When you’re traveling, tired, and need to get from point A to point B, you may not look at the big picture, but you should. It can make a world of difference. Plus, who wants to arrive at a new destination feeling tired and grumpy? I know I don’t!
I cried the day I had to leave China and fly back to my retail management job. I cried while I sat on the curb under the dark morning sky in Xi’an, waiting for a taxi. I cried when I boarded the plane in Beijing. I cried when I stood on the escalator in Calgary and realized that I was about to step back into a life filled with stress and exhaustion. I gave my heart to Asia.
[video width="400" height="300" mp4="https://pamelamacnaughtan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Bus-from-Beijing-to-Erlien.mp4"][/video] "China? WHY are you going to China?!" my boss exclaimed, "There was a seat sale", I replied calmly. And I was calm. In fact, that moment was the most calm I had been in months. Plus China was the furthest place I could go.
Travelling to China from Northern Thailand may not be the cheapest option, but it is unique in its rarity. It's so rare that most locals outside of Chiang Rai and Chiang Saen are not aware of the boat existence. This can make it difficult, especially since a lot of the information online is a few years old.
Ah, a Chinese sleeper bus, they are complete heaven -well as heavenly as a bus can be. The bus is divided by two aisles and contains three rows of what I call, sleeping pods. Each row of sleeper pods are set up like bunkbeds and gives the bus a dorm room kind of feel. When I took a sleeper bus from Jinhong, China to Kunming, I was beyond excited when I boarded the bus. Well, after I had to shimmy down the aisle.
One of my favourite things to do in Asia is visit local markets whether they be food, clothing, souvenirs, marriage of birds. There is something wonderful about wandering through local markets. It's a glimpse of local life, it's trying local foods and sometimes it involves locals trying to scam you- but for the most part it is a pleasant experience.
Finding the unique and bizarre has become a kind of side quest during my travels. My general philosophy has been, If it looks different and interesting, I must know more! This sort of side mantra has served me well. There's a boat that travels from Northern Thailand to China? Hell yeah, I'll go. Kunming has a bird market? Sounds kind of interesting, I wouldn't mind checking that out. Every weekend older parents flock to Green Park and look for future mates for their unmarried children by sharing photos, posting signs and looking through catalogs? Say Whaaaaat?!
Let me tell you, arriving by boat in the middle of nowhere when it is pitch-black outside is completely different from landing at an airport. Unlike ports in North America, in China docking your boat or ship involves a buddy system of sorts. There is usually one dock and 4-5 ships trying to unload. Instead of waiting for their turn (this is kind of a foreign concept here), they dock against one another. When we arrived in Guan Lei, we were boat number 4 and docking against a freighter was a bumpy experience.
Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly a slow boat, but it was a boat! My mind had drifted from the bumpy bus ride through the mountains and dirt roads of Northern Thailand. Most of the locals I had spoken to in Chiang Mai were confused when I asked them about the boat that sailed from Chiang Saen to China. While some travelers would have taken that as a sign that the boat was just a myth, I took it as a sign that if the boat did exist, it would be a unique experience. My mind was racing. For 5 hours I sat in my seat and thought about what the boat would be like. Would there be a lot of travelers? Is it running or was I wasting time and money traveling to Chiang Saen only to find out that the boat was a myth. The possibilities were endless and I thrived on them. My quest to know was almost as thrilling as the idea of traveling to China by boat.