Our overland journey through S.E.Asia continues with the most audacious journey of the entire trip, a three day, two night train journey from Hanoi in Northern Vietnam to Beijing in the north of China.
We boarded our train at 6pm on the first day and headed north towards the border, reaching the end of the Vietnamese railway system in Dang Dong at around 11pm. Our train at this stage is a paltry 2 carriages and we and only 3 other passengers depart to go through the deserted customs and passport control manned by Chinese officers in really badly fitting uniforms (a trait of all the single party communist states we have visited).
Swapping on to a Chinese gauge train of the same size we get our heads down and head into China only to be awoken at around 5:30 at Nanning station where we have to disembark for a couple of hours to allow some shunting to add additional carriages to the train. We leave the waiting area to attempt to bolster our food supplies of pot noodles, Oreo biscuits and crackers but sadly the ATM and our cards are not compatible so we resort to a rationing plan which works beautifully.
Our long day on the train is spend hogging one of the few plug sockets to power our range of gadgets whilst we start to plan our Japan leg of the trip, catch up with photos and blogs and play the highly addictive Rayman Runs game. We are easily distracted by the sights out of the window where you can almost visible see the raw materials of the world pouring into the country with huge infrastructure projects of concrete and steel appearing every few minutes, we have never seen so much construction in one country before.
Westerners appear to be a rare sight on the train, particularly as we travel through the less well known parts of China and we regularly find people stood staring into our cabin, unnerving at first but a smile works wonders and people seem for the most part very friendly. That said we are glad that the other two berths in our cabin are not sold and we get the place to ourselves for the second night running and we watch a film on the iPad and enjoy a cup of tea after managing to turn a pot noodle container into a makeshift tea cup.
Thanks to the ultra smooth Chinese railways we wake after another good nights sleep and eventually depart the train after 41 hours feeling pretty refreshed and head out into the clear blue sky ready for whatever China has in store for us.