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October 29th, 2000 · No Comments

China to Vietnam

Day 302

I loaded a bus for a 4 hour ride to the Friendship Gate, the land border crossing between China and Vietnam. It was one of those memorable crossings that made me think, “I can’t believe this is happening!”

Our group occupied 5 buses and several trucks. When we got to the border we needed to unload us and all of our gear, clear customs and immigration, then walk 300 yards to the Vietnam border do the same, then load Vietnamese buses and trucks to proceed.

The entire process took nearly 3 hours. We all shuffled our gear and bikes through, getting checked one person at a time, until we were all through.

TK&A didn’t tell us to save some money for the crossing. I got to the exit and learned we needed to pay 10 yuan for the privilege of leaving China, I didn’t have any money, I had just finished exchanging 20 yuan for 10,000 dong and bought a bowl of noodles for my lunch. I now had no Chinese money. I wasn’t the only one who had that problem.

We all tried to borrow from each other, but it was not working out well. Eventually, Dr. Peter was given a fist full of yuan and stood by the guard, paying for each of us as we went through.

Friendship GateThe “Friendship Gate” on the China side of our crossing. /the building has better “curb appeal” than interior.

On the Vietnam side the atmosphere was electric with excitement. We had a crew of bus drivers and interpreters collecting and tagging our bags. They passed out name badges with our bus numbers on them and gave us claim checks. This was the first time in the world we had seen this happen! Vietnam was welcoming us!

Me and 2 million dong Vietnamese currency is called dong. There are approximately 14,380 dong to one U.S. Dollar.

Here I withdrew 2,000,000 dong from the ATM. It was quite a stack of money! $130.

Good Morning Vietnam!

I had decided on the long journey to the border I was not staying with the group. I wanted my stuff and my bike and I was going to do Plan B, whatever that was. TK&A ‘s schedule in Vietnam included more days of riding on night trains and buses. Our cycling days were short and on busy roads and they only totaled 3. All I could think was, “Why bother?” It’s time to get away from the group the feeling that prevails is not a positive one. All everyone can talk about is “what are you going to do after Singapore?”

The Vietnamese guys were packing our bikes so nicely on the back of an open bed diesel, using bamboo poles to protect the lower layer of bikes. They were doing such a great job, unlike anything we had seen since the time our bikes got moved by “United Van Lines” in D.C. I and others noticed how the bikes were being treated and were pleased. Vietnam is going to be good to us!

The bikes were going directly to Nha Trang, the riders were going to Hanoi. If I loaded my bike normally, I would not see it, so I made sure the staff knew I wanted my bike in Hanoi. Plan B was to get to Hanoi then figure out what to do in Vietnam that didn’t include 200 people.

Tags: Cambodia