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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, February 19, 2010

Top Dog 

No train tickets. No plane tickets. I finally decided to see about getting a bus ticket to Shanghai. I have friends in Shanghai, and it has always been easy to get a train ticket from Shanghai to Beijing. I was walking to the main long distance bus station when I met a dog who was dressed to the nines. He had a little walkie-talkie strapped to his head so that he could get instructions from his master. Reminded me of something Bob Hitt, an executive with McDonnell Douglas used to say, "Every day in China you see something you don't see every day."

In China, people don't take buses because they are so much cheaper. They take busses because it seems like you can always manage to get a seat. For long trips, it is certainly not as comfortable as having a hard sleeper, and the ticket price is about the same. But it is much easier to get a ticket. There isn't really a black market on bus tickets, because they are more instant. People usually buy them on the day of their trip or perhaps the day before. I don't really like buses. But I have ridden them quite a bit, because I really do like the mountains of Western China, and you can't get very far in the mountains without taking buses.

This trip is going to take 24 hours. Twenty-four hours on a bus is not something I look forward to. But it would be oh, so much better than 24 hours on in the hard seats on the train. That's because the buses do not allow standing passengers who don't have a seat, and because they stop every few hours. I still much prefer a sleeper on the train, but I do need to start heading back. I had assumed that I might have to take a bus to Changsha, then try to find another bus going east. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I can go from Guiyang to Shanghai on one bus without changing. Twenty-four hours seems like a long time. But for a trip across China, it is really much shorter than I would have expected. A local guy told me the ticket would cost me 300 some. It was actually 560. I am sure that is because of the Spring Festival rush.

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