Bus Trip to Wuhan 4th June 2004
In my very first article I said that traveling between Hong Hu and Wuhan is as fascinating for me today as it was on my very first trip, and I have made about 15 round trips to date. I find I can not sleep on the bus, and no matter the weather or time of day, I want to do nothing more than to look at the scenery.
This particular article is predominantly photographic and revolves around a trip at the time of the Grade Three University Entrance Examinations in June of 2004.
I had at that time two Grade Three students living with me.
The examination was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday 7th and 8th of June, with no other grade classes scheduled for those dates.
I therefore had 4 days off school. It was not just because I had four days off that I decided to go, for I could have used the time to do a lot of preparatory work for these Magic City Morning Star News articles.
One motivating factor was that Chinese Custom during the Entrance Examination period, is for parents to come to the school and 'hang about', bringing special foods and encouragement for their children.
I have no idea why they feel this need to 'take care of' their children, but as the mothers of my two boys needed to be in town, I decided to turn over my apartment to both families, and just disappear.
My trip commenced the day before, when I bought my bus ticket. To the Chinese, this is a strange thing to do, after all, 'you can just buy the ticket when you want to go'.
Being both a westerner and one who is constantly subject to 'Murphy's Law', I know that many things can go wrong, and it is better to be as prepared as possible.
While I booked to be on the 4:20pm bus Friday afternoon, I was actually scheduled to finish my last class at 4:15pm.
At 4pm however, I handed the padlock to the classroom door to a trusted student, bid them all farewell and set off in the rain.
I left them with only one instruction: 'Don't steal anything!'
In Hong Hu one can neither pick up the phone and order a cab, nor predict the schedule of the local buses.
The only thing that is certain, is that if you want a cab or bus there won't be any, but if you decide to go for a walk, there will be dozens of them honking their horns entreating you to get in.
|Hong Hu Bus Station front and side. The side shot is the usual scene with most of those people being hawkers for the various 'little' buses.|
As I raced in the rain to the front gate, one bus and one taxi were departing 'empty', and I was left to walk.
I was almost to the end of the street when a bus turned up, but it did not bother to continue on to the school. The driver did a 'U-turn' and picked me up.
In my best Chinese I said 'Thank You! Go! Go! Bus Station! Bus Station!'.
Bus Station in local Chinese sounds like the name of that famous painter Cezanne.
I made it to the bus with 10 minutes to spare, and we left on time. Surprisingly however, there were no more than about 8 passengers.
|Small rivers and canals run along the road side in many places, and are useful for a variety of reasons. This canal is filled with a type of 'water chestnut'.|
It had been raining for two days, sometimes light and sometimes heavy, but as we headed off to Wuhan, the rain was just 'moderate'.
|It may not be a castle but it does have its own moat. This is a river/canal running by the highway. Since this shot was taken the water level has come up to the walkway.|
Throughout the duration of the trip I was able to keep my window open and take some photographs. I took about 80 in all, but had to discard at least half.
I'm not sure why, but this particular bus did not follow the normal route, and so I was able to take photographs of villages through which I would not normally pass.
The journey itself was uneventful, except for discovering along the way that one of the other buses had become bogged when it stopped with its front wheels in the dirt.
Our driver made a valiant effort to tow the bus back onto the road, but the tow rope broke. After about 25 minutes at the scene, we left the bus and its driver to fate.
Not only was this incident an entertaining event in the lives of the locals, but additionally they got to see a foreigner, and a number of people came to have a look at 'it'!
|Even in the rain a simple event like a bus becoming bogged will draw a crowd. But a foreigner draws an even bigger crowd.|
It is my usual practice when arriving in Wuhan, to take a local bus to the hotel.
|What's wrong with this shot? If you were English or Australian you would say that the cars are driving on the wrong side of the road. As for you Americans, you can see nothing wrong with it. Right? And you would be right. This is a common scene in China in a one way street.|
Not only is it cheaper than a taxi, but the taxis at the bus station will charge a 'non meter' fee of 40 yuan for the trip, when the real fare is only 23 yuan.
Despite the rain, I decided to walk to the next block and take a 519 bus to the bottom of the hill from the Hotel, at which point, for 5 yuan I could take a taxi.
As I waited at the bus stop however, a taxi idled by, and I thought 'Oh what the heck!' and hailed it.
As we proceeded toward Hanyang it became obvious that I was being 'taken for a ride'.
I recognised none of the 'goat tracks' along which we were traveling, often times in apparent contravention to the regulations. We seemed several times to be traveling the wrong way in one way streets and we were not alone in this endeavour.
I was at that point of looking for some familiar place at which I could escape, when suddenly the QinChuan bridge appeared before us, and I realised that we were only 2 minutes from the Hotel. The final fare was less than 15 yuan.
