Today I took the bus, four buses actually, two intercity buses and two local, with three transfers overall, from Yangshuo, in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, southeastern China, to Changsha, which is still fairly south but more toward central China, in Hunan Province.
The trip took about 12 hours.
When I arrived and finally found the hostel where I'd made my reservation, I realized almost immediately that it was not going to work for me. The toilet was broken and full of shit, literally. The A/C did not work, nor did the Internet. There were also no alternative rooms available, only a dorm, which would have been more than fine for me, except that when I arrived at the dorm, all four beds were already taken, and one of the beds had fresh bacon laid out on the linens.
It was all a bit too strange for me, so I decided to leave and find a proper hotel. I figured my sanity is worth more than $6.16 USD (cost of dorm = 40 元), especially after a steady diet of Chinese buses, secondhand smoke, and loud karaoke videos (the entertainment of choice for Chinese travelers, apparently). I found a new hotel easily, and it was worth the upgrade.
I'm only stopping in Changsha for one night, on my way to Shiyan, which itself is only a stopover on the way to the Wu-Tang Mountains (Wudangshan).
I had two choices for my first layover city: Changsha or Wuhan.
I chose Changsha because I was told by a girl who grew up near Wuhan that Wuhan is nothing special, that it is loud, dirty, and too big. Changsha is smaller, she said, much easier to travel. By smaller, she did not mean small: There are three million people living in Changsha.
But I trusted her judgement, so here I am, in Changsha.
Traveling in China, I've found, involves a bit of trust.
For example, I booked my ticket in Yangshuo, where I was told that when I got off the first bus, there'd be family of a friend to meet me, and sure enough when I got off the bus there was a man who immediately grabbed me by the arm and led me down the stairs to an underground market, where we weaved in and out of stalls selling cheap clothes and junk. I wasn't even sure that I was with the correct person, but I didn't have enough time to worry about that because minutes later he passed me off to another woman, who said all kinds of things to me I didn't understand, but before I could even process that, she passed me off to a third person, a young man who grabbed my bag and tossed it in a minibus, which I took along with five other Chinese guys for about 20 minutes. We were dropped off on the side of the road, the same place seen in the first photograph below, about 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time, still unsure I was even in the right place. I'd been led to believe I'd be departing from a bus station, not the side of a highway. I also didn't have a ticket, nor did anyone on the bus ever ask for one, and when I had asked for one before departing Yangshuo, they said not to worry, that it would be OK. I guess they simply called ahead and told them to expect a foreigner.
So yeah, traveling in China involves a bit of trust.
|Our unmarked Chinese bus stop, on the side of the highway.|
|The bus itself was actually pretty comfortable.|
|One of the hundreds of farmers I saw working the fields. This view was pretty typically for the seven or so hours I spent on this particular bus.|
|China, between Guilin and Changsha.|
|China, between Guilin and Changsha.|
|Another Chinese bus stop. The rule of thumb for Chinese buses appears to be that they'll pretty much stop anywhere you want them to stop. Just ask. It helps if you speak Chinese.|
|A more official bus stop. This was our one pitstop for the day.|
|A student in Changsha who helped me find the local bus (#123) that I needed to take in order to get to my hostel, which was about 45 minutes away from the bus station in Changsha.|
|Statue of Mao Zedong in Changsha, which is where Mao studied and converted to Communism.|
|Police officers in Changsha. On the whole, Chinese cops, with their bad posture and sloppy uniforms, don't really seem all that intimidating, unlike in Russia, where the cops often have bad posture and sloppy uniforms but are pretty much always intimidating.|
|Changsha at night; KTV = karaoke bar, one of a handful I've already seen in Changsha.|
|Another KTV in Changsha.|