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Published: December 9th 2006
After clearing the passport control area between Hong Kong and the mainland (this is one very busy place) I made my way to find an ATM. None to be found. I ran into a friendly bus station attendant who spoke English, and he said that I needed to go to the Bank of China building. Hard be believe, but there was not a single ATM to be had right across from the Hong Kong border crossing. China and I were off to a bad start. Once I reached the building, having passed many offers for a 'massage', I found the bank. I lined up for the ATM, and noticed that lots of people where printing statements from it. When I got upto it, there was not place for the money to come out. Which would make putting my pin in counterproductive. I lined up for the teller to see what could be done. But the kind police officer took me by the arm and lead me around the corner to a side area where they had two machines. I tell you, nothing sounds better than crisp bills being readied for you. I have US cash and checks just in case, but
it is always great having local currency. I was then able to get on the bus over to Guangzhou.
I did not have any photocopies for Guangzhou from the guidebook, so my arrival was going be interesting. All I wanted was to switch buses to get over to Guilin, but I was deposited over at the Garden Hotel, which did not have any buses connecting from it. It is the nicest hotel in the city, a 5 Star establishment with a United Airlines counter to boot. I figured help couldn't be far away. I was right. The Concierge at the hotel hooked me up with map and directions to a book store. I figured that maybe I should acquire an English guidebook afterall. I only had about 20 pages, so I thought I might need to get the real thing. The concierge was from Kunming, and was so excited that I was going there, she also recommended that I spend some time over in Liejing. She said that it was the best place in China. I have gotten over feeling intimidated in 5 star establishments just because I am dressed like a backpacker. When getting oriented in the hotel,
The guy who helped me buy my ticket
Ken works in Cargo sales, but took time to help me get on my way
I one of the Barhops that that some classy luggage belonged to me, and started following me with it. I guess I didn't look that bad. Along the way to the bookstore, I walked passed a Ferrari dealership, a Porche dealership, and a Bentley dealership. Aside from being the hub for China Southern Airlines, this city has some cash to throw around as well. I picked up some street food for 2 yuan, and I have to say, looking at Ferrari's while eating .25 cent meals is a fantastic thing.
I arrived at the bookstore to find out that it was a huge complex of many different bookstores, but the only English guidebook they had was Frommers. I checked it out anyway, and it proved to be as expected: useless. Oh well, in the process, I chatted with a local shopping at the English book store, and she thought that what I had with me would be fine. So, I walked back accross the city to the train station that had buses going to Guilin. As I spent some time there, I noticed that they have lots of African people there. I hadn't expected that. As I was nearing
the station, I stopped and asked a police officer for clarifications on the directions. Does it show that I am hopeless in this country? Anyway, I had the help, and in the process a young sales associate in the cargo business struck up a conversation with me. He guided me to the bus depot, and helped me with the ticket purchase. I am usually weary of the 'helpers' one can run into, but this guy was straight up and was really a super help. I got situated, and offered to buy him a cup of coffee while I waited. The good Samaritan declined and he departed. Since the bus did not leave for the 10 hour journey until 8:30pm, I had two hours to kill in the station. There was a good mix of about 100 soldiers and about 400 civilians waiting for various buses. Only Chinese on the announcement board , so I was glad I had been told what time to get ready. It was an interesting wait. Putting it nicely, the Chinese don't share the Japanese affinity for cleanliness. I was about 6 feet away from a garbage can, and several times parents of toddlers came by,
and held their kid over the can to take a pee. There were free restrooms, but I guess the can worked for them. I also noticed that the Chinese will spit just about everywhere, and since they use their rubbish bins to piss in, they throw their garbage all over. I was in the 'non-smoking' section, and people were smoking all around me. oh well. When it came time to leave, I went up to someone who looked like station staff with my ticket, and she wrote down the gate number on the back. I settled in for the overnight ride and the fun things to come in the morning.
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