It's Monday, and liking the new hotel, I lounge around for a while, catching up on a few day's internetting. I go off to collect my Vietnamese visa at 2pm, find it doesn't open until 2:30pm and grab myself some snacks nearby. Upon opening time, I suddenly remember I don't have my receipt with me, I'm useless for keeping onto such things but quickly formulate a plan. In the visa section of the embassy, I tell the man behind the counter my plight: I had my wallet in my pocket and someone came up and stole my bag, which had all my clothes, books and receipts in it, so I couldn't bring the receipt to him. Without my passport I can't get into a hotel (true, even if the rest isn't..), nor can I leave the country. I have other ID like my credit cards, UK driving licence and other bits and bobs, including the original picture (I received two) which was taking for the visa application. The response? “Tin-ba-dong”, and he points to the pile of receipts on his table. Shit. Of course, the only guy they have today is the only one that doesn't speak English in the embassy. Fan-flippin'-tastic. I mimic someone taking my bag from me, and shaking my hands and my head when he points to the receipts (after all, I'm a master of this, and by heck I'm not going back to the hotel, then to the embassy and back to the hotel again, I want my passport!), and he simply points to the chairs. I sit down, slightly annoyed, and wait it out. Ten minutes go by and I think that he might have been pointing to the door, not to the chairs which are close next to it. With this, I try again. Nothing. But! Help has arrived, an old lady speaks some decent English and explained my problem to him, but again, even having knowledge of Chinese wouldn't have helped me, he just points to the receipts. Seeing this as a challenge it goes on for a few more minutes, until another member of staff turns up and helps me with his fluent English. I get my passport, win! I emerge from the embassy quickly, happy with my victory over Vietnam, and trot over to the nearest park to treat myself to an ice-cream on yet another boiling hot day.
Myself, Wu Dan Hua and Lu Yong Ming arranged to meet at 6pm. From the hotel, we took at taxi to the train station, as I wanted to ensure I could get the train from Nanning to Pingxiang the next day. Pingxiang is the last stop before the China<>Vietnam border. Taking the taxi to the station with my two translators, Wu Dan Hua asks the ticket office clerk for the ticket for tomorrow morning, and all is well. Then he turns to me and asks in perfect English if the ticket is for me and has us all laughing. For the four and a bit hour journey by train, it costs RMB17 (£1.50), and leaves at 8am the next day. Perfect. Having a ticket in advance and knowing the times that it leaves is a huge lift off of my shoulders. Then we grab another cab and head to the night food market, the name escapes me as it's a long Chinese one with some weird pronunciation. It's one long street with many stalls selling everything from fruit, to chestnuts, to octopus, to snails, to normal barbeque items and fish. Grabbing some oily bread, chestnuts and other bits, we head up the road slowly. We settle down at a stall that makes gyoza dumplings, little bits of vegetable mashed together, and others with bits of meat. Ten of them costs RMB3 (25p), we get thirty between us and eat them as soon as they're made and brought over to the table. We finish my appetisers, head back to the street, and shortly after I feel something on my left pocket. Instantly I look down and up, seeing a hand retract and my own hands pushing the dickhead who tried his luck. I stare at the cheeky dipshit who attempted to take my camera and music player, he moves back as if drunk and is laughing, I push him again and back off to get away from him and who I presume are his thief friends to my right. I don't fancy myself against three of any people, especially not in a foreign country when I can simply walk away. We do so, and I relocate my wallet, camera and music player to my pockets on my legs that button up. This is the first time I felt even slightly unsafe in any Asian country, the warnings I had received the past few days from Wu Dan Hua were entirely justified. I'd heard pick-pocketing was rife in Shenzhen, but saw nothing to indicate the sort. A bit riled up, we sat in a secluded restaurant so I could relax and sit down for some food. The girls go to the front where all the market stalls are located after I tell them to order whatever they want, I think by now they're feeling a little more accustomed to the difference in economies. Out comes a fish with beansprouts, ginger and lots of other bits, on a huge metal tin with flames beneath it to keep it hot, a load of beef slices on sticks, some octopus tentacles on sticks, a big purple vegetable cut open that looks revolting, and other small dishes to keep us full. Total cost was around RMB70 (£5), a bargain for one meal, but it filled all three of us. Having eaten enough for the next couple of days and spending less than £7, we made our way through the shopping district where everything is extremely cheap. Pairs of shoes for RMB30 (£2), socks for a third of that, t-shirts from RMB20 (£1.60) and many other fantastic prices. Eager to keep my baggage low, I settle on one t-shirt for RMB41 (£3) and happily venture to bed at 11pm, awaiting the next day of festivities (read: long train journeys with wooden seats and tired eyes).