Country roads and Kunming
I took a night bus at 19.30 from Shangri-la bus terminal to Kunming (205Yuan- 12 hours). The beds are never long enough, even for me at 1m 76. A few people smoke, as does the driver- non stop. Travel in China is pretty uncomfortable; stale air and the distances are always very long. I took bus number 80 to the train station and queued up for a ticket for Guilin. Despite what we were led to believe, tickets are only available 5 days in advance and the Chinese, all 154 billion of them, know how to get tickets weeks in advance so we, travellers, tourists, bums have to take what we can get.
17 hours of hard seat train travel (158Yuan), with no chance for a sleeper berth is the upshot, very difficult travel. I was in transit for 12 hours in total hanging out at green park and fell asleep for a bit, a little delerious. Funnily enough a hard seat does not actually mean “hard seat” as i would have expected here, but it means a padded seat in a bolt up right position. So how cany you sleep like that? Sleep was literally impossible.
I eventualy arrived after 19 hours, but what seemed an eternity, and with 2 new friends I jumped straight on a bus for Yanshou from outside the station. What a very nice place! The backpacker street off West street is a party street, which is where I followed my new friends ending up in “Long Time No See Inn” and got a dorm bed for 25Yuan, just 15 minutes walk from all the action such that it was.
Five days later i took yet another night bus to Shenzen (160Yuan 9 hours) one of the many Chinese -Hong Kong border crossings with a french guy I met on the bus, crossed into Hong Kong. This was all very easy. The bus would arrive at one of many bus terminals spread around the city of Shenzen, but the ticket office staff will tell you how to get to the border crossing at Lo Wu. This is where the train from Guilin will arrive if you are lucky enough to get a ticket.
For us a number 49 took us there. We grabbed a last cheap coffee and set off to Hong Kong… as one does. The boarder formalities are super easy. On the other side we got some local money and ATMs are everywhere. We picked up an Octopus travel card, where you pay 150HK$ (approx 15Euro) which includes a 50HK$ deposit (refundedable along with what you did not use). This system is very convenient and slightly cheaper than buying a fare everytime.
We took the metro down to the last stop in Kowloon , Hung Hum, and transfered to what is known as TST East, on Nathan Road. This is where you find Changking and Mirador Mansions, which is where people on a tight budget stay. Yet a word of advice would be that if your budget is really tight, then it is best not go to Hong Kong at all! We got a tiny room for two for 300HK$, which is 30Euros per night. My buddy was flying home to France soon, ao I got a new chinese visa, which is very expensive but took only the day. The Guest Houses can do it for you as well as the Chinese Travel Service (CTS), but they can charge a big comission. My guesthouse only sold me a train ticket. Thankfully and finally a sleeper ticket, which was a god send for 20 hours. 519HK$ all the way to Shanghai and it leaves from the train station in Kowloon, the same one I arrived at 3 days before, I quickly saw what I wanted to see…. the Central/Wanchai sky line at night, I took a harbour cruise and went up to Victoria peak. When you get there your passport is stamped and you are officially in “no mans land” for the 20 hours until you arrive at the main station in Shanghai.
Arriving in the big city, grey and busy, I took the Metro line 1 for 3 stops to Peoples Square and got myself a dorm room at the Hostel of the same name 20minutes walk away, wandering anew down foreign streets in China. Another big city full of surprises to come.