08 September 2009
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Objective: Get from Hong Kong in the most efficient way possible (Read: cost and time effective. Read even deeper: NO OVERNIGHT BUS).
Solution: Take a taxi to a train to a taxi to a plane to a bus to a bus to a motorcycle. Yeah!
It all started at 6am when the alarm went off. We showered and dressed (though Stacey had drugged herself to stave off motion sickness, so I nearly had to shower and dress the two of us). Return key, hail cab, hail Stacey into cab. Arrive at train station and eat something wildly overpriced and wildly not delicious for breakfast. Wait.
Board train and take forward-facing seats. Listen to Stacey utter her first words of the day “Wow. I feel a bit more awake now.” Good. It’s now 8:30am. Arrive at Chinese border and begin the onslaught of delays. Message: “Sorry for the delay, but we will start moving again in just a moment.” If a moment last for one minute, then we started moving 120 “moments” later. Stacey has been asleep the entire time thanks to the “wonder travel drugs.”
Arrive in China and begin the usual China chaos. No lines, people shouting, total chaos. I LOVE IT and re-enter “China mode.” Pass customs and pit-stop at the toilet. Stacey’s mind is saying “yes” but Stacey’s tummy is saying “no.” Airport buses are all cancelled for “a special reason.” Oh how I missed Chinese “special reasons.” Cue the onslaught of taxi drivers promising a “good price,” none of which are good. Settle on man wearing plaid pants, a checked shirt and alligator skin shoes. He’s also on his cell phone and walking a consistent 10 feet in front of us, looking back every so often to make sure we’re still with him.
We’re now outside in front of a tienda that sells EVERYTHING, like most shops in China. I’m LOVING EVERY MINUTE. “Sit here and have a rest while the car arrives.” Oh how I missed Chinese rests. A small car/van/thing arrives. We load ourselves in and head out, handing over the stack of “receipts” that were given to us at some point by someone to “pay” for the taxi. NO IDEA. Still loving it.
Get to the airport two hours early and spend the first out the cowboy-hat clad salesman luring us into the “Guanzhou Airport Wine Festival.” WHAT? Security is a breeze and I decide to purchase some instant noodles for old time sake. They are divine. Boarding is a train wreck as expected. “We are now boarding rows 21 to 30. EVERYONE ON THE FLIGHT RUSHES THE GATE. I can’t help but chuckle. I am so happy right now.
The flight leaves thirty minutes late but manages to arrive 10 minutes early. HOW DO THEY DO THAT? Baggage claim is a breeze. The guy driving the luggage truck zooms past the belt - T-shirt rolled up to his armpits and cigarette hanging from his bottom lip - and pulls the pin, sending the bags hurtling into the wall. They fly everywhere. I am laughing hysterically. Stacey misses the whole ordeal. She’s still in the bathroom.
We get the airport bus JUST IN TIME and take our $3 seats. Stacey sits near the front to avoid upchucking. The ride is HILARIOUS and I feel like we’ve been transported into a game of frogger. Around the bicycles, over the cones in the road and through the road barriers, horn ablaze. Stacey is SHOCKED.
In Guilin city we have to transfer from this bus station to another bus station for our journey to Yangshuo. Mind you, Yangshuo is actually PAST the airport in the opposite direction but to keep a long chain of commerce alive you MUST go from the airport to Guilin, transfer in-city to a different bus station then backtrack plus some to Yangshuo. Brilliant. We meet Vivian en route, who works in Yangshuo. She offers to share a taxi to the other bus station and talks us through the entire change. I just observe. It has been awhile.
Our second bus is the express and we resume our game of frogger, this time adding in people walking (where, I have no idea) and a Yangshuo original tractor car thing whose outboard motor propels it forward at no more than five miles an hour. I’m secretly wishing I was on board.
We arrive in Yangshuo and immediately everyone wants to sell us bamboo rafting trips, nights at a hostel, dinner, jewelry and artwork. I text our hostel owner and he arrives ten minutes later to “pick us up.” We follow him outside and find his wife standing next to two electric scooters. Where on earth will our backpacks go? I’ve clearly been away too long, completely forgetting the Chinese ability to carry anything and everything on any form of transportation. Big pack goes on the floor, little pack goes on my back, I straddle the owner. Stacey is simul-straddling his wife. We’re off.
Five minutes later we de-bike and are whisked inside for dinner. It’s now exactly 6pm. Twelve hours, a thousand miles and every form of transportation later, we have arrive and I am on cloud nine.