Waking up to dream ride's reality check

13:38, January 26, 2010      

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Travel, I have found, is not everyone's cup of tea.

For every person who dreams of the open road, there is someone who dreams that scientists will finally get their act together and invent those teleportation machines one sees used in Star Trek.

These people are usually the ones visibly seething on public buses, even on short journeys, when merely nudging them as you pass through the doors (where they insist on standing) can result in a tirade of insults and accusations about your inconsiderate nature.

I'm definitely all for the open road. I like using public transport even at peak times, and I especially enjoy long bus and train journeys that offer travelers the chance to reflect, to consider their lives while the rich and often unique scenery flashes by.

When I arrived in China, I fell in love with overnight bus and rail travel. The bottom bunks of the cozy sleeper compartments are filled with chatting Chinese, while the smells of dried fish and instant noodles fill the air, almost totally covering the odor of stinky feet.

But the main reason I love long journeys over ground is because, in my experience, they usually feature strange events.

Such as the time I woke up on the bottom bunk of a bus from Yangshuo to Guangzhou and it was snowing inside the vehicle. Yes, snowing.

Well, that's what I thought until I looked up and realized the guy on the top bunk was pumicing his feet. He was giving extra attention to between his toes, I noticed.

I was just thankful that in my dozy stupor I was not tempted to try and catch one of the "snowflakes" on my tongue.

On the plus side, I am also a heavy sleeper, which makes overnight rail and train journeys a cinch for me. However, I didn't know just how heavy a sleeper I was until after that same bus journey.

While chatting with Mike and Carol, a lovely Irish couple who, seeing I was traveling alone, offered to share a taxi to downtown Guangzhou, the conversation went a little like this:

Mike: "Well that was an experience we'll never forget."

Me: "You mean the bus ride? Was it your first time on a Chinese sleeper bus?"

Mike: "Yeah, and our last, I hope."

Me: "It wasn't so bad. It was better than the time I was on a mini-bus in Laos and one of the back wheels fell off and overtook us on the road. It took us an hour to find the wheel in the bushes as they didn't have a spare. At least this trip was uneventful."

Mike, looking at me: "Do you not remember the crash last night, then? The bus was clipped by a lorry, and the bus actually spun in the middle of the road. We were all terrified, screaming. It was like something from a disaster movie.

"The driver spent more than two hours rowing with the lorry driver, while the engineer fixed the bodywork so we could carry on. Then everyone shook hands, got back in their respective vehicles and drove away."

Carol explained I had happily slept through the entire episode, even waking up with a cheery yawn as we approached our destination.

It kind of explained why many people were crying when I woke up and the fact there was a big dent in the side of the bus.

Source: China Daily
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