Sunday, May 24, 2009

Gotta Love Bus Travel In China!

So how do you get from the limestone peaks of Yangshuo to the rice terraces of Ping'An, the other renowned area of natural beauty in the Guilin area? In our case, it went something like this...

Finding out that there is no direct bus linking the two spots, we booked tickets on the 6:45 am bus out of Yangshuo back to Guilin. This hour and a half journey was uneventful, except for the hawker who tried, ultimately unsuccessfully, to get us to take his bus instead, going so far as to load our luggage, ever so briefly, into his compartment.

Upon arriving in Guilin, we had to fight our way through the waiting throng of hawkers, who kept belting out one word to us..."Yangshuo!?" Feeling a bit mischievous, I kept replying, in Chinese, "You're going to Yangshuo!? You'll really love it there!" Now, I would not recommend this disrespectful (and effective) tact to anyone. It was just what I came up with at the moment, as I found myself crowded in.

At the ticket window, we discovered that the next bus to Longsheng, the town closest to the rice terraces, was leaving in precisely two minutes. Shijian gou bu guo? "Do we have enough time?" "If you hurry," came the no nonsense reply. We did hold the bus up for a minute or two, as we dashed off to the bathroom. Moments later, though, we were on our way.

This second bus ride took us away from the limestone peaks, up into mountains several thousand feet high. The funniest thing about traveling through this area is that if the ayi knows you are heading to Ping'An, the first village located in the rice terraces, she will flag down a bus right on the highway. There, cars whizzing by, you will dart across the street, luggage in tow, to a bus seemingly headed back in the opposite direction. As we eventually figured out, there is a strip where the two routes cross over each other, and you can save time not going all the way into Longsheng, only to have to retrace your steps for a bit. Now there's efficiency and service for you!

This last bus ride was the most amazing of them all. Up, up, up, we climbed, switchback after switchback, until we finally arrived at the foot of Ping'An village. There we found, predictably, yet more hawkers to fend off...



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