Handing the Cabbie 20 yuan, I said 'Thank you, it is not a problem, it doesn't matter!' and left the cab. Well Ok that didn't make sense, but I haven't yet learned how to say 'Thanks for being honest, keep the change!'
|A scene just outside Wuhan taken on the return trip.|
|Four different scenic view between Wuhan and Hong Hu. There is a lot of water at the moment and so everything is growing. It is a remarkably beautiful country.|
|While the pale green is often just stagnating water, sometimes it can be the leaves of a water chestnut.|
Being warmly greeted by the staff, I checked into the Qing Chuan Jiari Jiudian (Chin Chew-arn Jar-roo Joe-Dee-N). Usually I live out of my bag, but decided on this trip that I would do the right thing and stow everything away.
|Remote farm life in China nestled amongst the trees on the banks of a rising river(on the left). |
Upon opening my bag however, I discovered that all my clothes were wet, in varying degrees of intensity from the bottom of the bag to the top. That will be the last time I put my bag in the stowage compartment of a Bus during wet weather.
Apart from buying some printer cartridges, I spent Saturday writing and watching TV, mainly because it rained all day.
|The entrance to Hong Shan park wherein lies a forest and a monestary. You will have to wait a little while for the photos of that adventure.|
On Sunday I went to Zhong Shan park and will present those photographs in another article. On Monday I met up with Qing Yan, a 23 year old recently graduated university student. We met on the local bus on Saturday and he asked if he could spend time with me.
This was a mutually beneficial opportunity as he could practice his English, and I could get things done faster by having a translator, rather than using sign language. We met at 10 am Monday morning and went to WuChang where I purchased some more batteries for the camera.
He also found me a place that will be able to fix the picture review section on my camera. I dropped the camera you see (for the 3rd time) and for some reason the light doesn't come on so I can't see any of my photos until I put them in my computer.
|Two styles of 'rich' buildings. I believe the one on the right is owned by a Mrs. Windsor of London.|
After some lunch in a typical back alley Chinese restaurant, we went to Hong Shan park which is located in WuChang. Once you ascend the steps in the photo below, you enter a whole other realm. It is difficult to remember that you have just left the main shopping street. You literally climb a mountain side and there is plenty to see, but you dear reader will just have to wait until I write an article about it before you can see those photos.
|Qin Yan and I had lunch in a back alley restaurant. We dined in style.|
By the time we left Hong Shan park, it was time to head off to my prearranged meeting with my Chinese friends Tobias and Eunice. Naturally I invited Qin Yan to come with me. We were supposed to have a quick dinner, but when I arrived at Wuhan University to meet Tobias, he informed me that a nice Jewish couple at the language school wanted to meet me, and so had arranged dinner for me in their home.
Ellen and Podi (Moshe) come from Israel, although Ellen spent her early years in the United States (Nu Yoik or is that New York?).
|Ellen and Podi (Moshe) in their apartment in Wuhan. Ellen prepared most of the meal herself and it is fairly traditional Chinese food.|
Ellen arrived in China in August 2003 to fulfill her dream of teaching in China, and Moshe followed the following January. In a separate article on food I will be discussing our evening together.
Our quick dinner turned into a late night. Qin Yan accepted my offer to stay the night in my twin room, as this would save traveling time both that night on the way to Hankou and the next morning on the way back to work at WuChang.
Having gone to bed so late, the drawback to my offer to Qin Yan was that I was up again at 6:30 am. I tried to sleep some more after he left but it was impossible.
Too tired to work on my computer I spent the morning watching TV. At 12:30pm I was back on the bus to Hong Hu, and arrived home at 3:30pm to be greeted by the mothers of my students Ming Xing and Qin Chao.
We sat and talked for quite a while, in two different languages, and had some great laughs. Maybe our conversation was funny, maybe it was not. But when you have no idea what someone is saying, it does tend to be funny. I wonder what we WERE talking about?
The boys finished their last exam at 5pm and not long afterward they arrived home. Naturally there was a great deal of excitement. Well - actually there wasn't. The boys came in, said hello, asked if the internet was working, and set about checking their mail. The women got dinner ready and we had a nice meal.
Ming Xing's mother went home after dinner while Qin Chao's stayed the night, sleeping in his bed. Ming Xing slept on the floor by my computer desk, while Qin Chao, myself and Zhan Yan, all slept on the floor in the lounge room.
By the time I got to sleep it was around 1 am, and mother was up at the crack of dawn. Once again I have proven, that after a holiday, I always need a holiday!
|Two styles of living in China. The old is always found beside the new.|
|The top photo is of an aquatic farm and the bottom is of a river. It is hard to tell the difference sometimes. This photo was taken during heavy rain.|
|A panoramic view of the Breakfast Restaurant in the Qing Chuan hotel. Viewing from Top to Bottom and from left to right one can see the whole room from my table. I will be doing another article on the subject of food at which time you will have some opportunity to see what people eat here.|
- In 2010 at Magic City Morning Star News I published 19 Chapters of my book 'Finding Myself in China'. They are listed at the above link.
R.P. BenDedek is the pseudonym of an Australian who has been teaching in China since 2003. In addition to contributing to Magic City Morning Star News as a columnist, he is also currently assisting the Editor of this Newspaper.
2004 Stories from China
Additionally, BenDedek is the author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' at www.kingscalendar.com