Published: April 21st 2006April 21st 2006
As you know, I am now in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province and hundreds of kilometers from the Dragon’s Backbone and the Longji Rice Terraces. Now, I could have gotten here the easy way, by going back south to Guilin and catching a train to Chengdu. It would have taken two days and would have been very easy. However, I decided to do it the hard way.
The hard way, and you will need a very detailed map of China that includes lots of small towns in northern Guangxi and southern Guizhou provinces to follow along, to make my way to another railroad town, Guiyang. Anyway, I woke up early on the third day in Ping-An, and made my way down to the bus, which left at about 9 am. The bus headed to Longsheng, which is where I had a choice to make. In less than two hours I could be in Guilin, to the south. In two and a half hours, I could be in Sanjiang to the west and I could continue to explore the minority tribes. Well, of course, I chose the way west as I have plenty of time to explore and I had
decided on that route even before I arrived in China. So, on arriving in Longsheng, I had just enough time to jump off the first bus and onto another that was heading to Sanjiang as it was heading out of the bus station.
However, little did I know, but I was heading for a much longer trip and I would spend the four days on buses of various sizes. The first trouble started little more than three or four kilometers outside of Sanjiang, when the road went from tarmack to gravel and a little further on from that the gravel road turned into a mud bog. Needless to say, the two and half hour ETA didn’t last. In fact it lasted more than five hours and my kidneys and rear were really sore by the end. A couple of the photos show what the road was like and we were stuck for 45 minutes or so, by a smaller vehicle getting stuck in a mud bog, blocking traffic in both directions.
I finally arrived at Sanjiang, where I hired a motorcycle taxi cyclo and it took me 20 kilometers up the road to Chengyang, which is home to
the Dong people, where I stayed the night in a nice, very basic hostel. I spent the few remaining hours of the day looking around the village of Chengyang and taking pictures.
The next morning, the hostel owner took four Germans and myself to the bus station (they were going in the opposite direction of me, so I warned them of the road to Longsheng) and I caught a bus to Congjiang (Guizhou province. Sanjiang and Chengyang are in Guangxi province), about 5 hours away. Luckily, this road remained gravel the whole way, but it was still bumpy and two 5 hour bus rides in a row left me very tired. The scenery was nice though, as we followed a river valley the whole way. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures, because it was too bumpy and anywhere we stopped was not worth photographing. Congjiang is an ugly little town with nothing to offer other than a relatively nice hotel, which I stayed in and then caught another bus early the next morning.
The bus from Congjiang to Kaili was an eight hour trip over mountains and through valleys and it was a beautiful ride. We passed through
towns that had markets and the local minorities, in a variety of traditional costumes, were around shopping. It was pretty interesting because there were few tourists in the area, so the minority women in their costumes didn’t do it for tourist money, but because of their culture, so it had an authentic feel to it. However, once again I didn’t take photos. This time my excuse is that we didn’t stop at the markets (these are all local buses, not tour buses) and the roads were so curvy and I was being thrown around my seat so much that I could get a steady shot. So, I can’t share what I saw, but it was beautiful.
I reached Kaili in mid-afternoon and it was just another non-descript town in China, but I stayed the night and caught my fourth bus in four days to the provincial capital of Guiyang. It was a nice, air-conditioned bus with plenty of leg-room, which none of the other buses had been, so the two and a half hour bus ride over four-lane highways was actually pretty enjoyable.
Only one more item of note happened after arriving in Guiyang. I purchased my train
ticket to Chengdu the day I arrived in Guiyang; the train leaving the next afternoon. My guide book said it left at 3:30 and that’s what my ticket said when I quickly checked it after purchase. The next morning I took my time and checked out of my hotel just before the deadline, stored my bags for a while at the hotel and then went to an internet café to kill time until my train. I left plenty of time to get my bag and catch the train and was at the station by 2:15. When I showed the ticket to the lady to get into the station, she stopped me. At first I thought I was too early to get into the station, but she tried directing me to someplace else. Finally, I took a close look at my ticket and realized that the departure time for my train was 13:30…I was more than 45 minutes late for the train. So, I had to go back to the ticket windows and exchange my ticket for one for the next day (costing more money of course), then went back to my hotel and checked back in. It was a costly
mistake, but maybe not a bad one in the end, because I was having stomach problems all that day anyway.
So, I got to the station in plenty of time to catch my 1:30 train and arrived the next morning in Chengdu, where I will be until Monday, April 23.
However, stay tuned, because before I leave Chengdu, I will have a nice blog on the very symbol of China.
There are more photos below