Best and Worst

Tours 2-4

Worst Journey by Bus

Intercity:  Guilin to Yangshuo, China
Day-trip:  Yangshuo to Xingping, China
Sleeper:  Guilin to Guangzhou, China

[Interesting that all three of these "worst" bus rides were in China.]

Intercity:  Guilin to Yangshuo, China

This was actually one of the scariest bus rides I've ever had.  It was one of the smaller buses so common in China – with seating for twenty-five – which means they could only cram about thirty-five passengers on it (which they did).  It was after sundown, the half-hour trip from Guilin to Yangshuo was on a dark, two-lane highway.

About ten minutes away from Yangshuo, I heard what sounded like a blowout on the right side of the bus.  This particular bus had two tires on each side in the rear, so the driver didn't stop to check it – he merely slowed down (but only slightly) and had his helper lean out of the door to have a look.  We had in fact had a blowout, but still the driver didn't stop.

A few minutes later, the other tire on the same side blew out as well – not surprising since the bus was overloaded and that one remaining tire was carrying the load of two.  This time the driver had to stop.  Some of the passengers immediately started walking toward Yangshuo – even as the driver was phoning for help.  A couple of minutes later, another bus passed by headed in the opposite direction.  It turned around and came back to pick us up.  We all piled on and were soon deposited safely in Yangshuo.

Day-trip:  Yangshuo to Xingping, China

This one wasn't so scary – but it was the roughest ride I've ever had.  It was taking me and a few other tourists to where we would meet a boat for a cruise up the Li Jiang River.  To avoid paying tolls, the driver used an unpaved road that was, to say the least, less than smooth.

I was sitting in the rear seat along with a Chinese girl from Shenzhen and another American.  Whenever we hit some of the more severe bumps, the three of us would become airborne.  Not only that, but the seat-bottom wasn't exactly secured – so when we came down, we all had to stand and put it back where it belonged so we could sit back down.

We chose a different bus for the return trip – one that used the toll-ways.  It was much more pleasant.

Sleeper:  Guilin to Guangzhou, China

It would be more accurate to call this the non-sleeper bus – because there's absolutely no way to sleep on it.  I was keen to get to Guangzhou, but the trains were booked for the next few days.  My helpful travel agent assured me that the sleeper bus was quite nice – and the roads were good – so it would be almost as good as the train, but much cheaper.


The bus had three rows of beds – one on each side and one down the middle – with upper and lower bunks.  The aisles were just about the width of my hips – which means not quite wide enough for my shoulders.  After getting settled into my bunk, I found that it was just about the same width as the aisle.  I could only lay on my back, and since there were rails on both sides to keep me from falling out, I couldn't even put my arms down comfortably by my sides.  Add to that the fact that the bunk was about a foot too short for me, and it made for a very unpleasant night indeed.

Oh, and did I mention it was HOT! – and, of course, the bus had no air-con.  The only thing that made the trip bearable was the Australian family in the bunks below and to one side.  I spent most of the time chatting with Jessica (the daughter) about life on their family ranch in northeast Australia, where they raise Oreo cattle.  We all shared munchies, traded travel stories, and generally complained about the bad aspects of our travels.  Somehow that made them less bothersome.

At any rate, if you ever have a chance to take a sleeper bus in China – DON'T DO IT!!!