I'm back with a couple more stories from that bastion of crazy that is mainland China.
In this edition of It Happened in China, I've got for you the Yangshuo Bus Story (aka the Worst Night of my Life):
I've had some nights in my life. Whooo boy have I ever. I've drank too much; I've hurt myself; I've made an ass of myself; I've been kicked out of places; I've done things I regret. But in terms of sheer misery, discomfort, humiliation, confusion, and a nice dose of fear tossed in for good measure, nothing beats the Yangshuo Bus Story.
So no shit there I was.
I had traveled to Yangshuo for the Chinese New Year to see the beautiful town and visit with a friend who was teaching English in China at the time.
Yangshuo: A beautiful city to visit. Highly recommend. Don't take the bus.
We went to Guilin first, then Yangshuo; we rented bikes, saw the sights, got shitbombed on lizard liquor and kicked out of a Chinese dance club ... we did it all. And after several days, it was time for me to head back to my University in Hong Kong.
I had purchased a ticket on an overnight bus that would take me from Yangshuo to Guangzhou -- a trip of roughly 6 hours, according to Google maps. Once I arrived in Guangzhou, I would then get on a different bus to Shenzhen, cross the border into Hong Kong, and find my way back to school. It was going to be quite a trip, with a lot of connections to make, so naturally I was quite nervous (as any 20-year-old girl traveling alone in a foreign country might be).
But, the previous several days' debaucheries (combined with what I'm sure was a healthy dose of food poisoning from eating things no person should ever put into their mouth) had taken their toll on my body. I was sick as a dog and felt absolutely horrible. The thought of traveling all night on a series of Chinese buses seemed like slow torture at that point, but alas, I had to get home and the bus was how it was going to happen.
So I arrive at the bus stop in Yangshuo and get on. I am the only white face in a sea of Chinese people. This is no laowai tourist bus, let me tell you -- this bus is for the locals, and I'm being stared at by just about everyone there. (in China, it's not considered rude to stare at anything you find interesting or different. It's just a thing that people do. So when you're white and you travel in China, prepare to spend a lot of time feeling like a zoo animal)
It's a sleeper bus full of bunks, so I pick a bottom bunk at random. I'm not entirely sure whether or not they're assigned or if I'm doing something wrong, but whatever; I feel shitty enough to just not care. Nobody's going to say anything to me either way. You don't talk to the laowai. You just stare at them.
I stuff the pocket of my hoodie with tissues to control my faucet of a nose, and try to get comfortable in my bunk. But this is quite a challenge. Not only is the bunk too short for me, but it is also coffin-narrow and I have my big travelers' backpack with me. I'm not about to put my backpack anywhere other than between my two arms, so we just find a way to spoon together in that shitty little bunk. Exhausted, miserable, and hideously uncomfortable, I eventually drift off to a fitful sleep.
A short while later, I am woken up slightly by the bus stopping and an announcement being made in Chinese. As best as I can figure, they're announcing a bathroom stop, as there is apparently no bathroom on the bus. Why would a bus traveling overnight for many hours not have a bathroom on board? I don't know. Because it's China, and China doesn't have to make sense. You pee when you're told to pee goddammit, and you're welcome for the convenience.
I am way too tired to even consider getting up and off the bus to pee at this point, so I stay in my bunk and go back to sleep. (To this day, I consider this to be in the top 10 Worst Decisions I Have Ever Made.)
Some hours later, I am woken up again -- this time by my bladder. It is full to bursting, and I have no idea where we are or how much longer this trip is going to take. I try just ignoring it and going back to sleep, but no luck. I try to wait, hoping that we are going to be having another bathroom stop very soon. But ten agonizing minutes later, I know that this isn't going to happen either.
Eventually I realize that this is not going to end well unless I take action. So I roll out of my bunk and crawl in my stocking feet up towards the front of the bus to talk to the driver. It should be noted that at this point, I speak Chinese fairly well -- not fluently per se, but well enough to function in most situations. (To this day, I consider that to be in the top 10 Luckiest Things in my Life.)
I crawl up behind the driver and ask him in Mandarin Chinese how long it will be before we will be making another bathroom stop. The driver gruffly barks at me to wait a moment. So I sit behind him and wait, not wanting to go back to my bunk and be forgotten. After several endless seconds, he barks again that it will be one hour until we make our next stop.
I cry out at this. "One hour?! I'll never make it! I need to pee right now!"
The driver sighs loudly and again orders me to wait a moment. And again, I stay sitting behind him, uncertain what his next instructions to me will be. All I can do is pray that they involve a bathroom real, real soon.
Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, the driver lurches this big bus off the road and over to the side of the pitch-dark Chinese highway we'd been driving on. Before the bus even reaches a complete stop, he wrenches open the doors and points out into the black night. "Go," he says.
Remember that at this point I have no shoes on. I am the only foreigner on this bus. I have no idea where we are. I am alone. I barely even speak the language. If I get off this bus, what's to stop the guy from just driving away and leaving me here?? How do I even know that's not what he meant by "go"? If he does leave me here, how long will it be before anyone notices I'm missing? I bet it could be weeks before anyone at school thought to ask "hey, how come Patent never came back from vacation? How long did she say she'd be gone, again?"
But I really have to pee, so ...
I hop down onto the totally mysterious and invisible ground in my socks, praying I don't land in a puddle or a pile of poop or something. I pull my pants down and pop a squat six inches from the side of the bus, fully visible to anyone who chooses to look out the window at that moment. I pee and pee, carefully adjusting my angle and positioning every couple seconds to make sure I don't soak my shoeless feet with urine. When I'm finally finished, I pull a used, snot-filled tissue out of my hoodie pocket and give myself a quick wipe. And then back on the bus I go, thanking the driver profusely while cursing every bad decision I've ever made up to that point. (Especially cursing the fact that I have no penis. Do you know how easy this would have all been if I'd had a penis? Like, this wouldn't even be a story. I would just pee in a bottle on the bus or something and go back to sleep. So f*** you a little bit for that one, whatever deity makes these types of decisions.)
I go back to my bunk and spoon my backpack again, immediately drifting off to a satisfied sleep. I don't even wake up for the next bathroom stop.
When I do wake up, we're arriving at the Guangzhou bus station. Oh blessed day! One big step closer to my own bed!! First order of business: need to go to the bathroom again.
Locate the bathroom and step inside.
It is ...
Just absolutely heinous.
If you've been to any bus station, then you've surely seen how bad the bathrooms can get. Something about a bus station just turns humans into chimpanzees. But this bathroom was so many thousands of times worse than you can even imagine. I've actually described it before, in a prior post about my Chinese bathroom rating system.
This bathroom has:
-- no doors on the stalls
-- squatter toilets in the stalls (which in this case was a blessed benefit)
-- the toilets don't flush anymore
-- there is no toilet paper
-- there is a big log of poo sitting in every toilet
So after enduring that horrible bus ride sharing a coffin with a huge backpack, sick as a dog, hating life and just wanting to go home; after feeling genuine fear that I was about to be left to die in Bumf*ck, China in the middle of the night; after using a snot-tissue to wipe my bum, I get to close out my vacation by squatting to pee on top of a stranger's big log of poo while wearing my giant heavy backpack as various Chinese ladies stare at me. And then I get to use another snot tissue to wipe my bum.
So, in conclusion, if you ever want to visit Yangshuo, China, then f*** you I'm not coming.
Here is a GIF of someone trolling a toilet seat cover robot. It just barely scrapes the surface of how hideous this Guangzhou bus station bathroom was. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.