i woke up around 8:00, my digestive system still angry and vengeful at me for eating old hot pot in jiangbei last night. i went to the bathroom to negotiate the terms of surrender with my bowels. it wasn't that bad actually, but i did swallow an imodium tablet to keep my tracts from ruining my one day of rest on sunday.1 day of rest! that's funny because i am incapable of resting on sunday. today's scheduled events included: 1) going to the new changshou high speed train station, 2) taking the train to the town of fuling, 3) finding "chongyi" street in fuling, 4) visiting the fuling underwater yangtze river museum, and 5) successfully returning home. spoiler alert, i managed to do 4 of those 5 things, with varying degrees of success.
since i woke up so early, i wasn't in any particular rush. i knew i had a train to catch and there were only a fixed number per day, but i didn't know which one i'd be riding. finally i checked the schedule and decided to take the 11:35 leaving changshou. normally i'd try to leave even earlier, but according to the schedule, it takes just 13 minutes to get to fuling via high speed train. for breakfast i ate the last 2 cakes i bought on friday night. i didn't have any cash so i went to the ICBC and withdrew RMB$1000.
around 10:30 i finally caught a 109 bus heading to the train station (RMB$1.5). the "north" train station that is, since changshou already has a train station (although it's kind of in the next town over - yanjia - but people still call it the changshou train station). it was a bit farther than i expected, and when i got off the bus i didn't see the train station anywhere. i had to ask a police officer, who seemed annoyed i would ask him such an inane question. "just over there, turn down that street," he said, pointing yonder. so i walked, and then i saw it. this colossal structure, almost invisible in the fog, on the horizon. that's where i'm supposed to walk. i checked my watch. luckily i left early.
it took me about 15-20 minutes to walk there. the annoying part was i kept seeing 109 buses (and 101 buses) passing by and going directly to the train station. why did the driver of my bus tell me to get off so early? but the walk was interesting in that i was walking with a bunch of other locals, all heading to the train station. on either side of the new train station road were vegetable plots. in china, especially here out in the sticks, if there's an empty patch of dirt, somebody will try to grow something there.
mrs.gu had shown my photos but the actual train station was just as splendid and new and large as her pictures. i bought a ticket for just RMB$7 (they need to check my id, just like at the airport) and went into the station, passing through a security check (just like at an airport). there weren't many people, and most of the few that were there were going in the opposite direction - east towards chongqing (a ticket to chongqing costs just RMB$20 and takes 40 minutes, faster and cheaper than the bus which is an hour and costs RMB$31). i went upstairs to catch the eastbound train to fuling.
i wasn't sure it'd be a high speed train until i saw the tell-tale bullet-shaped cone as the train entered the station. since fuling was the next and last station, we could basically sit anywhere we wanted. i took off my jacket because it was warm, and wiped the condensation off of the camera lens. i felt the train moving and relaxed into my seat. a few minutes later a woman on the loudspeaker said we were about to arrive in fuling. what? either this train is incredibly fast or fuling is incredibly close, or both. i put on my jacket as the train took a few minutes to slow down to approach the station. it all it took about 12 minutes. it's probably faster going to fuling than some old city destinations in changshou.
why don't we have this high speed train technology in the US? cheaper, faster, what's not to love? the problem is a bullet train likes to move in a straight line. a tunnel can go through a mountain, elevated tracks can cross a river, and a village can easily be moved by the chinese government through imminent domain. but imagine doing that in the US. cut through a mountain? what are the environmental costs? tracks over a river? what are the pollution risks? and move whole towns to make way for the train? forget about it.
we arrived in fuling at 11:50. the fuling north train station is almost an exact replica of the changshou north station, except with more construction going on all around. bear in mind that this high speed train service and these stations just went into effect the day after christmas, so less than 2 weeks ago. not everything is finished yet.i walked down a walled pathway wallpapered with cheerful chinese slogans i didn't understand. the wall is to prevent patrons from seeing the ugly construction all around, except for one second where we had to walk on bare dirt. at the end of the pathway were buses and taxis and motorcycles. otherwise, there was nothing else around. apparently fuling north station is nowhere near the city.
fortunately there was a sign board with bus numbers and their destinations. i tried to match stops with landmarks on my fuling map in my chongqing province map book but was having a hard time. i decided to just take the bus that had the most stops, figuring it was at least heading into the city. then i saw a stop that said "chongyi" and knew that was the bus i would ride, 118. it was already crowded and i asked the driver how much it cost. "RMB$3," he said. i paid and got on.
after that it was stretches of highways and tunnels and bridges, a lot of emptiness, but no city yet. every time we can to a stop, i tried to see where we were at and tried to match it with the photo of the bus sign board i took earlier at the train station. i tried to count the number of stops until "chongyi," but the driver wasn't stopping at every single stop so i kept losing count. plus the bus was seriously crowded, so it was kind of challenging navigating. but it made me feel nostalgic. this is how i travel. get on a bus, destination unknown, exploring a brand new city. adventure awaits! no matter what, good or day, this day would be interesting.
i saw what looked to be a health clinic that had the words "chongyi" in it. i made a mental note to come back and check it out. now were were getting closer to the city, but still more suburb than urban area. i checked the stop and realized we just passed "chongyi" so i quickly hopped out. that health clinic i saw earlier, that was probably it. so i back tracked, it wasn't far, maybe 1 or 2 stops back.
why all te fuss over "chongyi"? well, i was going to come to fuling eventually, but what made fuling the top of my list was when i looked on a map and saw several places named "chongyi," my name in chinese. not just similar-sounding characters, but the actual characters. so i knew i had to visit, like fuling was calling me.
on this one particular street were several buildings with "chongyi" in them. i must've seen really strange, just wandering around the street, taking photos of signs. there really wasn't anything else noteworthy on this street. there were a few small food shops and i went to a noodle place for lunch. i got a bowl of knife cut noodles for RMB$5. i also visited a produce market afterwards.
very early on i already decided i wasn't going to visit downtown fuling on this trip. this was more of a fact finding mission, getting my bearing, so when i come next time i'll be more familiar with how to get here. that meant leaving the museum for my next trip. also i wanted to get back to changshou at a reasonable hour so i can still rest a little bit with the remainder of sunday.
i saw a 102 bus that said "train station" so i hopped on (RMB$2). it was kind of exciting that everything was going according to plan, until the bus finally stopped at a place that was not the train station. actually it was, but it just wasn't the fuling north station. i heard someone calling out "north station" and i asked him how much. "RMB$10," he said. i decided to take the cheaper bus instead on principle.
1 if my memory serves me correctly, i believe this is the first time i've taken imodium since i've been in asia. i think that's a miracle in itself, since i eat street food with reckless abandon and never really think about the consequences of my actions.