We got onto our bus from Hong Kong and started our journey to Shenzen, which is just across the border in China. On the bus ride out of Hong Kong we got some spectacular views of skyscrapers along the shorelines of the harbour.
It was only an hour to get to the border. The difference between Hong Kong and China was immediately apparent. People were pushing and shoving past us to get into line. The crowd was literally crawling over our bags and us! We were getting nowhere fast and finally had to start fighting to get to the correct line. I think I took out a couple of people with one of my bags, but I didn’t have much choice. I had no site of Jack and just hoped he was somewhere following behind me. A uniformed man was flagging the foreigners down to the the last set of lines.
We got in line and had our first introduction to the different social etiquette of China. The small lady in front of us continued to expel loud gas out of her body for most of the time we were in line. Jack and I tried not to laugh and held our distance from her. We also witnessed a guy finish his last sip of a soft drink and just let the can drop to the ground. He was only a few feet away from a garbage can.
We’re not sure why, but the next bus took us to the Shangri La Hotel instead of a bus depot. The hotel staff started to help us out with our bags and Jack quickly informed them we were not staying at the hotel. They said it was okay and helped us with our bags anyways. We found out that we needed to get to another bus station to catch the bus to Yangshou.
We had a bit of time to waste so we decided to go inside the hotel and get something to eat. This in one fancy hotel chain! We didn’t know if we could afford anything to eat, but were starving so checked it out anyways. They had a small coffee bistro with light foods in the lobby. We got two tuna sandwiches, they were half price because it was past 6pm. They only cost $1.50 Canadian each. It was so reasonable we decided to have a pot of tea and two cookies as well. For some reason the tea and cookies were not so cheap, they came to $15!
We got directions to the bus depot, it was close enough that we could walk. The next bus depot was quite large and had a few different areas. Even though the people I approached at a ticket counter did not appear to speak English it wasn’t too difficult to figure out what we wanted. I showed them our tickets and they wrote the bus stall number we needed to go to and the time it would be coming there.
We were told the bus to Yangshou was a sleeper bus and would travel through the night to get us there. We expected a large bus like the Greyhound ones at home where the seats can recline somewhat for sleeping. It was nothing like we expected. It was truly a sleeping bus with beds! There were 3 rows of bunk beds. One row going length wise from front to back of the bus along each side and one row in the middle that created two aisles down the bus.
The beds were barley two feet wide and not designed for tall people at all. Jack at 6 foot hardly fit in. The part of the bed your upper body rests on is raised up and the person sleeping behind you has a compartment under your head where their feet tuck in. Pillows, sheets and a blanket are all provided. I had a window bed on the bottom and due to a nice girl offering to switch beds, Jack was across from me.
Everyone loaded onto the bus, it has 30 beds altogether and they were all full. The driver didn’t waste anytime, we barely got tucked in and we were moving. Jack and I kept looking at each other grinning. It was quite funny to be lying in a bed as we traveled down the highway and looking at the traffic and sites out the window. Definitely on the list of most bizarre travel experiences.
It turned out to be a long 12 hour ride. This bus was anything but a bus that you could get sleep on. Once we got away from the city of Shenzen at the border, the roads turned ugly. We have been on better logging roads at home than what we were traveling on. It seemed most of the roads were under construction. Other ones through small villages were full of potholes. The trip was hell, between the bus driver beating on the horn through the night, the bumpy roads and the many stops we made, we got no sleep. The bed seemed to get smaller through the night! We also should mention that it was pretty smelly with everyone crammed into pretty tight quarters.
Our Morning Arrival In Yangshou
We were woken again early in the morning at another stop. It was about 5am. It was still on the darker side. When we started to drive again we could see the outline of tall pointy mountains. It was very misty and made for an eerie feeling. As it got lighter we could really take in the scenery. We both got goosebumps as we looked out the window and realized where we were. China! How surreal it seemed. It was like no other scenery we had experienced. Parts of Laos resembled this area, but it could not come close to what were were seeing.
The land was flat with scattered tall pointy hills jetting out of it at random. Small farms were dotted in between the mountains. We started to go through tiny villages. People were already up and going about their day. It was just like you picture rural China. People were small specks out in the vast fields.
