Arriving in China, Sleeper Bus, Part 4
Note: This is part 3 in a series called Arriving in China.
Image credits follow at the end.
Brief respite and back on our “own”
Eventually, the attendants ended the odd staring game the other waiting people all seemed to be playing with us and ushered all of us and our luggage out to a transition bus. Again were loaded up in this van to go to the next phase. However, there was a little too much luggage and a couple too many people but the Chinese figured out how to cram us all in there with people sitting on luggage, laps, the steps and floor.
The bus went round and round on roads and ramps and wove through traffic finally arriving at a bus terminal that would have been a 15-20 min walk away from the waiting room.
Attendants loaded up the luggage, checked our documents and ushered us into the bus after directing us to take off our shoes and don little blue hospital looking booties or a small red plastic bag for our shoes. The major luggage was put in the cargo hold below and we kept our personal bags, which for was our computer bags. When we got inside the bus, I was again chagrined. Inside were 3 rows of metal enclosed bunk beds, which reminded me of the weird small burrows in Japan.
Each “bed’s” foot was tucked under the head of the one in front with a little shelf for shoes and other belongings. My bag was too big to fit on the shelf so I had to hold it. I put my bag on the floor, grabbed the bunk above, and slid into my bed. It was a very tight metal sock made even more uncomfortable by the presence of my bag’s hijacking of usable space in the metal sock. After counting and accounting for each registered person we were off.
Sleeper bus….dont recommend it
The supposedly 8 hour bus ride lasted several hours longer and got us to Guilin by about 6 am Sunday instead of the 8pm Saturday we were told. In hindsight we figured it was probably just a communication issue.
During this trip, we learned two things. First that we won’t ever invest in a bed like a metal sock; second, that driving in China resembles a day simulation of Nascar more than it does orderly driving. We also learned that unless you want to experience traveling in a cheap and non-luxurious manner then you should not try a sleeper bus, though it was an interesting experience. Everyone on the bus was flung up and down the slanted metal enclosures for each break and gas stomp. When I say “stomp” I really mean that, each application of the gas and break petals were applied with the same finesse and appropriate ease as a blind Cyclops in a china shop. To add to our movements up and down the metal incline, we were also flung left and right at each lane change, car passed, obstruction averted, and each curve in the road.
I’m a little sad that once we took off, my normal “habit” or sleeping on moving vehicles was in cahoots with my only slightly decreased exhaustion and had me dozing for most of the trip. So I was not able to watch the scenery or take pictures.I was able to watch the scenery for random moments here and there, watching the night sky was a wonderful peaceful time.
Every so often all the passengers were forced to disembark at gas stations stops for food and restrooms. Luckily we hadn’t eaten much and were dehydrated, so we didn’t need to use the restrooms for very long if at all, which believe me were worse in basically every way then the rest stops along highways in America. I have never been so happy to be dehydrated and low on food in all my life.
It became routine for each person to crawl out of their metal sock, grab their red shoe baggie, sit on the steps, put their shoes on and pocket or throw away the baggie. I remember getting some food and watching Chinese people magically make warm soups and snacks out of random items at the gas stations. They some how came away with so much warm food. Some had rice and beef, noodles, soups, and even steaming bowls of noodle soups which they quickly devoured while on their way back to the sleeper bus. Sometimes you just have to accept the magic in China.
Each stop ended with one of the attendants coming to our beds to make sure we were there and not stuck somewhere outside. I am incredibly grateful for this.
At various stops a few people left the bus apparently reaching their destination. I had heard one woman say Guilin in the waiting room, so I tried to memorize her face and clothing so that we could watch for when she got off.
At some point the drivers, yes more than one, decided they didn’t want to switch off and would rather nap and smoke cigarettes at the side of the road all night. There were some pretty mad Chinese people in the bus and 2 very confused Americans.
Eventually, the sleeper bus pulled into a city and into a terminal where that woman got up and ready. We didn’t actually need her because one driver came over and pointed out of the bus and helped me get up.
Finally Guilin! A sleepy, rainy misty Guilin
It was raining gently but the line of taxi drivers had umbrellas that they shared with us. One of the bus drivers and a nice taxi driver worked together to help us further. We had the information and a message in Chinese from Micah’s boss written for just such a time with instructions to call his cell phone upon us arriving in Guilin. They called and got directions for the taxi driver. They loaded up our luggage and we waved at the drivers as the taxi pulled us away from the terminal and our moving hotel, our very first sleeper bus experience.
My first impressions of Guilin, I later learned were somewhat correct. This town seems to have aura of being isolated and kind of sleepy. The rain and thick overcast I’m sure added to this, but there was also just something about the buildings. The buildings are an odd conglomeration of what hinted at a departed—but not forgotten—Old China mixed with the New China. People walked along the streets pulling carts and holding babies. I could see the closer mountains lining rows in and around (though mostly obscured by the rain that day) the city created an image guards standing vigil. This probably yielded greatly to Guilin’s feeling of isolation and mystery. Almost everywhere you looked there was foliage of some sort and architecture I’ve never seen before. It was rather enchanting.
Soon enough the taxi driver pulled up to a closed gate, made a phone call and waited for a short Chinese man to come welcome us. He spoke quickly, paid the taxi driver and ushered us passed the guard instructing us to smile and wave so he could see that we were kind people. He took us up 2 flights to what would be our apartment. And here in this apartment was where our life in China actually began.
May the road rise to meet you.
Image Credits of images I did not take:
Featured image: By Ilya Plekhanov (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
First Image: http://www.dianliwenmi.com/postimg_3108783_6.html
Second Image: By Ecow (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Third Image: Contributor unknown, http://www.dianliwenmi.com/postimg_3108783_10.html