We have spent the last 3 months worrying about how to get into China. It felt as though we were cursed. In April with our HK ID card, we could have got a one year multiple entry visa, then the Tibet protests stopped that. Until recently it was possible to get a visa in Almaty, but the Chinese embassy there has now become like Fort Knox – no-one can get in, let alone apply for a visa. We have spent so many sleepless nights worrying about how to get into China, we've heard reports of people being refused entry on bicycles, about cyclists being thrown out of hotels once they do get in, of other cyclists being told that the border was closed to foreigners.......it has been hell. Last night I woke up several times and as we cycled the last 20km to the border my heart was racing with apprehension, I was nearly sick.
This has now all changed – we are now in China – and it's ovely.YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Once through customs we couldn't stop grinning – our cycle ride to Nepal is still on. We got across the border with absolutely no trouble and the officials were super friendly. They didn't mind that we had had to fly all the way to Hong Kong to get our visa, I think they were just surprised to see any foreigners entering China from Kazakhstan seeing as how they've made it so hard this year. The English speaking border guards were desperate to help, we were moved to the front of queues, and customs was straightforward. Once in Korgas it was easy to get a room in a hotel and compared to Kazkahstan the quality and price is astonishing.
I was reading in a newspaper in Almaty, that this year China has had less tourists than for many years, despite the Olympics. The Tibet protests caused such panic about press exposure that all the visa restrictions were imposed. It's a shame that the government of China isn't more confident. It seems to be doing a good job leading a country that only a few years ago was considered part of the developing world. My electronic key card hotel room, with ensuite bathroom and aircon seems to tell a different story.