Saturday, June 28, 2014

Booted off the Night Train from Nanning to Hanoi-6/21

While sorting through my paperwork, I just noticed that my Vietnam entry visa is for June 24th and not June 21st. I don't know how that happened. Maybe when I was planning this trip, I had scheduled a few days here in Nanning to get the Vietnam Visa. Anyway, I will see if this causes any problem. I will express amazement at the problem and blame it on the ABriggs visa fixers. I would not look forward to sitting at the border for three days to wait for my "official" entry date of the 24th.

While walking around Nanning, I have not seen any Westerners nor did I see any on my train from Guilin. Maybe they will show up on this international train.

As I was getting settled in to my bottom bunk, I was joined by a Chinese businessman that works in Hanoi as the Network Solution Director of Huawei. His name is Glory and was fluent in English. He offered me some durian treats like mochi he had brought along. We both settled into our bunks and fell asleep until awaken by the train crew announcing that we had to get our bags together and prepare to disembark as we went through both Chinese and Vietnam Immigration and Customs. I had to quickly change out of my PJs for this inspection.

The Chinese Immigration officials entered our cabin and took our passport. She had me take off my glasses and then thumbed through my Passport. When she came to my Vietnam Visa, she said that I could not proceed to Vietnam until the 24th since that was what my entry date to Vietnam was. I showed her my confirmed reservations at the Rising Dragon Hotel in Hanoi for the 22nd, but she said that did not matter.
Glory talked to her a bit and then told me that I needed to get off, but that it would be faster for me on the 24th to go to the Friendship Pass border and take a mini bus to Hanoi rather than waiting for the night train to arrive on the 24th. He said that it would be much cheaper as well.
I asked the Immigration official where I could stay in this dark area near the border. She said that there were two hotels a short distance if I turned left as I left the train station. She thought that the cost was around $20-30 USD. At that I asked Glory if he could call my Rising Dragon Hotel and explain that I would be delayed a few days. He agreed and said that he was familiar with the hotel and staff since he put people up in that hotel as a part of his business.
Glory was really a lifesaver for me because the Immigration officials English was slight, and he gave me some invaluable tips on trying an alternate way to get to Hanoi.
I then followed the Immigration official off the train and I was marched out of the train station accompanied by her and about a dozen Army soldiers that had been guarding the length of the train.
As I got out of the station, it was pretty dark and I could see clusters of people eating on those little stools and tables as I made my way to the hotel. The first one was easy to find because of all of the bright neon lights of the hotel and the neighboring Karoke bar.
When I got inside, no one spoke English, but the two hotel reps. worked on their iPhone translator apps and I used my Lonely Planet phrase guide to figure out that I would be staying for 3 nights and that I could pay nightly rate of 168 RMB----$27 USD---by Visa. That sounded great because I only had just over 200 RMBs---about $30. Unfortunately, my Visa card, Amex card, ATM card, nor US Dollars worked for payment. There was an ATM across the street, but when I tried that, it did not work.
When I returned, I gave them the 200 RMB, and indicated that I would go down town and find an ATM machine that would work on my ATM card. A lot of the smaller banks do not seem to accept my ATM card throughtout SEA, but usually I find one that works. But not this night. It would be four days before I found anyone who could speak English and that was on the mini bus to Hanoi.

Time for bed!


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