The journey to Nanning, my first stop in China, was a long one that began with a very wobbly moped ride in Hanoi – its difficult to stay on a motorbike when turning with a heavy rucksack on your back.
Next i had to get a bus from Hanoi to the border, where i said goodbye to Vietnam. The country is a fascinating place, developing rapidly. On the outskirts of Hanoi i spotted a typically socialist poster complete with industrial and agricultural iconography, smiling families, and the ever present hammer and sickle. A few metres later stood a billboard advertising a new, modern and luxurious private village. Contemporary Vietnam with its many contradictions was encapsulated in those two juxtaposed posters.
I was surprised by the speed and efficiency with which Chinese immigration stamped me into the country. China is still a politically repressive state, the Communist Party retains its monopoly on power and a strict control over many aspects of society. Indeed the Lonely Planet warns that other travellers coming from Vietnam had their China guidebooks confiscated by border officials due to sensitivity over maps of China not including Taiwan. Thankfully mine stayed safely in my bag.
From the border i caught another coach to Nanning. Originally my plans were to avoid this route and head straight from Vietnam to Kunming, but recently the train linking the two cities was put permanently out of service by a large landslide. Always have a Plan B when backpacking.
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