My train obsession meant that instead of taking the highly reliable and comfortable bus from Hanoi to Nanning, I opted instead to take the night train from Hanoi to Pingxiang, the Chinese border town in Vietnam.
Usually one of the highlights of a sleeper train in Asia is that unsurprisingly you get a bed to sleep in. Whilst this was true of the Hanoi–Nanning train, the problem here was that at 2 am and 4 am, you had to get off the train with your bags to deal with the Vietnamese and Chinese customs and immigration. In Europe, and indeed even in North Korea, the train people get on the train to deal with you (much more civilized). This lack of sleep meant that being the kind of gentleman that I am, I opted to stay up and have a few drinks instead.
Whilst indulging in some liquid pleasures I ended up chatting with a member of a group of the only other “foreigners” on the train, who happened to be a bunch of Nepalese guys. One of them was quite friendly, whilst the others seemed quite aloof, I was not overly bothered and was happy to kill some time.
Further chats had revealed that they were doing a visa run. A visa run in China is for people that have either the tourist or business visas (rather than work ones), and are probably working on the snide in China. Not my issue and more power to them.
Alas on arrival in China, it appeared that one of them had overstayed their visa by 1 hour, and was being threatened with being sent back to Vietnam. None of them spoke Chinese, and the guards did not speak English. So like a pint-sized superhero, I decided to go and offer my assistance.
I spent the next 10-15 minutes begging this guy’s case and asking for him to be given a break, they asked my relation to him, and I simply said I was just trying to help. They then threatened all of his friends, which I translated and told them it was best if they waited outside. After another 15 minutes, the guards were adamant that nothing else could be done. I gave my apologies and left to go and tell his friends, who were waiting outside.
Well, I hope this is not an indictment of all Nepalese people, but his friends had long gone. I’m not sure if they were scared they might get into trouble, or perhaps it was just rather cold, but they left their friend (and me) high and dry.
I’ll always try to help those in distress if I feel I can, but seeing his “friends” bolt at the first sign of danger left a bitter taste in my mouth.
No good deed ever goes unpunished!