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Nanning – “Nothing to see here, move along”

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

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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China – A World In Itself

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

China, country six of my journey, is constantly in the news. The third largest country on earth, with a fifth of the world’s population there is much to talk about in this colossus of a country. But academics and the media are only mesmerised by the epic transformation underway, and the seismic shifts sent through its society, foreign countries, and the international system more broadly.

China is on everyones lips.

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Hanoi – Farewell Ruth and Vietnamese Road Rules

Sunday, March 11th, 2007
It was back to Hanoi for a few days after Halong Bay. ruth and I spent our last days together shopping for xmas items for my family which she was to take home, recording a small xmas day video message ... [Continue reading this entry]

Halong Bay – Karsts, Kayaking and Karaoke

Sunday, March 11th, 2007
Halong Bay was our last stop in Vietnam, and yet another UNESCO world heritage centre, this time natural rather than cultural or historic. A tour bus took us the 165km from Hanoi to the bay. Halong is one of Vietnam's most ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hanoi – Exhausted in Vietnam

Sunday, March 11th, 2007
It's hard to sleep with people treading on your head. Granted i should not have slept down the aisle, but it's far comfier than the squashed seats. Ever since Laos I had been kipping down on the floor, but the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hue – Vietnamese History Before The War

Sunday, March 11th, 2007
From Hoi An we travelled by bus to our next stop, Hue. It was short enough for a daytime journey which allowed us to appreciate the scenery, including a spectacular seven-tiered pagoda perched high on a limestone karst. On route ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hoi An – Cooking School and Clothes

Sunday, March 11th, 2007
Food was an important part of our experience in Hoi An. Everything we ate was delicious; the cakes and sweets in the cosy french cafes, the fried spring rolls cooked freshly in front of us at a tiny stall in the ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hoi An – Good Morning…Vietnam?

Sunday, March 11th, 2007
Were we really still in Vietnam? No karaoke bars, no motorbike hordes, no tall and ugly hotels. It felt like Laos - no wonder we took an instant liking to Hoi An, even though it was only six o'clock in ... [Continue reading this entry]

Nahtrang – Sun, Sea, Sand / Pimps, Prostitutes and Pickpockets

Sunday, March 11th, 2007
I was warned about Nha-trang by a girl i met in the Perhentian Islands, so long ago in Malaysia. Why did i not listen to her?! Nha-trang is a coastal city; the main resort in Vietnam. With its wide beach and ... [Continue reading this entry]

Ho Chi Minh – Bush Blows

Sunday, March 11th, 2007
The rest of Ho Chi Minh was spent in a leisurely fashion, eating delicious local food, relaxing, and then spending a particularly good night out dancing in a nearby bar and club (in spite of a curfew on their opening ... [Continue reading this entry]