In the towns we passed through there were little old ladies in rounded triangle hats. Men sitting around smoking pipes and people washing clothes in buckets. A lot of buildings had a pump to get the water out of the well, it was situated right outside the front door of the houses. There were lots of bicycles pulling wagons full of produce and goods. We passed by motorbikes strapped down with dozens of wire cages. We whizzed by too fast to see what kind of animals were in them.
Hotel Touts Were On Us Immediately
We were told the bus was going to drop us of at the bus station in Yangshou. If the gas station was what they meant I guess it was right. We pried ourselves out of the small beds and got off the bus. The hotel touts were on us like glue. We could barely get our bags out of the bottom of the bus. I hate when this happens, we were so tired and disoriented. This is what they prey on. You can’t get a moment to just gather yourself together and try and get your bearings. They won’t stop shoving their pamphlets in your face and yapping at you about their hotel.
We had no reservation, but had a place in mind that we wanted to check out. Unfortunately it was supposed to be right across from the bus depot we were to be dropped off at. There was a guy claiming to be the manager of this place, but we decided to ignore him and just find it ourselves. We gathered together with the other tourists on the bus, there were 5 of us in total. We headed in the direction we thought was the bus depot. Then one girl asked for directions to it, we were pointed back in the other direction. When we turned around the touts were all over us again. We made our way down a small street with fresh fruit and produce stalls set up. It all looked very yummy! We got onto another street and headed back in the same direction we were going in the first place. By this time touts must have been looking at us as if we were lost mindless tourists.
Now it started to rain. As we trekked down the street with our bags one tout kept going back and forth between all of us. He was desperately trying to get us to come with him to see his hotel. Jack and I were onto his scam right from the gas station. He wanted us to get into his vehicle to take us to his hotel. This is usually when you get taken to some dump way out of town. We asked him to show us where it was on the map. He said he had no map. Then when we showed no interest he suddenly had a map. We asked the name of the hotel. He wouldn’t show us the whole pamphlet he had in his hands, only the picture of one of the rooms. He kept covering up the name of it, but when he said the name of the hotel we could see it didn’t match what was on the brochure. It was obviously another hotels picture that he was showing us.
As we all kept walking down the street we came to the side street where his place was, he became frantic and pleaded with all of us to come with him. Everyone decided this guy was trying far too hard and something must be wrong with the place. The other touts had given up long ago. We could finally see the bus station and started to look for the hotel. We didn’t have to search too hard, a lady soon approached us that was with the hotel. She said to follow her and she would take us to it. Jack asked if she was the manager. She replied yes. Funny, the other guy at the gas station said he was the manager.
Fawlty Towers Hotel
This hotel is not in the Lonely Planet guide book, but had been recommended to us. We also saw good reviews on the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree travelers forum. It turned out to be quite nice and has a good price for a double room with ensuite. It comes to $12 Canadian. If we decide not to use the air conditioning it knocks another $3 off the price. The place is called Fawlty Towers Hotel, and yes it has a guy named Basil and a Manuel. It is located close by the touristy area with all the shops and restaurants, but removed from all the chaos and noise of it.
The staff have been really nice and helpful. They do try to get you to book tours with them, but all places here will do that. They haven’t been overly pushy though. Our only complaint is the room feels a bit damp. It has been rainy and misty here the entire time, which doesn’t help. Our books pages have all gone wavy and a few clothes we hand washed and hung in the room were still damp 3 days later. We love the view from our window, right smack outside is a pointy mountain with a small temple sitting on top of it.
We ended up staying in Yanshou longer than we anticipated. We asked our hotel if we could have a discount for staying longer. They said yes we could have 20 Yuan a night cheaper if we moved from our room with a double bed to another room with two twin beds. This was fine with us. We ended up being thankful for changing rooms. Our new room was not damp at all like the last one. Something must have been wrong with that end of the building.
We made all the check in arrangements and went to our room to crash. It was now about 9:30am. We both fell asleep instantly and didn’t wake up until 2pm. We spent the rest of the day just vegging in the room and watching the one English channel our t.v. got. We made prior arrangements to meet up with the other travelers for dinner. All of us had checked into the same hotel. We had a nice meal with them in town and decided to check out some shops. We were surprised to see how modern some of the shopping was as we walked thorough town. There were brand name clothing items being sold at shops. There seemed to be more selection here than a lot of places we were at in southeast Asia.