Is traveling in China difficult?

I just arrived in Beijing (northern China) after traveling from Yangshuo (southeastern China), a trip that took three or four days, including one day in the Wu-Tang Mountains (Wudangshan) in Hunan Province. It took five different buses just to get to Wudangshan, and the next morning when I departed finding the bus out of town wasn't as simple as showing up where it dropped me off. I had to take what is best described as a motorized rickshaw to the bus station.

The photo below is where he dropped me off. In all fairness, it is a bus station in China. It just wasn't the correct bus station for where I needed to go, which was the station that included a bus to Shiyan, where I'd have to buy a train ticket to wherever I wanted to go next, or take a taxi or another bus 100 kilometers to the airport. I had planned on visiting two or even three more places before visiting Beijing, but I felt so tired and frustrated that when I arrived in Shiyan I booked the next train to Beijing, which is where I am right now.

Before I booked the ticket, I saw on the wall that the primary train to Beijing was booked in advance for at least the next six days. There was more than a small part of me that had a minor panic attack. The thought of staying in Shiyan for even a few more hours was depressing. Fortunately I stayed calm and asked for the next train to Beijing, and although it wasn't the fastest train available, it left later that evening and I did not hesitate to pull the trigger.

Traveling in China has been more emotionally draining than traveling alone across Russia in the middle of winter. The people, one on one, are quite friendly, even overly so, and anyone who speaks even a little English is usually more than willing to go out of their way to help you, if only because they don't meet many foreigners and therefore appreciate the opportunity to practice their English. But in groups, the Chinese I've met or seen, tend to be quite pushy and disrespectful, not only of others but also with regard to the environment: spitting in public places indoors, smoking where they shouldn't smoke, being loud and disorderly in holy places, littering at cultural sites despite signs begging them to respect their own heritage.

After arriving at the place in the photo below, I took one more taxi to the correct bus station, and another bus to the Shiyan train station, where I waited about seven hours for my train to Beijing, which itself was 20 hours overnight. In what was a gift from God, I booked a four-person soft-sleeper cabin only to find that I was the only person in the entire cabin. I was able to turn the speakers off so as to avoid the Chinese music piped into the cabins at loud volume, and despite curious and frequent glances from other travelers, I mostly had peace and quiet, and when I didn't I was able to close my cabin door and read.

So yes, traveling in China has been difficult, even with a phrasebook and patience, you will be challenged to get where you need to go without the help of generous Chinese people. The good news is that even though most people in China don't speak English (and in some cities you'll maybe be the only foreigner they've ever seen, which invites aggressive staring and sometimes touching), those who do speak English will be thrilled to meet you, and more likely than not will change their plans for the day to help you out, even if it's as boring as just buying a train ticket.

Local bus station in China (Wudangshan)