leishan hot pepper ladies
they told me the bus to leishan would leave at 7am. i woke up at 6 to get ready, but minutes later i could hear the honking of a departing bus, which i decided to ignore, figuring it was leaving for a different destination. by the time i left my miao guesthouse and got to the main street, the pretty bus attendant who was on the bus to xijiang flagged me down. "where are you going?" she said. "leishan," i said. "the leishan bus already left, but we can try to catch it before it leaves." she helped me carry one of my bags and we ran to the edge of the village, where the bus was slowly inching its way out of town, honking its horn intermittenly, trying to get a few last minute customers.
i thought the road to leishan would be much smoother, but it was another bumpy dirt road affair, winding its way through the rice terraces, finally arriving in leishan around 9am. i immediately went to the ticket office to buy a ticket for rongjiang. "we don't sell rongjiang tickets," the woman said. that's the level of customer service in china: they never provide anymore service than the bare necessity. "so where can i buy a rongjiang ticket then?" i asked. "down the street," she said. i paused, repeating what she said to me, like i didn't understand. "down the street where?" i asked. "the gas station," and she pointed to some direction with her thumb. i paused again, by this time another chinese person had squeezed in front of me to get her ticket, despite the fact that i was still in mid-transaction. "over there?" i asked her, pointing more specifically. "yes," she said. i turned around and left, no need to thank her when she really didn't help me that much.
figuring it'd be a short walk to the gas station, it ended up being a mile out of town. by the time i got there with all my heavy gear, it was already 30 minutes later. i asked the gas station attendant if i could catch a rongjiang bus from here, since i didn't see any buses around. "yes," he said, "all rongjiang buses leaving from kaili pass through here, so you just flag one down." by now i'm no stranger to flagging down a bus from the side of the road, but it was still a hassle, and i wished i went to kaili instead, where i could buy a real ticket, and not have to go through this whole ordeal.
so i waited in the hot morning sun, feeling utterly gross since i didn't take a shower last night even though i was dirty from a day of sweating. neither did i have breakfast, other than a few fistfuls of watermelon seeds and some white rabbit candy. when the first rongjiang bus did come by, the driver didn't stop because he already had a full cargo. it wasn't until the 2nd bus around 10am did i finally manage to get a ride. it was a sweet bus too, only half full, with air-conditioning, and a television playing some jet li movie. i sat in the back with some miao women dressed in their ethnic garb.
leishan to rongjiang view
2 hours into the trip we stopped for lunch. still feeling not quite well enough to eat regular chinese food again (my digestive system was precariously supported by several dosages of prescription anti-diarrhea medication), i had 3 hard-boiled eggs instead, figuring they'd be safe to eat.
2 more hours later we arrived in rongjiang. i flagged down a taxi and said, "take me to the best hotel in town." he drove me 4 blocks and dropped me off at the bi yun hotel. "normally a single room is RMB$158, but with a discount it's RMB$100." that's the great thing about traveling during the off-season: people give you discounts without you even asking for one! i took a room and went upstairs to the 4th floor. after staying in the super sweet kaili hotel, everything else pales in comparison. the carpet was dirty in this one, and the bathroom was barely bright enough to read, and designed more like a prison bathroom than a nice hotel bathroom. nevertheless, they had hot water, and it was a place to crash for a night or two.
rongjiang bus station
after some rest, i went to the bus station to ask for ticket prices to congjiang. i also asked about chejiang and chongyi, but i barely heard the directions they gave me behind the plexiglass window and the shouting of noisy chinese trying to cut me in line to buy tickets. i went outside and decided to take a taxi instead.
since it was only 4pm there was still time to do some sightseeing. i hired a taxi to take me to chongyi. there's nothing special about the town of chongyi except that's also my name in chinese: "[yang] chongyi." it's not often you come across a town that shares your name, so i had to visit. the ride was bumpy and dusty, up a dirt road that snaked up through a mountain and down. the townspeople seemed dumbfounded that a foreigner would want to visit their village, and stopped their oats raking to stare. before we left, i met the principal of the local school, who gave me a tour of their facilities when he heard that my name is chongyi.
street of chongyi
back in rongjiang, i made my way to this internet cafe. leaving soon to get some food though, so hungry i can hardly see, and no, i can't post photos from this place so don't ask. going to quickly visit chejiang tomorrow (it's about a mile away, i can walk it but there's also a bus) before leaving for congjiang then to zhaoxing. zhaoxing to sanjiang, sanjiang to guilin, guilin to hong kong, hong kong to boston. about 2 more weeks left!