Posted by: Brian | June 2, 2009

Misnomers Are Fun!

Have you ever taken a sleeper bus in China? I recently rode one from Kunming to Lijiang. It was… interesting. First of all, the use of the word “sleeper,” implying the ability to sleep during the trip, is misleading. It’s nearly impossible to get sleep on the trip. Our intrepid driver opted for back-country roads over the highway, presumably to avoid paying tolls. That’s all well and good, except the roads he took were some of the bumpiest I’ve ever been on. Potholes are numerous and deep; on several occasions it became something of a game to see if I could stay in my bunk without falling out or being lobbed onto the person next to me.

That’s another thing – whoever designed those beds must have assumed that everyone riding would either be under ten years of age or starving, because each bunk was maybe 18 inches wide. I know I’m thin, but good grief! Was that really necessary?

On the single occasion that I was able to doze off for a bit, I woke up fifteen minutes later to find the bus parked on the side of the road, with our driver nowhere in sight.  Another passenger was kind enough to inform me and my friends that he had stopped for beer and barbeque, and that there was a chance we would have to wait until morning before leaving if he had too much to drink. Oh, China, your cavalier attitude toward safety never ceases to astound me. Perhaps an hour later we were back on the road, thought I’m not sure whether or not that was actually a good thing.

Anyway, the sleeper bus conveniently dropped us off in Lijiang around 5:45am, solidly two hours before anything opened. Exhausted and bleary-eyed, we decided to wander around town while waiting for a guest house or restaurant to make itself available. Incidentally, I was able to take some great pictures during dawn, a time at which I’m not naturally inclined to be conscious.

After a delayed breakfast of fried rice, we took about half an hour looking for a place to stay that had all the features we were looking for – wifi (me), western toilets (Cecilia), and a decent view (all of us). We eventually landed a place with two rooms, 160 yuan for one and 180 yuan for the other. They certainly weren’t the cheapest accommodations I’ve had in China, but they did the trick. Also, it was tucked away on a hill in the corner of Lijiang Old Town, so it was nice and quiet.

We hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge over the next two days. At the time of writing this last Friday, we had just finished the first two hours of the hike and were devouring a massive lunch at the Naxi Family Guesthouse. Tiger Leaping Gorge was incredible, and fully deserving of its own post, so I’ll save that for next time!

Side note: a (male) cab driver in Lijiang told me I have beautiful leg hair. I’m not sure how to take that.

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