Chapter One: On the way: destination VIETNAM! But still in China…16th – 18th of January

16th of January and we left. In the last few days we had worked (pretty hard if compared to other times I would say, as we were all late for the deadlines for reasons that I don’t need to explain) on our thesis proposals and the last papers to hand in, and finally we were free for more than one month. What else should have we done, if not travelling around Asia?

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Everybody started to plan the holidays, and C. and I started to talk with the Germans to joint their holiday plan, that was actually also our idea (starting from Vietnam, then other countries). At the beginning the unexpected multicultural group was made of five Italians and three Germans.  We didn’t know each other before September, when the Master started, and I stopped and still stop many times to think how incredible how we meet friends during our life is. There are some people that stay around us an entire life and never get close, and then one day you meet someone, start to talk and discover that you can talk about everything for hours,  and this person become the one that you call if you feel to have a walk at midnight, or a beer at lunch. Those wonderful people, so rare to find, make our days better.

The plan for the whole holiday was not really clear and in the group there were different opinions and wishes, but wasn’t somebody saying “it’s all about the journey, not the destination”? The fixed part involved Vietnam and Cambodia for sure, and then opinions diverted. We had talked about meeting with the others that are studying with us in Hangzhou at the 15th February-Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan (Thailand), but some of us started to think about travelling other countries, in particular we were considering Burma. But we would have made that decision later.

We said goodbye to Hangzhou after five months of hard settling (work hard, party harder) and flew to Nanning, the capital of Guangxi, city where we had planned to cross the border by bus. Those days of holiday were crazy in China, New Year Eve was close and everybody (EVERYBODY! I mean every Chinese, and they are many!) was travelling around, going back home, making almost impossible for us to find buses/trains/whatever to move around.

Nanning is a Chinese city as any other, crowded, modern and bare ( yeah, I don’t love Chinese cities) and unfortunately we found ourselves forced to stay there two days instead of one , as no one single bus was available, and we were pretty a big number. We decided then to get the best from the bad luck and the second day we found out a rural village not far from the city, called Yang Mei.

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We spent the whole day wandering around, enjoying the absence of tourists and the peace and calm surrounding everything. We made a lot of funny pictures on a stone next to the lake and walked into narrow streets and temples. Heading to open fields, we stopped to watch some women stepping on salad in a hole, adding probably vinegar making it ready to be preserved and cooked. We had lunch in the main square of the village, attracting a lot of attention as they were not probably completely used to see a noisy group of foreigners drinking a couple of beers, taking pictures of them and  buying an enormous bunch of bananas. China is a crazy country, but if for any reason it happens to be able to see something different from the fast-developing-moneymaker side, there is a lot to appreciate.

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We left the village talking about money and happiness and during the holiday it would have happened again to think that sometimes people are or seem happier when they don’t have that much.

It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important. (Arthur Conan Doyle)

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On the way back to the bus we almost lost F., who out of a sudden went to the toilet and almost missed the bus, running when we were shouting at the driver to stop. We went back to Nanning, and had dinner on a street full of food stands (weird animals included).

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Back to the hostel, we were ready to get up early the next day to catch the bus. Direction: Vietnam!

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