Crossing The Border Into Tibet/China

on Saturday, 1 May 2010

We wake up at about 8am and have not been told when we are leaving, or have been woken up by anyone. I look out the window and see a lot of the group walking up the road with their bags on. We have to quickly get dressed and pack and eat breakfast before catching up at the immigrajavascript:void(0)tion office. We are a little worried as we have overstayed our visa by a couple of days. We have heard that we may get through alright and some people have said we will get fines varying from a couple of dollars to thirty dollars. There are actually four of us who have overstayed. Me and Tom by 2 days and a couple of others by about two weeks. Our guide chats with the immigration officials for a while and by this time everyone else has got their stamp and left. Finally they come out and announce we will have to pay twenty five dollars as a fine and the other guys fifty dollars. Nobody is very happy, but the only other option is to return to Kathmandu, where we would probably get a similar fine anyway and also miss our tour of Tibet. We get to the border crossing bridge and on the Chinese side it is lined with Chinese soldiers, at the end two soldiers stand to attention, like the guards outside Buckingham palace, not moving at all. On the Nepal side there is nobody except one lone soldier further back down the road. We queue up and have to show our visas as we cross the line separating Nepal and China on the bridge. We have been told to not take photos, but as we get to the other side a Chinese soldier rushes over to a couple of guys in our group and is very angry at them taking a photo of the bridge. The soldiers speak no English, but demand they delete the photos immediately.

We are one of the first people to go through customs as we had booked the tour a month ago. The soldiers in the customs hall tell us to come forward then for no reason shout at us to go back, then they will say stand somewhere, which we do, but then for some strange reason will demand we move backwards or forwards a few steps to somewhere else that seems to be no reason. The have thermal cameras recording peoples heat and are very strict on people being ill. I have a really bad cough, so am desperately trying not to cough as we go through. They scan our bags and then ask us to empty everything out. I am a little worried about my laptop as I have been told they like to check what is on them and as the screen is broken they would not be able to. We have also been told they confiscate lonely planets and lots of other books, thankfully they let my autobiography of Frankie Boyle go through no problems. Tom has got his lonely planet though, which we have been told they don’t like the map inside because it doesn’t count Taiwan as China. Some people have said they have ripped the map out and taken the cover off an even ripped the book in half in an attempt to get it through. Tom decides to try and take it whole and rip out the map there and then if needs be. They find it straight away, look at the map and confiscate it, no amount of saying we will rip any pages out they don’t like work and they will only give it back to the guide who will return it to Kathmandu, which is no good for us, so Tom leaves it. We go through passport control and Tom is stopped and told his passport needs extra checks, I go straight through and they again scan my bag and again I have to remove my laptop for them to look at. Finally through, Tom follows shortly after, no idea what the problem was. As we are the first through, we have to wait for the other forty odd people to come through. We get what is basically a huge pot noodle from a local shop, where they supply you with hot water a well and make it for you in the shop. It costs only 5Y(50p) and we soon realise the food is pretty cheap out here, although we had been told it wasn’t very cheap. We then have to get the bus a short way up the road and stop at another customs office. We are told it should take about 20 minutes, but don’t end up leaving for about 4 hours.

We then drove to Ninxiang where we had some lunch and then a short drive to Latse, which was where we were spending our first night. We arrived at the guesthouse which was pretty basic and was just dorm rooms. We decided to join with a British couple we had met, Joe and Flora and share a 4 bed dorm. Some of the other passengers were not happy about having to share dorms, especially the older couples and people by themselves.