So, that didn’t quite go as it was supposed too.
The plan yesterday was very simple. First I needed to get from Dali to Kunming, a relatively straight forward four to five hour bus journey. In Kunming I’d board one of the sleeper busses taking me overnight to the Vietnamese border, arriving early this morning to go through customs. Right now, I was supposed to be on a train taking me from the Vietnamese border town Lao Cai to Hanoi.
But I’m not. Instead I’m still in China, having just had another breakfast at another hostel (the Le Tissier moment was the bacon). It didn’t quite go to plan yesterday.
So, what happened? My plans yesterday appeared fool proof. A number of sleeper busses leave Kunming, by all accounts, between 6.30pm and 9.30pm every day. It is a four to five hour bus ride from Dali to Kunming. Thus, I planned to leave Dali by 2pm, arriving in Kunming between 6 and 7, giving me a few hours of buffer time to catch one of the sleepers.
Lets just say, it didn’t quite turn out like that. First, the traffic into the bus station in Dali was horrendous. My cab didn’t get me there until gone 2pm, and I had to wait around until 3pm for the next bus to Kunming.
This shouldn’t have been a problem. I’d built spare time into my plans for precisely this sort of thing, and catching one of the later sleepers wasn’t a problem.
But, alas, it wasn’t my lucky day. Once on the bus outside Dali we hit two pretty massive traffic jams, on two separate occasions sitting completely still on the road for over an hour each. The main highway between Dali and Kunming only has two lanes, so it all goes to shit as soon as one lane gets blocked, either with one of the dilapidated cars the Chinese drive breaking down, or else with a crash of some sort (and crashes seem to happen a lot. The Chinese aren’t safe drivers. I actually despair watching them drive. Can they not see that if you drive your van at full pelt 5 metres behind the car in front in pouring rain, then things are at some point going to go wrong? Come on guys, you’re supposed to be cleverer than that!).
When we weren’t sitting still in traffic we were moving very, very slowly. Even so, once we’d finally got moving, already running several hours behind, the bus driver, inexplicably and to my complete and utter aghast astonishment, pulled over to a service station, and everyone got off to go shopping! We’re already three hours behind, and you’re pulling over for a rest?????
It was already 9pm at this point. We were still comfortably 2 hours from Kunming, and the Chinese wanted to buy stuff. Thus I knew I wasn’t going to make even one of the later sleeper busses. I got a chum of mine from home, the ever wonderful Jess (who’s coming to join me in Vietnam in just three days time! Writing all about it here…), to get on HostelBookers and find me a dorm for the night in Kunming. We finally arrived just before midnight. A journey that should have taken four hours had in fact taken nine.
And so its put me a day behind everything, and I’ve now got a few hours to kill in Kunming. Its ironic, isn’t it – getting a visa to get into China in the first place can be a bit of a nightmare. Now I want to get out the bloody place they don’t seem to want to let me go!
It’s a lesson for travelling, though. Sometimes things are going to go wrong when you travel. I’ve been desperately lucky on this trip so far (touch wood) that I’ve not had to deal with any really major fuck ups. But, from time to time, things aren’t going to go quite as you’d planned. When they do, as with the rest of life really, you’re better off not getting wound up about it. Stay calm. Make a plan, make the best of the situation and don’t let it get to you.
…That said, what on earth was he thinking, pulling into those services?! I swear I could have butchered him alive right there on the tarmac.