The Road to Yuanyang: Part 1
If there is a right way to get to Yuanyang, I did the exact opposite.
Lonely Planet suggested taking a 12 hour bus ride to the town of Luchun. By the time you get there, the last bus to Yuanyang has left, so you must spend the night and take another four or five hour ride to Yuanyang the next morning. But the clerk at the hostel recommended taking an overnight bus to Jiangshi instead and catching the morning bus to Yuanyang from there. I decided to go with the personal recommendation.
Striding to the Jinghong bus station, ticket in hand, I was confident. I’d survived my first sleeper bus experience. More important, I’d survived a month in China, and made my way across the country. I was now a seasoned traveler. We’re it not for the big backpack, you would think I was a local.
My mp3 player was chock-full of good music and audiobooks. In the station, I had a clean pair of socks, which I changed into at the station. I would board the bus, take off my shoes, close my eyes, and pass most of the twelve-hour journey in blissful unconsciousness.
When I boarded the bus, I was delighted to see you could sit up in the bunks. The windows could open. This ride would be a breeze, literally.
The only issue: my bunk was situated in group of very talkative women who were traveling together. One of them, who was seated behind me, asked to switch bunks. Sure, no problem, what’s the difference, thought I, the seasoned veteran of sleeper-bus transportation.
I looked behind me. I could see why she wanted to switch. The last row had no aisles separating the bunks. ie, it was one platform spanning the width of the bus. The woman probably didn’t want to sleep with two strange men without an aisle separating them.
After laying down in the back, I ascertained the cruel truth. To my horror, two more guys climbed into the back and lay down beside us three already there. The back row didn’t sleep three people; it slept five. With no space in between. We were squished so close together I had trouble retrieving my mp3 player from my pocket.
Now I like to think of myself as a liberal, fairly open-minded individual. But spooning with four strange guys is where I draw the line.
I slid open the window and breathed in the warm Jinghong air as we crossed over the dark Mekong River. It took the first eleven hours of the twelve-hour bus ride to fall asleep, and were it not for my audiobooks I would jumped into the Mekong.
Leafing through my guidebook, I eventually found a mention of the Jiangshi route. It advised this was the recommended route for the truly “masochistic” traveler.