Kunming, China - SaPa, Vietnam
17.06.2005 20 °C
Left Kunming on the 09:40 bus to Hekou on the Chinese side of the border. The girl at the travel agency who booked our bus tickets said we'd arrive at Hekou by 16:40....plenty of time to cross the border and get to SaPa before dark. After driving through some beautiful paddy field scenery the roads became gradually more mountainous, 16:00 came and went, the roads deteriorated, and it became clear we wouldn't reach Hekou on-time. This realisation was made all the worse by the sudden discovery that our Chinese visa expired today (not tomorrow as we thought) and the Rough Guide informed us that the border closes at 17:00. Mild sense of panic.
However on finally reaching Hekou at 19:00 we ignored the claims of "John," the hotel tout who grabbed us the instant we got off the bus, that the border was closed to foreigners and made our way there, to find we could indeed cross with no hassle at all...despite the fact that Chinese immigration needed 4 people to study our passports and visas before letting us through.
Once safely in Vietnam, we spent 45 minutes haggling with minibus touts for the drive to SaPa, eventually securing once for 15USD...5USD more than we'd wanted....but since it was getting dark and it was raining we figured the 3 pounds or whatever it is wasnt worth fussing over. 40 minutes later we were deposited at the Royal SaPa Hotel, and after some confusion about the internet booking we were given an ensuite room with a balcony !! Dead plush !! After settling in we grabbed some food in the hotel restaurant - and thank God for Vietnamese food after some of the crap we'd had in China !!! Vietnam 1, China 0 !