February 20, 2009

At 7.30am the there was another sort of changing of the guard which concluded by the Chinese flag going up to the sound of the Chinese anthem.

Arja tried to cross to look for some food for brekkie, she was sent back and told the border didn’t open until 8.30am.

Well at least we had coffee and Mandarins, and once past 8.30am Arja went back to the border to cross and was told that she could not go backwards and forwards and needed to enter China.

We more or less decided this ourselves. When an officer came to ask us of our intentions regarding staying on immigration lawn I simply said that I didn’t know and that it was upto customs to advise once they had completed the paperwork. The response was that customs was now open and I should go across and talk to them, so I was allowed into China to speak with customs and it was time again to badger the officer we spoke to yesterday. This was a slow process as the customs officer made a phone call to perhaps an english speaking friend or colleague and put meon the phone. I entered further negotiations with the lady and made it clear that at no point had we ever been advised by a Chinese embassy abroad that we required 4 official docs and that it was ludicrous that customs didn’t know what or how to obtain the documents.

The ultimatum ‘we will cancel your Visa and stamp if you don’t enter China today’.

impounded

Francois impounded at Chinese Border

We got permission to store Francois for upto 10 days behind the immigration but we had to enter China leaving the bike behind. This was what I had feared and was far from ideal. So with no other choice left to us we crossed into China without Francois and checked into a hotel.

Now in China we decided to allow ourselves a small Kingsway beer and fried rice for lunch topped off with disco dancing waitresses! No they weren’t at all out of place in this dead-end backwater.

Back to customs and our english speaking customs officer Zong Gui who by now has befriended us or taken pitty on us, either way he has been a great well mannered acquaintance showing nothing but interest and making helpful suggestions. Such as going to Jinghong 3hrs away by bus to find a travel agent willing to perform the necessary paperwork. We considered this and as wwe worked through the pros and cons of leaving the bike at immigration we soon realised that we would be spending at lot of time and money to little or no effect. The decision to leave the border and head back to Laos cutting our loses and continuing on our motorcycling adventure without China was now made. We would leave with our heads held high and our nerves intact knowing that we gave it the best attmept possible. There were no other realistic alternatives then returning to Bangkok and flying over or around China and Myanmar.

February 21, 2009

Arja said in reference to the Chinese customs that they were “Insular, abhorrent, treating foreigners as morons.”

There is not much to say apart from the fact that we didn’t make a smidgeon of progress in terms of temporary importation.

February 22, 2009

Emotional we left China collected Francois and rode to the Laos Boten checkpoint. The Laos post was empty when we arrived as we just got in front of the Chinese tourist coaches lining up to leave Chinese immigration. We completed the application for a Visa on Arrival and had that stamped into our passports then we paid the fee and moved across one window to complete the arrival/departure card, just as we moved to the empty immigration desk the coach full of Chinese tourists banked up behind us. This was annoying as the immigration officer also needed to stamp my Carnet. He took it looked at it and I said it was for my moto, he walked off and consulted a colleague, when he came back he told me to go around the back of the building. So I walked around to be stopped by another officer asking what I wanted I said I needed the carnet stamped and he said go back. At this stage it was clear no one really knew what to do which was annoying as I was here only 2 days earlier and it wasn’t this much trouble. I ended up going to each desk around the building wasting a good half hour until I was back at the first window. By this stage I couldn’t see the officer due to the hordes of people cramming the immigration window. I used my height as an advantage over the shorter asians and held up the yellow Carnet over the top of them and in clear eyeshot of the officer should he look up, it worked. He waved me to his colleage in the next window and I motioned for him to take it and spoke in a loud authoritative voice saying that I had seen everyone and you now need to stamp it for me. The Carnet was stamped in a matter of seconds and so I returned to Arja who had escaped the now stifling heat and was under the awning of the immigration building. As we mounted the bike I remember how we had needed to walk around immigration and join the truck over the otherside and mentioned to Arja that she might need to walk around. She didn’t like this idea and was keen to get going due to the heat. As we approached the border guard wasn’t happy and started waving his arms as if to say we needed to go to immigration. I understood and told Arja to show that our passports had been stamped and we were fine to go. He checked only the photo page and told Arja to go walk around she was infuriated at this point with the instruction being the straw that broke the camels back and she snatched the passport back and shrugged her shoulders in disgust. I said very loudly not to take it out on this guard, it was only his job.

China has highlighted for us how we are quite green around the edges making poor decisions that have impacted our expenditure adversely. It is easy in hindsight but if we didn’t try we would’ve died wondering, so it’s money spent and time to grow and move on as there are certainly more mistakes we will make along the way to Oslo.

The road down to Huay Xay.

Back in Laos and heading towards the Thai border town of Huay Xay, there were many rubber tree plantations that had replaced the tropical rainforests, and not unsurprisingly were many landslides that destroyed significant portions of the road. Testament to the adverse impact of errosion and land degradation due to deforestation and poorly managed natural resources.

Pascal was noticably distressed about the whole Chinese fiasco and took out his agression on an oncoming 4WD that was cutting in on our lane by punching his rear view mirror in. The sound at combined spead of approx 100km/h was a loud smash of plastic. The 4WD suddenly slammed on their brakes and Pascal speed off.

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