Waiting for the sleeper bus to Kunming, I met an Israeli named Tom.
—Wait a sec, I can hear you say. Another sleeper bus? What in god’s name are you thinking?
This wasn’t really an overnight bus, I rationalized. It left Xinjie at 4pm, and Kunming was only 7 away. Just to make sure, I asked the lady at the ticket counter when the bus arrived in Yuanyang.
“4:00” she wrote.
No, not when it leaves Yuanyang, when it arrives in Kunming.
“04:00”, she wrote.
Tom thought there had been a misunderstanding too, so he double-checked.
No misunderstanding. The ride was twelve hours. I’d heard of buses stopping for a few hours so they don’t have to arrive at their destination in the middle of the night. But adding a few hours specifically to arrive in the middle of the night?
The last time I was in this station a few days ago, I had met a couple from Israel, I told Tom. At the time I thought meeting someone from Israel was an unusual occurrence. Turns out, if you don’t meet someone from Israel while traveling, you are on the moon. Tom met the same couple when they arrived in Kunming. (Like I said, if you’re a tourist, China is small country.)
If my memory served me, the Israeli couple had also caught the 4pm.
Yes, they did, Tom confirmed. They said it was a mistake.
As if I needed another reason not to go, boarding the bus we discovered the bunks were double beds. And I was not in the mood to spend a 12-hour bus ride cuddling with a stranger.
Tom had no choice. He had to get to Dali to extend his visa.
Rather than get into a strange city at 4am on zero sleep, I exchanged my ticket for the 9am bus and checked into the first hotel I could find. Good timing. When I walked into the hotel, the sky was blue. The moment I set my stuff down in the room, a torrential storm rained down on the city.