Squeezing Through Chinese Customs – Helpless in Hanoi

Bolts of Motor Bike Lighting - Hanoi

There is a distinctive ambivalence about the foreign presence in China: cautious, hesitant, admiring. It is borne out – quite apparently – in such isolated phrases that say all foreign nationals should be expelled; any untoward behaviour should be discouraged, if not banned. Worldwide Western-based social networking sites – Facebook, Youtube and Twitter – are officially blocked. I was later subjected to, however randomly, border interrogation just because I had not stuffed a book I was reading in my rucksack. Having listened to the warden brazenly tell how a couple of drug smugglers were executed after a 48 hour deadline to mediate with their respective countries had passed without a result, only made matters worse.
The warden had not gone home. He was in the lounge sleeping off the stressful effects of waiting for my visa and sorting out the Indian guy’s problem. The vagaries of hostel managing. Maybe not quite such a good idea after all.
I quickly found the nearest bus stop and waited for the next crowded local bus to Langdong bus station. Jammed solid to pulsating, I stood above someone who got up to get off. No time for courtesy, so I sat down. Either you stand all the way or are lucky to fall into a vacant seat.
A couple of women were desperate to spring out of the doors as the bus approached a stop. It was quite a struggle digging past and in between the standers.
Chinese bus stations are quite sanitized affairs: curved steel barriers, seats that are also made of metal, cold, featureless waiting areas where you scan for the name and time of your bus to show up on a digitalized notice board.

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