Sedentary / Day 14 of 64 / 23 May
- CR MR1 to Nanning, China
- CRH D3809 to Zhuhai, China
- Macau, Macau
Today, we woke up at 1am. That’s not a typo. We really did wake up at 1am. The train stopped at Dong Dang Railway Station, the last Vietnamese station for MR1, and also the Vietnamese immigration point. We were awakened by our carriage conductor and instructed to disembark with all our belongings. Ga Dong Dang is a small station. The only people in the station were the immigration staff and the people on the train. After we cleared Vietnamese passport control, we returned to our cabin on the train. The process took 30 minutes, but it was only another one and a half hours later that the train departed for China. Apparently, it is not uncommon for the border checks here to be extremely thorough. Because of this, we only left Ga Dong Dang at 3am, GMT+7.
Dong Dang Railway Station, last Vietnamese stop for MR1. Alighting here makes you feel remote and isolated, far removed from civilisation.
Sam went back to sleep the moment we returned to the train, while I stayed up to observe the crossing of the border. I could tell when we had entered China because there suddenly seemed to be a lot more lights and a lot fewer stars. After travelling for about 30 minutes, we reached Pingxiang Railway Station at 4.30am, GMT+8. Pingxiang is the first station in China for MR1, and it’s also the Chinese immigration point. In the queue for passport control, we talked to probably the only Caucasian passenger on the train. He was a middle-aged man from Brazil, and he was carrying with him three rolling pieces of luggage, two cardboard boxes, and one small backpack. We asked where he had come from, and he said he was heading to China from Bangkok, where he had worked for the past twelve years. He was headed home via China, and decided to use this time to travel through Cambodia and Vietnam: his route was very much like our own. Soon, it was his turn at the counter, and we bid farewell to our fellow passenger. After Sam and I cleared immigration, we returned to the train. This time around, I slept the moment we returned. It was around 5.30am and the train was still stabled at the station.
Our first encounter with China was a drab grey immigration building.
We finally reached Nanning Railway Station [南宁站, Nan Ning Zhan] at 10.10am. We tried to find a place to eat, but most stalls at the station were either unappealing or closed. So we left Nanning Railway Station and boarded the subway to Nanning East Railway Station [南宁东站, Nan Ning Dong Zhan], where our high-speed train to Zhuhai was departing from. Zhuhai is located near the Macanese border. The railway station runs parallel to the Macau immigration building, so from Zhuhai, it’s just a short walk over the border into Macau.
Our sleeper train looking rather out of place in this high-speed station.
At Nanning East, we claimed our tickets and had lunch. The stall had free wifi, so we also managed to book our accommodation in Macau. At around 2.30pm, our high-speed train to Zhuhai (CRH D3809, trip.com, 259 CNY/51 SGD/pax) left Nanning East. The Chinese high-speed trains are incredible, and so are the stations. The trains are silent and smooth, vastly different from the bumpy and often noisy Vietnamese and Thai trains. The stations are gigantic and modern, constructed from glass and steel: in stark contrast to the brick stations with zinc roofs found in Vietnam and Thailand. However, Chinese high-speed trains are definitely more sterile and less “human” than Thai or Vietnamese trains. They feel more like airplanes, and less like a form of rail transport. We even had to go through airport-like security screenings before we could board.
Nanning East is huge. I guess they’re planning ahead for when the average height of a Chinese hits 4.5m.
At 7.45pm, we arrived at Zhuhai Railway Station [珠海站, Zhu Hai Zhan]. We quickly exited the crowded station and headed to Gongbei Port, the entry point into Macau. The area around Gongbei Port and Zhuhai station was packed with Macanese, Hong Kongers, and mainland Chinese. Entering Macau via land was definitely an interesting experience, and I’d recommend it over the typical air-route. The flurry of activity around the Gongbei Port area cannot be matched by that of an airport arrival hall.
China. Land of cyberpunk.
We finally set foot in Macau around 8.30pm. Our first order of business was to change our USD to MOP: Macanese Pataca, the local currency. We also finally managed to get a 4G SIM card, after spending the entire day without Internet. With an Internet connection and our spending cash in order, we headed to our Airbnb in the Wanzai District (47 SGD/night). The accommodation was pricey, but it was already the cheapest that was available. Cheap lodging is hard to find in Macau due to a lack of hostels. The available hotels are highly “tourist-y” and can easily cost upwards of 150 SGD a night. Nonetheless, our Airbnb was in a good location, and more importantly, it had working air-conditioning! After a week of sleeping in hot rooms and bumpy train cabins, it felt good to finally be able to crash on a full sized bed in an air-conditioned room.