Fenghuang, China, May 2019: Today I’m leaving Fenghuang as I arrived – in light drizzle! First, a bus south to Huaihua, the closest city to a high-speed railway. Then its the High-speed train west to Kunming and finally another bus to final destination Dali – a very long day covering 1, 343 KM in about 10 hours. As foreigners are unable to reserve bus China bus seats its a case of racking up to the stations and hoping for the best – so far its worked out fine, but coming up tomorrow is a public holiday and that probably means crowded public transport!
As is common with Chinese big cities and towns, there are various bus stations scattered across the place so one has to get it right first time or face a very expensive taxi ride and the prospect of re-scheduling the train ride with a non-English speaking official. Thankfully, Huaihua High-Speed rail bus was marked as such and in English, a great initiative from the Chinese Tourist Council!
Arriving to Huaihua South with plenty of spare time – about 90 minutes before G1525 leaves for Kunming. Time for some lunch and an opportunity to stock up with food for later.
Ordinarily passengers would connect to another High-speed train between Kunming South and Dali, but because I missed out due to the upcoming public holiday I’m now faced with a trip across the city to the Kunming West Coach Station where there hopefully will be a bus seat. I’m half expecting to be staying the night in Kunming though, a thought that doesn’t appeal after looking around the place. Its a mega city, a metropolis that takes 1 hour 20 to travel South to north then west on the Kunming Metro.
I have to count myself lucky to get what was probably the last seat on the last bus to leave Kunming West for Dali at 5.30 PM. Not surprisingly the vehicle was jam packed, all Chinese natives with me being the only tourist, not for the first time on this trip! A pretty good journey as it happens. The roads to Dali are pretty empty and a stop at the best motorway service station I have ever seen – no rip-off prices like we see in the west, no, just ordinary prices and good food, I wouldn’t mind staying a bit longer!
Dali has bus stations scattered across the city, so its unfortunate this bus is terminating some distance from tonight’s hotel. 11 PM as the bus draws into an obscure location on the southern fringes of Dali, with the local taxi mafias waiting to pounce. With local public transport closed down for the night, one is forced to run the gauntlet of a potential taxi scam. Luckily this driver can read a digital map but has no idea where exactly the hotel is. So, after dropping me off somewhere in the vicinity, I’m forced to seek help. After about 45 minutes and some frantic phone calls from some friendly hotel staff, the receptionist from my original hotel comes to fetch me – turns out I wasn’t far away after all!