Greetings from Jinghong (Geeng-hawng), capital of the Xishuangbanna (Shee-shwaung-baw-naw) minority region of China’s Yunnan province. It’s quite interesting because this town feels a heck of a lot more like Southeast Asia than it does China! I here this morning after a very nice 10 hour journey on a Chinese sleeper bus!
Now just what is a sleeper bus, you may ask? Well, at least in China, it’s a double-decker bus with no seats, but rather a whole bunch of bunk “beds.” Your head is raised a bit so the person behind you can fit their feet under. My bus had two aisles between three single aisles of beds. You had to remove your shoes before getting anywhere near the beds and put them in a bag! Luckily, you could store them in the secret compartment below your head or in the little basket by your feet!
Now, I can’t sleep so well on moving objects, including the sleeper train the night before, but I actually slept just about the entire way! This was quite the way to travel! Oh and pillows and quilts (who knows how clean) were provided as well!
As I’d learn later in my trip though, not all sleeping buses are created equal. In Laos, for example, there were no pillows or quilts on my trip from Vientiane to Pakse. In fact, the bunks were doubles, meaning you had to share it with someone else! And as a solo traveler, I was paired up with a complete stranger! It seemed that they do take care to match same-gendered people together, but it was not nearly as restful a night as this was!
Getting From Kunming to Jinghong
Now, getting a ticket for said sleeper bus was the particularly frustrating part.
(WARNING: Small rant ahead on towns having multiple bus stations)
I was in Kunming for about 10 hours yesterday, of which I spent 6 trying to figure out which of the 5 bus terminals it left from! Unfortunately, they were all quite far from each other (as opposed to in Guangzhou, which had them all as neighbors!)
After the train journey, my new Romanian and German friends and I set out to find bus tickets (Jinghong for me, Dali for them) so we logically started at the Long Distance Bus Station, just a few blocks from the train station. Not a soul spoke English there but it was apparent that they did not have buses to either destination.
Okay. Next stop was to ask someone who spoke English. A travel agent seemed like a good idea. She told us both buses left from the West Bus Station (Shibu) and we could take public bus 60 there (we’d also asked a police man who wrote down the name in Chinese and the number 80…kind of useless to us).
Low and behold, it wasn’t bus 60, it was bus 80, which started at the train station and ended at this bus station. So we go, and yes, there are Dali buses there, but no Jinghong buses.
Fortunately, a woman at the information desk spoke some English. I had to take bus 80 back to the train station and then catch bus 154 to the end of the line by the Southern bus station (Nanbu)! I had her write the name in Chinese, which proved quite useful.
Once the bus stopped at the transit depot, a nice fellow who spoke some English directed me to the miniscule bus station and aided me in buying a ticket for 10pm that evening. From there it was back to the train station to stow my bag for a few hours (which was subject to a thorough hand search in the process), which was as long as I had left before I had to head back to the bus station that was in the city suburbs (by public bus number 154 of course, now that I had mastered the bus system and had a nice tour of the city as well…for RMB 2, can’t complain!)
Originally I had been debating spending another day in Kunming, but it was chilly and my frustrating experience made me want to skip town even sooner! I’ll hit it when I likely return to China in the second half of my trip! And besides, it’s quite a bit warmer here in Jinghong!
Oh, and P.S. Where did my bus from Kunming arrive in Jinghong? Not at the Long Distance Terminal or the Number 2 Terminal, but at the Southern Bus Station (Kunming is north of Jinghong…) Is there any logic to this bus station madness?