Braving the windchill by a highway in Baise City of south China's Guangxi, 18-year-old Vietnamese Lau Mi Lenh and his family desperately tried to hitch a lift to their dreamland of neighboring Guangdong Province.
Hailing from a village in the Vietnamese province of Nghe An, Lau and his eight relatives had sneaked into China by themselves, hoping to find a job in Guangdong, as he had heard that the bustling coastal province could guarantee a handsome income for people like them.
It wasn't to be, and the illegal immigrant told Xinhua his tale from a Chinese jail cell.
He is among booming numbers of people without valid entry and employment paperwork, particularly from southeast Asia, that are flooding into the country's eastern seaboard, a part of China that is increasingly looking to the black market to fill gaps in affordable labor.
The issue is once again in the spotlight after two groups of Vietnamese stowaways, a total of eight people, were detained by local police in Baise on Friday.
Regional border control police of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region intercepted 4,500 illegal foreign laborers in 2012, and though the number dipped to a little over 3,500 in 2013, police say there are "definitely ones that are at large."
The illegal laborers, taking advantage of the many trails that snake through the China-Vietnam border area, stick their necks out to bypass the checkpoints in Guangxi to reach the eastern paradise of their dreams.
Mi Lenh said that his family moved heaven and earth to get to Baise, eventually enduring an anxious 24-hour ride in a minivan to get there.
"I was prepared to labor in jobs planting eucalyptus or sugarcane even in the countryside of Guangdong," he explained.