait for someone to bring it out, no photo checks or anything. Although it would seem passports werent even needed here. A few dollars wrapped in a bit of paper was enough to get you through the crossing with no questions asked and a lot quicker than anyone else. After waiting for about 20minutes in the bundle caits passport was handed out, getting worried mine had gone walkies mine come out 20 minutes after. After putting our back packs on we started to head off after another explosion outside- we believe that the landmines put down when china and vietnam werent getting on are now being removed. Exiting the building we were again instantly hounded by the locals for changing money and taxi rides. Taking the advise from our friends we found a "taxi" and went with him mainly because he spoke some english.
Dropping us off in a yard we looked at each other with the look of where the hell are we. Turns out was the yard for a Minibus company taking people to Hanoi. Hesitant at first, as we were the only people there other passengers started to arrive. Advised by a Vietnamese lady who spoke some english we were told this is how the buses work here. After a quick marmite sandwich and a read of the lonely planet we handed over some money and got on the bus for the 3 hour journey to Hanoi. The journey itself was an experience, the roads swamped with Motorbikes, the constant use of the horn and bumpy untarmacked roads were all outdone by the spectackular scenery. Arriving at the hostel around 6.00 we got dinner and went out for a walk before getting an early night.
Waking the next day, it was our first morning in Vietnam as well as Caits birthday. We checked out the hostel and checked in early for a nice day by the pool at the Hilton. Feeling relaxed we headed out for an early dinner at an amazing restaurant, the Green Mango. Asking if we wanted to sit inside or outside, we hesitated at first because of the mosquitoes but thankfully decided to see what the garden was like. Passing through the glass doors we walked out into a moroccian style courtyard with low lighting and purple and red drapes. It looked amazing. After weeks on the road the main food Cait was missing was pasta. With this and wine inside her she seemed more than happy. We then retired after dinner to the sofas for post dinner drinks. We said our goodbyes to the really friendly staff and we set out on a walk for a few drinks in a lively bar. After walking round the markets and random streets we found one bar with the music banging out which seemed busy so we headed in. After commenting on the friendliness of the locals and the fact there were no women in there it suddenly dawned on us we were in a gay bar. Not put off we had our drinks and cait had a little dance. With a 12.00 curfew in effect in clubs we headed back to the hilton for some birthday cake and a nice bottle of wine.