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In search of the lefter side

Nanning, China
Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nanning - The Green City

Nanning was always going to be the 'end' of China and also the end of what we have become to know as Part 2 of our big adventure. Nanning although another gigantic city by UK standards with just over 7 million is small compared to some places we have visited and has little touristy stuff to do or see. Guide books talk about the relaxed and chilled out atmosphere and although you do get that feeling it is often drowned out by the chaos on the roads. A city of this size needs a metro! They are building one as we write this but not a moment too soon, traffic is a nightmare and crossing 11 lanes of traffic to get to hostel is a scary experience!

With the lack of touristy stuff in Nanning instead of a 'traditional' blog we thought it would be more appropriate to blog about our departing thoughts and looking back on our time in China.

We have been in China for 4 weeks and are sad to be leaving. We have seen both cities and the countryside and feel we have experienced so much. We will be taking home so many memories many of which we have captured right here on the blog but there are a few things we haven't, so here goes:

Culture & People

China is a great place to visit but we recommend you do so sooner than later as it is rapidly changing, we have noticed a change since our last visit in 2009. If the rapid development and cultural shift doesn't slow down 'traditional China' won't be here in a couple of decades as capitalism takes over and communism seeps away.

Although we have talked about the constant staring a lot on the blog and it can be annoying at times it still amazes us that many people live a sheltered life and have never seen a Western person before. Next time we are in London we might ask a Chinese person for a photo and see what response we get! This is a massive part of China for us and as more Western people visit and the country slowly opens up this is sure to disappear, don't miss out go and be a celebrity for a few days!

The West's image of the East needs to change, as the country is changing, so are the people. Firstly obesity is not just a Western problem anymore! We saw very few middle aged or older people who were overweight but there are a number of children who even in the UK would look obese. Still a minority at the moment but surely set to get worse as the middle class continues to grow and the young have all manner of things the older generation didn't. Also against popular belief they are not all short, the younger generation were often taller than Sonya making it doubly hard to buy any clothes!

China is still a cheap place to visit and we often ate out for less than a fiver with drinks but things are changing rapidly. The middle class really know how to flash the cash and are pushing prices up everywhere which is another reason to come sooner rather than later.

Finally we will never understand or get used to spitting. We have mentioned it before but everyone does it without regard to where they are or who might be nearby. We have even seen somebody spit on a crowded bus, truly disgusting.


With a population in excess of 1bn, moving people around is a big task. Some of the plans we have heard and read about include double articulated bendy buses and buses on guided stilts that cruise 5m above the traffic! If any of these crazy plans happen, China will become a transport enthusiasts dream.

Crossing the road! Firstly there is no such thing as the Green Cross Code. The only Green Cross in China is the pharmacy and you will need more than that if you don't watch out. Nobody seems to pay any attention to the traffic lights and only stop if the traffic is stationary in front. Our interpretation of pedestrian traffic lights are:

Red - You will die
Green - Beware you could still die

This happened much more in the North of the country but we don't understand the constant beeping when driving, it's as if the horn is connected to the accelerator. In the UK using a horn means something as people rarely do it. In China you beep to say hello, goodbye, get out of the way, you are going to die and anything else you can think of. It means nothing as everybody does it all the time. After a while you can get a serious headache with the constant noise.

As the high speed rail network grows, this massive country will be vastly reduced in size. They seem to be building new lines everywhere. They obviously don't have the same public inquiries we do in the UK! ;-): We took 4 train journeys and the time difference between the new high speed and traditional lines is incredible:

Origin Destination Distance (KM) Time
4h 55m
13h 51m
Xi'an Chendgu
15h 55m
Chendgu Guilin
26h 05m

If there is an option to take a high speed train we thoroughly recommend it and in relation to traditional trains they are barely used as they cost a lot in relative terms.

Avoid coaches if at all possible as compared to trains the standards are poor, you also have to put up with the beeping of horns for the whole journey too!


There is no two ways about it the internet is naf. Luckily we invested in a VPN to avoid the Chinese internet police blocking Western sites. We learnt to use the internet first thing in the morning as more than a couple of people sharing the connection often brought it to a standstill. Also the VPN is much quicker in the morning as obviously it's the middle if the night in the UK.

We rarely use Sat Nav in the UK but it can be a God send when visiting so many new cities. But beware again the powers that be can't help but meddle and we often found that when arriving in a new city (just when you need it the most!) Sat Nav wouldn't track properly and was often approx. 1.5km off, strangely only ever in 1 direction. So when you finally worked out what was going on you could locate yourself. Sat Nav worked fine in Beijing and Shanghai but in other places it was at least the 4th day before it would track us correctly.

So that's it we both loved China even more than we thought we would, last time we were here we enjoyed Beijing but only visiting one city just didn't do the enormous country justice. The country is so different from North to South, the food, language and people have changed by the end of each train journey. The closer to Vietnam we have got the more 'Asian' things have become and remind us more and more of South East Asia where we first visited in this vast continent and we fell in love with. Next stop Vietnam which we are both excited about, we just hope it lives up to the billing 'it's like Thailand 20 years ago before it became too touristy'

Hostel Review

We stayed at the Lotusland (Bus Station) hostel. Note the subtle difference in name as we booked to stay at the highly rated Lotusland (Train Station) hostel. Due to us having to tweak our trains a couple of weeks ago we had to subsequently change a lot of hostel booking and everyone replied quickly and understood the problem apart from Lotusland. We should have suspected something and changed hostels but we didn't and we had to chase the 3 times before we even had a response. The response was highly confusing and directed us to the Bus Station hostel but at the time we thought this was a simple mix up, so on arrival in Nanning we jumped on the bus to the Train Station hostel only to find it had closed down :-( So against what it says on the internet there isn't two hostels they have shut the centrally located one and moved out of town to near the bus station, which incidentally is stupidly located 1 hour from the centre of the city. The hostel is located on the 1st and 2nd floor of an apartment block 45 minutes from anything you want to see and visit. The location is only good for the bus station and onward travel to Vietnam. When we mentioned we had a booking for the other hostel we were told in no uncertain terms they had emailed us to tell us they had moved, it's a shame they didn't! Food options in the local area are limited and a good 10 minute walk. The hostel does have a few plus points including a free Vietnam Visa service where you just pay for the Visa and they arrange everything on your behalf. Being new everything works well and the showers are great it's just a shame that the shared bathroom facilities are just off the common area so you have to trek past everyone to get to them! Unfortunately the plus points don't outweigh the negatives and we would not recommend this hotel unless it is a simple night stopover on route to Vietnam as it is well located for the bus station. It was the worst accommodation on our trip to date.


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