Tuesday, August 11, 2009

They all look the same (bus stations, that is)

Cynthia's take on a day of travel

We thought we had it all figured out. The lovely receptionist at our hotel in Xian checked on the bus station we needed and wrote it down in Chinese characters and also wrote down Louyang, our final destination as well as Sanmenxia, our midway destination for the day.

We confidently handed the taxi driver our information and he took us to the bus station. However, upon handing the scrap of paper with the Sanmenxia Chinese characters to the ticket seller, we learn, No, there is no bus to Sanmenzia from this station. She writes down instructions on a slip of paper and we leave the window. To get to Sanmenxia, we need to go to a different bus station.

Oh well, the buses leave every hour so off we went to another bus station in another taxi. There we learn that it will take us all day to get to Sanmenxia because we have to make other connections and the first bus won't leave until 2:00 so there is no way to get to Louyang tonight.

A quick conference and we decide to skip Sanmenxia altogether and just head to Louyang. Well that means yet another bus station. The young women in the bus station insists we mustn't take another taxi. We end up following a very insistent Chinese couple down the street and in a few blocks we are standing on an island in the middle of the street; the wife is inspecting every bus that goes by and after about 10 minutes we see that the husband has boarded the bus to explain our predicament to the driver. The driver pulls over. They hustle us onto the bus with our packs, hand our bus fare over to the driver and jump off the bus, leaving us to fend for ourselves. After about half an hour or so, David decides to check with the young man across the aisle. Indeed, we are on the bus to Luoyang and four hours later we indeed arrive. Amazing.

We find a clean, quiet, small hotel, go out and have hot pot for dinner and marvel that we actually did arrive.

We had heard that long distance buses in China were quite luxurious. So far, that hasn't been our experience (Maybe we are just at the wrong bus stations) but we have seen a lot of the countryside, a lot of expressways, many country roads and large numbers of poor villages as well as both small and large farms and mountains of many descriptions.

I believe the next best thing to being a young and lovely travelers is being old (gray hair, gray beard) and doddering travelers.

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