There were two ways that I traveled through China. When I first arrived in China, I decided that I didn't want to stay in the big city. Guangzhou was too big and too much. I thought that if I was in a smaller town, I would be able to wander around by myself and enjoy the peaceful nature of China. So, I spent one night in the hotel and hopped on a train the following afternoon. It is much easier to purchase a train ticket through a travel agent then at the train station. The station is so big and the vast amount of people can overwhelm anyone. Plus, the Chinese tend to ignore you unless you speak Chinese or they can speak English. I guess that it is easier for them to pass you off then to try to deal with the language barrier.
With ticket in hand, I went to the train station. There I waited in a crowd of people that are all stuffed in a small room and then all swarm together into the train depot. They push, they shove, they yell, they scream, they step on your toes, and they all wait to all squeeze through the doorway at the same time. After the cattle call of passengers, I then had to find the car and the cabin that I would be sleeping on. A nice fellow travel saw the confused look on my face and showed me the correct direction. When I arrive in my cabin, I was happy that I paid a little extra for a bottom bunk. There are three levels of bunk beds and a total of six people in a small cabin space. The nice thing about having the bottom bunk was that I could store all my luggage under my bed and be able to keep an eye on it for the whole night.
They provide linens so you don't need a sleeping bag, but just remember to bring a sweatshirt because it gets cold. I also packed myself some snacks that I purchased at the local grocery store. There is a snack vendor that goes through the train selling various items if you can't find snacks. Popular dinner meals seemed to be instant noodles with green tea. The train has hot water and sometimes cold running water. Plus, if you are at the train station before your departure time then you can pick some food up at the vendors by the bridge. Amazingly I got a good nights rest and rather enjoyed my ride on the rails. No one spoke English, but the fellow passengers seemed friendly and gave me welcoming smiles.
Now at the end of my week in China, I decided to take the cheaper way back to the big city. I purchased a bus trip from Yangshio to Guangzhou from a local travel agent. There are plenty of travel agents on the main road and make sure to shop around for the best price. The funny thing was that I arrived at the travel agent and then he passed me off to another woman. This woman didn't speak English, but managed to use hand signals to let me know that I was to follow her to the top of the road. At the top of the road, we waited and waited and waited and waited. I was wondering what was happening because my bus seemed to be late. She made some phone calls and yelled at some people. Then finally she flagged down a bus and away I went.
I got on the bus and it was filled with people. There wasn't a bed for me and they didn't know where to put me. This was a sleeper bus because of the long ride ahead and I figured that a bed would be nice. I didn't think about the fact that the sheets were not clean and I don't know the last time when they were washed. I sat in the front for the beginning and no one on the ride spoke any English. There were some hand gestures and plenty of laughing. The driver stopped after an hour or two and we all had to pile off the bus. They cleared off a bed for me and threw my bag onto the sheets. Then we waited at some odd restaurant that served a form of meat on a stick (deep-fried or in ball form). For about an hour, we all stood around waiting for the driver to eat and relax before we could get back on the bus. Finally, the show was on the road again and the night was spent speeding down the highway towards Guangzhou.
At the end of our journey, we were dropped off at a bus station. I didn't know what was happening but they motioned that the ride was over and it was time for me to leave. I knew that this wasn't the train station that was supposed to be the final stop of the ride. I knew that I would be staying at the hotel by the train station and didn't know my way around the city. The travel agent had told me that the final stop would be the train station. Well, I guess he told me what I wanted to hear and not what was to be. So I wandered off the bus and I was easy prey for the vulture taxi drivers. I was stuck and had no idea where I was in the city. Lesson learned . . . spend the money and take the train! The train is much nicer and a more comfortable travel.