Planning For Vietnam

By Jane Mountain | February 2, 2014

9,239 km so far.

Having made the decision last week that we would ride out the Spring Festival in Haikou, we are cooling our heels here for another day. We had been led to expect that Haikou becomes a tourist mad-house for the festival days. Instead, we have found the city half as busy as it was last week, very quiet, with many shops and restaurants, including the only vegetarian restaurant in town, closed for a few days.

In fact, the only noise comes from the constant firecrackers, which also seem to have died down today.

We are both anxious to get on our way to Vietnam, so we would have left a day earlier, if only we hadn’t pre-booked our hostel room for three nights.

Stupid planning ahead.

Oh well, it has given Stephen time to replace some of the calories he lost when he was sick, and has allowed me to sleep a couple of 10-hour nights, which I badly needed.

Crazy In Carrefour

Today was another do nothing day, aside from a trip into the centre of town to visit Carrefour. We needed to restock our peanut butter supply, and we thought we could probably use a few other things.

Entering Carrefour in China is like entering another dimension with a crazy time warp. I think they specially tune the various announcements and music in the store to mess with one’s logic centre. As soon as you enter, you cease to be able to think, or remember what you came in for, and instead, you walk around like a zombie, putting random things in your cart.

At least that’s what happens to us.

Panda lost its head, Haikou, Hainan.

Panda lost its head, Haikou, Hainan.

Today was no exception. We picked up peanuts, raisins, and dried apricots to make our daily muesli. We got our jar of peanut butter, which is a crucial cereal add-in. We got roasted almonds and little fresh-baked peanut brittle bars for mid-day snack breaks. We got a couple of steamed buns and some rounds of lightly fried bread for lunch.

All of this took about 45 minutes, which is when Stephen found a loaf of French bread. Since we’ve been reading about Vietnam over the last week or so, we both have banh mi on the brain, so we bought some tofu and veggies to make ourselves a tofu banh mi sandwich at the hostel.

Banh mi (ish), Haikou, Hainan.

Banh mi (ish), Haikou, Hainan.

It wasn’t really that good, but man, it was brilliant! We can’t wait to get to Vietnam, if only for the food.

How The Firewall Messes With Our Heads

This afternoon, we tried really hard to get some work done, but the Great Firewall was having none of it.

We haven’t talked much about how the Chinese firewall works, so here goes a mini explanation. Throughout China, as is well known, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube do not work anywhere, unless you have a VPN, which I’ll talk more about in a minute. Other sites seem to be randomly blocked or not blocked, depending upon the area of the country and the individual internet provider.

The biggest annoyance is that Google Maps hardly ever works. This affects our trip planning, makes it impossible to update the map on our site which shows where we’ve been, and makes it really hard to find things like restaurants when we’re in cities. In addition, Google Drive and Docs also rarely work. This has been Stephen’s huge bugbear the last few days, as he has been using a Google spreadsheet for our taxes. He can’t finish them, because we can’t get on to Google at the hostel.

Gmail is also affected. It usually works if we pull it into our Mail apps, but not always. Sometimes we can receive email but not send it, sometimes we can do neither, sometimes it works fine. Sometimes we can even use the Gmail web app.

We can never load any blogs on or Blogspot, so every time we are searching for information online, we have to skip anything on either of those platforms.

Finally, depending on the location and the time of day, we may or may not be able to get onto My Five Acres. For instance, this morning I updated the site, adding two blog posts, but this evening, I can’t even load the homepage.

We pay for a VPN service, but they are technically illegal to use in China. Everyone uses one. For some reason, it will only connect some of the time on some of our devices. Usually it works on the iPad, but rarely works on the computer. Then some days, it will work on the computer, but not the iPad. Most often, it just won’t connect at all.

kitten haikou china

Getting more adventurous, Banana Hostel, Haikou.

There’s no rhyme or reason to any of this. Things just work (or not) at random.

It will be a refreshing change to be in a country where the internet is just the internet again. As long as we don’t blog about politics, I think we’ll be OK.

Holding On For Tomorrows

Yesterday, we did our route planning for the coming 10 days or so. Usually we would never plan that far ahead, but we’re on a schedule. We want to meet my parents in Vietnam when they pass through going in the opposite direction. Also, we want to get out of China. So, starting tomorrow, we are headed west, along the south coast of China, as quickly as our legs will pedal us.

After about a week of tomorrows, if all goes according to plan, we’ll be in a new country!  

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1 comment

  1. Comment by Kimberly

    Kimberly February 5, 2014 at 7:31 am

    Thanks for the insight on the challenges that present themselves just to be able to connect to the global world. I heard a piece on NPR this morning about China ending reform or work camps and was wondering if you have seen any of these places. We have Chinese friends in the US who are Falun Gong practitioners who have family members in China that have been detained in these facilities for practicing FG. Because of the firewall, communication with family in China is extremely difficult and our friends are often left in a void of not knowing where their family is or the status of their physical/mental health.

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