Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
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Flag of China  ,
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Getting from the Macau SAR (Special Administration Region) into China was an interesting experience. We read in the LP guide that you could get bus tickets all the way through to Guangzhou (previously called Canton) at the Kee Kwan Motor Road Bus Co.

We packed up our stuff and departed our very tired room in the New Central Hotel. Meg's Mum would have really loved it. The paint was peeling off the walls, the carpet was worn through and the roof had a dubious looking water leak. Megan was not impressed when she woke up in the morning and realised Rick had stolen the sheet from under her and she was lying on the bare mattress. Gross!

We easily found the bus station, around the corner. After describing to the lady (using lots of hand signals and simple English) where we wanted to go, she sold us two tickets and drew a map saying "Go-ee to here and changey to another bus-ey". She drew us a map on how to get through customs (all the writing was in Chinese) and on to another bus. This sounded pretty simple at the time. We were to leave Macau at 10.30am but managed to get on the earlier bus to the border gate at 9.30am instead. Ten minutes later we were at the border so we got off, filled in a form outlining our status of health (Meg actually had to lie because she has a cold and didn't want them to refuse her entry) and they measured our temperature. With all the signs in Chinese we just followed the crowd until we saw one that said Foreigner's Queue Here. In the queue we completed our entry forms and passed through customs with no problems, though they did spend a bit of time looking at all the stamps and VISAs in each one. With our bags scanned we went down to the bus station and luckily got on the 10.30am bus instead of the 11am one.

We'd never seen so many people at a border crossing before. Many just had a carton of food (eg. Pringles, toilet paper, water etc) that they were taking across; nothing else. The bus trip to Guangzhou was pretty un-eventful with Megs playing with her new MP3 player, Rick reading the LP guide and the bus stewardess speaking in Mandarin a lot, with us having no idea what she was saying. Getting dropped off at a hotel in downtown Guangzhou we got some money exchanged, grabbed a city map and found out about getting a train to Chongqing, the start of the Yangtze River. We planned to get the Chongqing then book a boat trip down the river. The travel agent we went to told us the train was full but we could go tomorrow. We decided to head to the Guangzhou Main Train Station to double check the information we'd been given at the hotel. Our experience in India dictated we get a second opinion. In the Foreigners queue we (with many hand signals and pointing to our LP guide) asked for a ticket to Chongqing. Unfortunately the train WAS fully booked with only standing room tickets available for the 30 hour trip. We decided to pass on standing for 30 hours and opted for a train at 10.30am the next day. We then went down the road and checked into the CITS Youth Hostel (finally our YHA memberships have come in handy!). At the CITS tourist desk we found out boats aren't going down the Yangtze this time of year as it's Winter and there isn't enough water in the river (go figure there'd be ice and snow!). This changed our plans so we went back to the train station, coped the 20% cancellation fee on the chin and moved our train to a Soft Sleeper Class ticket to Yichang. This is where the boats normally finish up and also where the Three Gorges Dam is located. The lady behind the glass was very helpful, pointing out bits of information on her Mandarin to English cheat sheet. With new tickets in hand we get to sleep in a bit longer as the train leaves at 1pm. Looking around for a late lunch we grabbed McDonalds again and decided to wander around town (avoiding the goobers on the footpath). Two hours later with our feet hurting and legs complaining we headed back to the hotel to watch a movie and get some needed sleep.
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