It was a grey day and the air pollution was easy to spot as the train neared Nanning. You see the factories, silhouettes in the distance. Grey on grey. Di has starting wearing a mask as her cough is definitely related to air quality. Nanning is another large city, population 2.5 million. Our stopover city on-route to Hanoi. Originally planned as a one night stop, we ended up staying an extra day due to the entry date on Di's visa. As a Dane, I am granted 15 days visa free travel in Vietnam.
One of the first things we noticed in China was the electrical scooters. They are everywhere, in huge numbers, on sidewalks, crosswalks and intersections. You see one bicycle for every 50 e-scooters. A strange sensation at first as they are completely silent. Fifty scooters pass by, right in front of you and you barely hear a thing. Well except for the constant honking and alarms. An arcade like sound rings out as they remote lock or unlock their scooter. It took us a while to figure out where the noise was coming from.
We checked into our conference style hotel located within walking distance of the train station. The front desk staff were dressed in traditional outfits but no one spoke English. We had a bit of problem, as they would not accept our credit card to pay the deposit. We found an ATM nearby, problem solved. Communication was aided by a smart phone app and everyone smiled in the end. The room was of good standard, about $30 per night but had no window.
Nanning turned into a nice surprise. The people were friendly and eager to speak with us. It is a strange feeling having so many eyes on you. I saw one other westerner in our two days there. One! We walked close to 20 kms exploring the local area. On the first night a lady at the next table helped us order traditional Chinese dinner, bone broth soup and more. At the Guangxi Provincial Museum restaurant, a young boy about age 7 who spoke some english, came over and helped us order lunch. We treated ourselves to a foot/back massage and had a wonderful time with the staff. Di told them about the app at the hotel and another customer downloaded a different speaking app. Laughs all around.
China and the cities we have visited are bursting with energy. The Western influence is significant with department stores, countless cell phone stores, fashion outlets, Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC to name a few well-known brand names. Sound systems are set up outside many stores and music is booming out into the street. A sales clerk works the microphone trying to lure customers in. We had no idea what they were saying but it reverberated down the street from store to store.
On our way back to the hotel on our last afternoon we witnessed one of the most bizarre things we have seen on our trip. In a town square a battle of the bands sort of thing was happening. Fifteen or more different keyboard, singer duos, small bands and karaoke singers all played simultaneously. It sounded absolutely awful as the performers indulged in their own noise. They all appeared to be having a great time. Definitely a clash of cultural tastes.