A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Goodnight China, good morning Vietnam


View Just a big holiday on ClareAndTom's travel map.

Lijiang station is bizarre – a huge modern building that currently only gets three trains a day. The train was made up of double-decker sleeper carriages, and our ‘seats’ were on a bunk, eight people to a compartment. Despite everyone being squashed in together it was a fun journey. Our fellow passengers were very friendly, chatting away, and handed out biscuits and chewing gum to everyone. Although the bunks made uncomfortable seats, we were a bit sad to say goodbye to our travel companions after two hours – we were helped with our bags and had more biscuits forced upon us.

Dali old town is miles from Dali station – it took about half an hour in the taxi. We arrived at our hostel around lunch time and were invited to join the staff meal. It was tasty food, and we finally got to try the preserved eggs we’d seen all over China. These black-shelled eggs are sometimes called ‘100 year-old eggs’, although they’ve only been buried for about six months. The white is transparent and like a jelly sweet, while the yolk is rubbery and a little fishy.

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We went for a wander around the old town and the city walls, popping into the small museum on the way. It didn’t take long to look round the museum, as there were only two rooms. We liked the ‘horse’ sculpture that looked like a dinosaur.

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We enjoyed learning about Chinese culture at Dali Museum

We’d been told by some people that Dali was nicer than Lijiang, and while it was quieter it wasn’t anywhere near as picturesque. There were fewer Chinese tourists but a definite Western backpacker scene, which we’d not encountered before in China.

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Along one busy street there were loads of places to eat, all with their fresh produce on display at the front. They had huge piles of vegetables, as well as flowers, live fish, snails and even some grubs wriggling in honeycomb. We tried some traditional Bai food (a minority group who live in the area): sizzling beef with flower pepper (a herb which makes your mouth slightly numb), stir fried flowers with egg, and a tasty mushroom dish.

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We would have liked to stay longer in Lijiang and not rushed to Dali, but we were keen to get out of China before the end of the month and the start of Golden Week – a national holiday that would make travelling difficult. We booked bus tickets to Kunming for the following morning.

Given the long taxi journey the previous day, we were concerned when told that the taxi taking us to the bus station would only pick us up ten minutes before the bus was due to depart. We were picked up and taken just across the road – it would have been quicker to walk! The five-hour bus journey to Kunming was made worse by the Vengaboys playing over the speakers. The ridiculously violent Rambo 4 provided a bit of light relief.

All we saw of Kunming was the ring road, as we got a taxi straight from the west bus station across the city to the east station. We travelled to the Vietnamese border on a sleeper bus, a new form of transport for us. We’d seen some pretty nice looking buses and were quite hopeful of a luxurious vehicle.

Our bus was horrid. There were no curtains on the windows and the duvets provided were grubby, matching the general grime of the bus. There was no air conditioning and we could only open the window when the bus stopped as otherwise it was too cold and noisy. It got worse – the old guy below Clare smelt really bad, like his feet were rotting. We set off just after 7pm and had no option but to lie down in the dark. It also felt like our bus had no suspension, so we bounced along for the next 10 hours, sometimes leaving our beds when we went over a particularly big pothole. It was a long, hot, smelly, bumpy night.

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Tom ready for a night on the bus

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Necessary measures to combat the stinky feet of the guy in the bunk below

We arrived in Hekou, the border town, at 5am but were allowed to sleep on the bus until 6, when we were kicked off to wait until the crossing opened at 8am. We were stamped out of China and walked across the bridge into Vietnam.

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Leaving China...

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...and arriving in Vietnam

Posted by ClareAndTom 07:31 Archived in China Comments (4)

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