Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Day 2 Part 2: Mr. Taxi's Wild Ride and The Four Dollar Hotel

Just across the border into Shenzhen, we took a little break.

Either Mnxi is testing her vision or I've told a really bad joke.

It's a little hard to explain the scale of what we are looking at here.  The building on the right is a bus terminal on this level and a taxi stand below.  The building on the left is a train station and the entire plaza that you see has a matching underground level.  China is built on the really really big scale.

We were on our way to Xin Du which was just off the main highway between Shen Zhen and Hu Jho.  We were expecting to take a bus from the building on the right and arrive at Xin Du mid-afternoon.  It was here at this plaza that Minxi's normally flawless navigation failed us.  When she passed though this plaza two days before, she hadn't actually checked on the Shen Zhen Hu Jho bus.  It wasn't here.  I don't know my way around Shen Zhen well enough to understand this but Hu Jho seems to be a bit out of the way and no bus runs from this station.  Poor Minxi.  She planned so hard for this trip and was taking such good care of us.  She really felt bad about what was a very innocent mistake.

Here I also learned for the first time what would be a much repeated lesson.  Those helpful people who come up to you when you're wandering around lost in China don't really have your best interest at heart.  The bus terminal was huge, with different lines running out of different bays.  While wandering from line to line, we picked up a woman who was about 60.  She followed us around giving Minxi helpful advice in Cantonese.  I couldn't understand her but Minxi's face told me that she didn't care for this woman.  Minxi has travelled a lot in China and I trusted her worry.  When I asked her what this lady was about, Minxi explained that she was trying to get us to go to a transportation provider but that Minxi didn't think she was "real."  We did eventually follow her to a little out of the way kiosk selling travel to anywhere.  Minxi was dead set against it.  I don't know what sort of transport we would have gotten if we'd have paid these people but another of their "helpers" approached while we were talking to a police man.

These helpful folks showed up everywhere we went in China, attracted I think to the legend that all white people are rich.  While none were hostile, they could be very persistent and distracting while trying to read a map.  Minxi says that these people can't be trusted.  I imagine that most of them do offer some version of the service they advertise but probably not safely or in a cost efficient manner.  It would certainly be easy to vanish into the mass of China so I strongly recommend staying with known, licensed tour guides and established bus and train lines.

We ended up taking a pleasant though expensive side trip across Shen Zhen in a taxi searching for a bus to Hu Jho.  I'd read that Shen Zhen was a dirty grimy town and was pleasantly pleased to find a bustling metropolis.  I rode in the back and enjoyed the view while Minxi chatted with the very pleasant driver.  It's a planned city, designed to support shipping and commerce with Hong Kong and there are plenty of factories and sky cranes around.  We drove on some very pleasant, tree lined boulevards though and saw lots of shopping and day to day life.  The Shen Zhen Bay Sports Center is as amazingly beautiful as it is large.  This is a computer generated promotional photo and only shows about a third of the total structure.

Shenz Shen Stadium

We were on our third bus terminal, an old stone affair with big, viney trees out front, when we finally found our bus.  The bad news, it was about 1:00 in the afternoon and the bus didn't leave til 10:00 pm. With no plans in Shen Zhen and a tired born of days of travel, we decided to find a hotel.  Luckily, the building across the street proved to have a small hotel on the third floor.  There were no signs, or billboards, just big concrete steps up to a filthy patio where three women were chatting and tending to a small flock of half naked children.  The room was a concrete box with a small shower/toilet combo. The box springs sat on the floor and, since the shower was raised, was soaked with water from the shower.  It was dark with no windows and had a cool muggy smell.  The price was hard to beat.  We paid 25 yuan, a little more than four dollar.

Minxi headed out to buy food and I let the cool and dark ride me off into a far away sleep.

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