It seemed like a good idea—the overnight sleeper bus to China’s border would give us an early arrival in Hong Kong. I’m always hopeful that our “wise ideas” will turn out for the better—at least my everlasting optimism hasn’t worn away. Now I know better and can warn all of you tall travelers (people over 5’5) out there to stay away from China’s cheap night buses (or bring along a hefty dose of sleeping pills).
A sleeper bus in China is, of course, designed to fit the stature of typical Chinese people. Now imagine me at 5’9 compared to your average Chinese man. Even poor Cara, who is a good six inches shorter than me, spent the night with her feet shoved clear to the bottom of the bunk. And, as with many Asian countries, we were lulled to sleep by blaring karaoke. Not to mention that there were at least two/three middle-of-the-night rendezvous in which the driver brought 100+ boxes of dried apricots on board and stored them under sleeping compartments. At least we think they were apricots.
We finally disembarked our uncomfy bus in Guangzhou at 7 a.m. And although it was painful to stand up and stretch the aches from our backs, we were eager to hightail it off of the bus. Our driver too must have been in a hurry to deliver his apricots for he pulled away in a cloud of dust just as we stepped off the bus’s steps. Thinking we were right across the street from the second bus depot that would take us merrily on our way to Hong Kong, I proceeded to take the map and lead Cara in circles for two hours. Silly Westerners, we had forgotten that we were in China and the buses and train systems never wind up at the proper destination. There are always two or three other bus stations and, as a rule, you will always end up at the one on the opposite side of town. I had to sincerely apologize to Cara for my, “I know it’s just right around the corner…” smug attitude when I actually wound up getting us quite lost. Thinking we were ahead of the game, we had earlier asked the bus station attendee to write our our final destination in Mandarin symbols in these just in case situations. And since we have the odd sense of luck when asking locals for help, we were soon guided in the correct direction, placed into a cab with a pat on the head and zooming 20 minutes across town to the proper bus terminal. Again, I’m sorry, Cara.
Border crossings are never fun, and Hong Kong was no exception. For the ordinary couch-side viewer, I’m sure the masses at customs resembled a herd of tortured cows shuffling along to slaughter. We had too many people, too few customs officials and too many pushy people. Details excluded, it took well over two hours to clear both immigration and customs. Cara and I were completely exhausted by the time we arrived in the Kowloon district at the end of the afternoon. By then, we had been traveling for over 24 hours and just wanted a shower and a bed—both of which we received at our less than pristine accommodations. Now that is another story!