Crossing the Line

Lao Cai and He Kou, September 13th 2010

We arrived in Lao Cai by early morning. I took my friends to a restaurant near Lao Cai Station which I had been to when I went to Sapa. I noticed that they had a bathroom upstairs. So I thought, while having breakfast we could take a shower there -- and we did. It was in this restaurant when I realized that I had left my bag containing my purse and passport, in the train. I instantly ran back to the station. Ika ran along with me. And then Yudi came after. Praise the Lord, the train crews were kind and my bag was still there untouched!!

When I asked my travel agent in Sapa how to get to the Chinese border from Lao Cai Station, he told me that his guests used to walk, take a taxi cari, or taxi motorbike. So, after having breakfast and taking a shower at the restaurant, I searched for the taxi car. The idea of walking surely wouldn't fit into my friends' interest, and with the luggage we had, taking a taxi motorbike would be no option either. Besides, since there are 8 of us, taking a taxi car will cost each of cheaper than taking a taxi motorbike.

However, there were no taxis in sight at the moment. My eyes stumbled on a tuk tuk bus stopping in front of the restaurant where we had breakfast. I suddenly thought of asking the tuk tuk bus driver the direction of Chinese border.

"Do you know which way is it to the Chinese border?"

"Yes, this," he said.

"This?" I pointed on the floor of the tuk tuk bus.

"Yes, this."

"How much is the fare?" I asked.

I heard from behind me a lady's voice in Vietnamese. She was a vendor. And then she turned to me, "How many?" she asked.

I thought she meant "how much". I got confused.

"No, no," she said again. She pointed to me, "You?" and then to another friend, "and you?"

"Oh, there are 8 of us." I made a circle with my finger while pointing to all my friends.

I heard the lady vendor said something in Vietnamese to the tuk tuk bus driver. And then she turned back to me, "Ten thousand."

"Ten thousand for 1 person??" I asked.

"No, for all," she answered.

"8 people ten thousand?" I couldn't believe it. That's very cheap.

"Shuni," one of my friends reminded me. "We have luggage, too."

I looked at the tuk tuk bus. There were only 2 rows of seat left on the back.

I don't remember who initiated the move. The next thing I knew was that the men were already loading our luggage onto the tuk tuk bus. So, I, Dina, and Melani, got up and took the row at the back part. It was fun, you know. Facing backwards, I had nothing blocking my view. The men sat on some of the baggage, so somehow the 8 of us managed to get on the tuk tuk bus. Once again, I'm grateful to be born a woman.

It turned out that it wasn't a short distance to the Chinese border. Moreover, we had to pass some ascending streets. Luckily I didn't suggest my friends to walk. I can't imagine what they would think of me. I myself wouldn't be able to make it.

We got down right in front of the Vietnamese Immigration Office by the Chinese border. You know what? The tuk tuk bus driver laughed when we got down. I said thank you and he laughed even louder.

Obviously there were many locals going to work back and forth Vietnam - China. The immigration checking line was divided into the one for local workers and another for tourists. I just guessed that through the kanji characters written the top of each line. The queuing took very long.

For the second time a friend asked, "Are you sure this is going to China?"

"Of course!" I exclaimed rather furious. Sorry to say, I thought that was rather a silly question. We are traveling overland and just look at the map, where else do you think this can get into? There's only China over there.

"Where do you want to go?" asked another friend to him jokingly.

"Honestly, I want to go home," he answered.

I can't forget that. Right when I was on top of my excitement, someone wanted to go home, instead.

Here we are now out of the Vietnamese Immigration Office.

The gateway of Vietnam - China International Friendship Bridge. We are crossing the border! My dream is coming true...!

To be honest, somehow I feel like being the odd one among my other 7 travel mates. I don't value eating so much and I am not so excited of having myself being photographed. Now, when I so desperately wanted to have my pictureS -- and the whole gang of course -- taken on this "dream bridge", they didn't seem in the mood for it.

In short, I felt like being in large group, but alone.
That's the opposite gateway. It says "China Hekou". Unlike the words written on the gateway of Vietnam just now, being written in Chinese characters, I could read that. It's not because I speak Chinese, but because I speak Japanese and the characters are similar.

Here I walked, sharing my excitement, my thrill, my adventure... with myself.

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