A Day on the Bus to Vietnam
We left our hostel not long after 8am, to grab a taxi to take us to the East Bus Station. In Kunming there is a major bus station for each main direction on the compass, and the buses heading in a particular direction will leave from the corresponding station; so going north and you’ll leave from the north station, etc. The East Bus Station is a long way out of the centre of the city. By bus it’ll take about and hour and a half, by taxi we were told about 45 minutes. Our taxi did it in just over 30 mins.
The taxi ride was just a warm-up for the roads ahead. In the city swerving all over the road, pulling out in front of cars, driving like a lunatic, etc are all expected of a taxi driver. We thought it would settle down when we got on the bus.
The bus itself was very modern and nice. Comfortable, spacious enough, clean and bright. Annemarie and I had front seats upstairs. This was fine on the motorway (apart from the constant undertaking and driving over two lanes at once), but when we got onto the single carriageway roads not seeing in front of us might have been better.
Overtaking on corners, overtaking on blind brows, overtaking into incoming vehicles and forcing them too slow down, overtaking whilst the other vehicle is going around a parked truck into oncoming traffic, not slowing when a truck is on our side of the road and heading straight for us. The list could go on… It is interesting but at times cheek clenching.
After about 7.5 hours we reached the town of Hekou and started walking towards where we thought the border was. After about 10 minutes of walking we saw a bridge over the river, but about 20m above our heads. So we walked back up the road to the junction and went right, along the road which went uphill to where the bridge started. A military officer was guarding the bridge. Apparently, although it is a nice, big bridge which was totally empty we weren’t allowed to cross the border here. There’s another bridge about 3km down the road which we can use; well that’s a lot further than we were expecting.
Luckily, we flagged a taxi who stopped in the middle lane of a 4 lane road for us. We jumped in and found just how far away we were from the border. Probably another 45 mins of walking, assuming we knew where we were going.
The exit from China was easy, the guy just stared at our passports for 10 minutes and read every page. Entry to Vietnam was just as quick and easy.
We finally found a taxi with a meter and headed for Sa Pa. The hotel is fine, smallest room yet but it has the fastest internet and brightest lights (for some reason all the hostels in China had lights so dim they were almost pointless). Memory foam mattress is a bonus, the beds have mostly been wooden slats with plenty of blankets and were starting to cause pains. A great restaurant just over the road too.
The only con is the cold. Kunming was 2000m above sea level, as was Dali. Lijiang was 2400m high. All were cold at night. Today we dropped almost to sea level for the first time in two weeks and it was warm (as the sun set). Then we climbed to 1500m and it’s cold again. To think we are at the same latitude as the Sahara Desert!
Now we are fed, washed and comfortable in bed, time to sleep.
Posted from Lao Cai, Vietnam.