from Lao Cai to Hekou-city China - After crossing the friendship bridge, we were greeted on Chinese soil by a customs officer who helped us with our immigration forms. After impressing him with our crazy Chinese language skills (hello and thanks) he became very friendly and explained in broken English where to find an ATM and where to find a local bus, taking us to the remote bus station would bring. This was lucky for us! Although we would not continue to travel by bus that day, we have learned a lot about this not so well traveled border crossing.
Hekou is a lovely small city with a great atmosphere, and it is actually worth exploring the day. Make sure to get some sugar cane from the market, it's great !!
It is true that the main bus station in Hekou is built about 5 kilometers outside of the city, but the good news is that a sweet little green bus runs to the bus station, which costs only 1 RMB. The trip takes less than 15 minutes to get there.
There are only a few of these buses that run on the route to the bus station. You board the bus only a few blocks of immigration (marked on the left side of the map below with an 'x'). To stop the bus you just have to wave and this is how you get to the bus station to continue traveling.
The Friendship Bridge
There is a bank (indicated on the map below as 'ATM') with an English speaking ATM (no kidding, he talks to you!)
Right next to the bank there are several clean and cheap hotels. The cheapest was right next to the ATM and was a great deal for a border town (60 RMB ~ $ 10). Our room had a view of the small green bus stop.
The little green bus that stops in front of the hotel is super handy (marked on the right side of the map with an 'x'). There are only two buses going to Yuanyang, both of which leave in the early morning (6am and 9am).
The green bus
We had fun in Hekou and were glad we had the chance to stay there. People don't speak English but were super friendly. There are many small shopping streets to walk through and two markets (one for 'stuff' and the other for meat and vegetables). We met a "cool" guy named Ernie who led us through the food market.
We couldn't find Wi-Fi, but there's a huge computer cafe down a flight of stairs down the street from the market, and the giggling girls behind the counter insisted we don't have to pay (perhaps because we were the highlight of their entertainment for the day).
Also near the market are streets lined with chefs ready to cook anything for you ... all you have to do is pick the vegetables or meat you want to point to.