I wish I had a really awesome picture of a packed subway to go along with this post...oh wait...I do! Ok, this picture isn't really that bad. Usually it can be a lot worse - like you can't move your arms there are so many people. But when it's like that it's hard to take a picture! Traveling in China doesn't always go the way you plan. There's too many variables. The bus being on time, room on the bus, being able to catch a cab when you need to. The list is endless for things that can go awry when traveling in China. Take for example, my weekend excursion about two weeks ago.
My friends and I were going downtown to find a store that sold specialty baking items. We got on the bus and headed downtown. It took about 30 minutes on the bus to get there. We then had to go into the subway station, find the correct exit number (to get us on the right street) and walk about 3 blocks to the store. Find the entrance to the building, take the elevator and finally arrive. In total, it probably took us 45-50 mins to get to the store from my apartment, which really isn't bad.
We bought some necessary and fun items and then headed back to the bus stop. After 20 minutes of walking, we got there and waited for the bus. And waited for the bus. And waited for the bus. Sometimes it can take up to 15 minutes for your bus to come, but this bus normally comes every 10 minutes or so. After 30 minutes of waiting (yes, we waited that long), my Chinese friend asked someone about the bus. "Oh didn't you hear? There is a parade." Um...okay. What does that mean? The Chinese word "parade" can mean many things: lots of people in the street, a demonstration or an actual parade. It was actually a demonstration. The entire downtown square was packed with people and the bus couldn't get through. The funny this is that we walked right past all the people on our way to the bus stop and all of us thought they were all jaywalking in the street! Seriously, we had that conversation. Anyways, long story short, we had to walk back to the subway and take it about three stops away from the city center and then caught a bus, taking us an hour and a half to get back home.
Last night is another great example. Steven was going to dinner and billards with a friend so I decided to do some grocery shopping. It is October holiday right now (Mid Autumn Festival) and everyone is either leaving the city to go back home or arriving in the city returning home. All to say, there are lots of people traveling everywhere.
I left the apartment around 6:00pm to catch the bus. I had to literally push the girl in front of me to get on the bus because it was so packed. At the next stop, the people getting on behind me push me forward as I push people forward. Let's just say, it got really, really packed! I arrived at Carrefour, got my shopping done (after finding out they don't have mozzarella cheese anymore - sad day!), and take my three bags out to the curb to catch a taxi back home. There is no way I'm getting on a bus at this point with all my groceries, so I stand for 10 minutes outside Carrefour trying to get a cab. I did not see one open cab, not one. Thinking my luck will be better down at the corner, I lug my groceries down there and wait another 15 minutes before finally getting a taxi. And it wasn't even raining.
Everyday is an adventure (really, it is), and traveling in China makes for the perfect opportunity for something to go wrong and the adventure to ensue. Oh, and I've learned that you should always give yourself at least 15 minutes more time to get somewhere than you think it will take. Chances are you will need that extra 15 minutes, even if Google maps says otherwise.