My first day to enjoy China turned out to be quite pleasant. Kunming is a small city by Chinese standards with only 5 million inhabitants but it is also one of the cleanest cities in China. There is not much pollution, not much traffic and it is the most orderly location I have been in since visiting the states over the Christmas holidays. The only chaotic thing going on was setting up for the olympic torch to pass through the next day with everyone on the streets selling t-shirts and flags to all of the people who intended to line the streets watching the ceremonies.
After realizing that there wasn't a lot to see as a traveler in Kunming, I decided to hop on a night bus to Lijang. I booked the sleeping bus at the hotel and was able to choose which bed I wanted. When I arrived at the station, I began showing my ticket to people who each pointed me in the direction where I would find the bus I would be taking. Once at the door of the bus, I met a man who surprisingly spoke English and he told me he was the “boss”. He helped me put my bag beneath the bus and then said that I needed to pay a fuel surcharge to transport my luggage. He wanted me to pay about thirteen dollars which was almost the same cost as the ticket. I told him no and argued with him for a while. He then claimed that on the back of my ticket it explains that everyone has to pay for this service but it is written in Chinese so I can't understand it. After a bit more arguing, I had him down to about five dollars which was still ridiculous. He was the one who kept lowering the price with me just saying I wasn't going to pay it. At about five dollars he said that it was the last price and if I didn't like it, I could get off the bus and wait till morning for the next one. I couldn't believe this guy was scamming me and there was nothing I could do if I wanted to get on the bus.
After reluctantly paying the scam off, I boarded the bus looking for my seat that was supposed to be near the front. The “boss” immediately sent me to the back of the bus where there is two stacks of five beds all hooked together. The other beds are all individual beds and I said no that I had booked this seat near the front. The man looked at me and said “This is my bus and those seats are for Chinese. This is your spot, you don't like it, get off my bus.” I couldn't believe this! Not only am I too tall for the bed at the back, but I am also too wide. Combine that with the fact that the back is the bumpiest and loudest place on the bus and I was not happy at all. I spent the night without any sleep with the leg of one man on me as well as the arm of another. I am not happy with the way things work over here.
On another note, I find the lack of English here to be extremely difficult. On top of that, I don't find the people to be very helpful and many of them laugh at you when you are trying to figure anything out. No one puts any effort into helping you in whatever your needs are. This is such a strange feeling after being around some of the nicest and most helpful people in the world for the past few months. Combine that with the fact that I left one of the most wonderful people I have ever known back in Vietnam and I am having a rough start to my Chinese adventure. Hopefully things will get better soon!