We approached the Chinese border with a little trepidation. We'd heard multiple accounts the bureacracy of the officials was of legendary proportions and that a long wait and the confiscation of our guide book (the Chinese do not like the fact Taiwan is listed as a separate country) was a possibility. The process turned out to be rather painless and we were ushered through to our waiting bus for the other half of the journey to Nanning.
The border was immaculate, with marble/granite buildings and paths lined with red flowering trees. The rail terminal looked equally as polished. We stepped onto our bus which was an immediate contrast to anything we'd had previosuly in SE Asia - seats with ample leg room that resembled lazy boys. The theme of contrast continued as we pulled out onto the double lane highway, lined with manicured gardens and concrete edgings, that was as smooth as silk for the whole 4 hour trip to Nanning.
Arriving in Nanning we were shocked to see a massive modern city complete with 3 or 4 amazing bridges (in typical Chinese style, lit up like rainbows with neon lighting) , countless skyscrapers and a flood lit golf course. It was so clean and tidy we could hardly believe it.
At that stage we didn't have any Chinese currency, which made paying for a taxi to our Guesthouse a minor problem. After having our Travelcard rejected from 3 ATM's we finally found one that came to the party and dispensed us some Renminbi. We found our way to the hostel which was run buy an American expat who in time turned out to be quite a weirdo.
The next day we had a walk around and continued to be awestruck by the number of shopping malls and the like. After a brief bit of shopping in order to get some supplies I headed to the 'golf ball-like' Guangxi Province Museum of Science and Technology for a look while Lizzie subbed out. This place was housed in yet another impressive building and had a series of interactive exhibits aimed to educate the young through old on the scientific method, innovation, resource management and clean energies. It was quite cool even though I could only read half the exhibits. I think such a thing would be really useful back home for the NZ public.
That night we went to a street food market - welcome to China. The theme here seemed to be 'anything goes'. There were hundreds of BBQ's, dumpling and noodle stands, and then of course your more exotic foods like goat heads, shark heads, chicken feet - pretty much everything we throw away. It turned out that the specialty of Guangxi province was dog hot pot, so after making a special effort to avoid that we ended up with a grilled fish and oysters (yip...really roughing it!).
Today we said goodbye to our strange American hostel-owner and made our way up to Guilin on another easy bus ride. I don't think for one minute Nanning will be representative of China. As an entry point and economic stronghold for ASEAN trade, it was bound to be polished. However, coming from two months in SE Asia Nanning was definitely a bit of shock to the system - where was all the dust, heat, and general craziness? The sheer wealth and level of consumerism in a modern China was startling. It was not only the gulf in wealth between China and SE Asia that stood out, but even the difference between Nanning and NZ. All this made for a rather unsettling first few days in China while we tried to get to grips with the differences in culture, environment and language.
Lanzatech makes the 2010 Guardian Cleantech 100
6 years ago