Another entertaining bus ride took us from Lijiang to Dali. Of course, as usually we were the only foreigners on the bus. We left Lijiang in the morning and for the next three hours passed little communities or rural areas with people working in rice fields. Our Chinese co-travelers always found a reason to loudly, repeat loudly, discuss various issues. The card games going on around us repeatedly seemed to turn into a veritable fight, but when we turned our heads, everybody was smiling at us.
Of course, if we had any question, someone was identified on the bus knowing three words of English to help us. With the cool outside temperatures, soon the windows inside got completely fogged up. Again our co-travelers lent a helping hand, brought us paper to clean the window from condensation water so that we could enjoy the landscape.
After riding the bus for 3 hours, we stopped 20 minutes for lunch, although we were only ten minutes (!) from our final destination. Needless to say there was no English menu so Heidi was asked into kitchen of the restaurant where a few people were cooking at a frenetic tempo to feed all the passengers during the brief stop. There, lots of big plastic bowls with super fresh veggies were waiting. Heidi took her pick, one of the girls understood the word “pork” and minutes later she was served a delicious meal and tea for 1.5 Euro. Since Gilles was an upset stomach, he decided to skip lunch.
This experience is very representative for all our travel on public transport. We always felt helped and looked after. People would go out of their way to get us the service we were looking for. Most people take an incredible interest in western tourists and try to use their English whenever they have a chance and no matter how good or little they know the language.
A few times, we decided to join a tour because it was the most convenient way to reach a place. Again, our fellow passengers made sure we knew what was going on and when we had to be back on the bus. We noticed that they were always checking on us so that we would not get lost in a big crowd. Yes, we had to get used to loud talking and noticed an occasional disregard for waiting in line. Manners can be a bit unpolished, but always well meaning.
The best example was a trip on a crowded city bus in Chengdu with all our bags and backpacks. We felt a bit embarrassed taking up so much room, when suddenly somebody got up from his seat. Heidi was pushed and pulled into the vacant seat, her backpack lifted on top of her lap and everybody was smiling. When Heidi said “Thank you” in Chinese, the girl sitting next to her did not stop talking. Something we watched before, this urge to communicate, even if we had no chance understanding each other.