Matthew Stanford

  1977 -
  City of Birth:

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Matthew's Story > Chapters > WORLD BACKPACKING TRIP



Date Range: 07/07/2009 To 07/11/2009   Comments: 0   Views: 4,791
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I finally left Vietnam early in the morning with some very mixed feelings about the country. Now I had the nerve racking task of crossing the border into China, I was told that it took 2 hours which game me visions of endless questioning and bag searches. I covered my lonely planet guide book with the cover off another book because if seen they get confiscated just because they depict Taiwan as a different country. This is despite the fact they are openly on sale elsewhere in China

I was the only westerner on the bus but none of the hassle I was expecting actually happened. The only reason it takes so long is because they don't give you the arrival card to fill in beforehand so everyone is messing about borrowing pens off each other and queuing up for table space. Apart from that it was an easy border to cross compared to others in Asia.

I was a bag of nerves because I didn't have a clue where the bus was going to arrive in Nanning. However it was only 10 minutes walk from my pre booked accommodation which was the Lotusland hostel. There was only 6 people there which made it very quiet after coming from one of the most lively hostels I had ever been in.

The city itself was just as other travelers and the guidebooks said, a functional city with little to see or do, a short stop off on the way to or from Vietnam. I found it fairly clean but busy with lots of tall buildings and bright lights. China does did not seem as alien as I thought it would because I had spent a lot of time in Malaysia which has big Chinese populations in some areas. 

The biggest worry I had with China and the question everyone seemed to ask about was the language barrier. Having to point when going out to eat was a bit of a pain. As most accommodation owners speak english they can write down the instructions for things like bus and train stations.

For myself the language barrier was a minor problem. After crossing the border from Vietnam the simple act of being able to walk down a street without being pestered to buy something on a regular basis was just great.

Finally my green rucksack had reached the end of the line. It came from a camping shop in Wales in 1990 and had been on many trips round the UK as well as Europe, 3 visits to Australia, and 2 to Asia. Super glue was not going to do it anymore so I got a cheap replacement for about 6 pounds.

After 2 nights it was time to move on to Guilin, I was lucky that a couple from the hostel were on the same train as I would have found it difficult to figure out the crowded station. However I did learn a few things for next time, getting there early to avoid the Chinese habit of pushing and shoving was one. As I was the only westerner in my carriage I got the attention of three students girls practicing their English. The couple of pages in my guidebook translating the language came in very handy. It helped pass the time quiet well, they didn't seem to understand why I was traveling on my own. However they insisted on taking loads of pictures of me, felt like a celebrity at one point. Outside the train there was an interesting countryside but some awful looking industrial type cities.

Guilin was also clean and modern with lots of bright lights but obviously more touristy judging by the behavior of people outside the train station. My stomach was playing up a bit from the street food and at the time of writing I have had more problems with the food in 2 weeks in China than the previous 8 months of the trip put together.

The following morning I went to an observation point to the north and got a few photos of the city with another lad from the hostel. Even the Chinese were struggling with the heat and humidity so you can imagine how bad we were. There was a bit of a museum but since the guide and the writing was not in English we seen it as pretty pointless.

Headed down to Yangshou after only 2 nights because I knew that I would have to be coming back to Guilin as it has a train station and an airport. When I did come back it was an uneventful couple of days.

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