I’ll likely be offline for the next few days, as later this afternoon I’m packing myself into a sleeper bus for the 15-hour journey from Suzhou to Dalian.
Though I’m always quite keen to go back up to my old stomping grounds in 东北, and Maggie’s thrilled to see her father for the first time since we went in December to register our marriage, the main reason for our visit is so I can be properly welcomed into the family.
As we didn’t have a ‘traditional wedding’ in any sense of the term, I’ve missed out on meeting Maggie’s extended family. So, on May 1st, somewhere in Jinzhou, I’ll be stuffing myself with food, numbing the pain of it with ganbei’d baijiu, all the while stretching my Chinese abilities far past the recommended limits. I need to buy new shoes.
The trip will also give me a chance to reconnect with a few old friends still living in the city, and also meet up with some new friends that I’ve made since moving this act down to Suzhou last August.
A note about travel
As mentioned, we’re taking a sleeper bus from Suzhou to Dalian. Now, I’ll preface this by saying I’ve not taken a sleeper before, so I’m not sure about comfort yet. However, the journey is 10 hours shorter than the train (24h), and about 100 RMB cheaper (Suzhou->Dalian by bus: 320 RMB | Suzhou->Dalian by train: 400 RMB). I’ll write a bit more about the advantages/disadvantages of the two later.
Coming home, I’ll be flying from Dalian to Shanghai. Tickets for the train are a complete and utter impossibility to get this time of year, with train ticket offices swarming with crowds as early as 6 or 7 am. The bus is easier, but again, not sure on the comfort level. As you can’t buy return train/bus tickets outside of the city you wish to depart from, it would have required Maggie’s mom trekking into the scrum in hopes of finding a suitable seat/sleeper for me.
Not liking to cause middle-aged women to revert to a savage-self not seen since the last great evolutionary step, I took a quick look online and found a flight for the entirely reasonable price of 530 RMB (+tx – 660 RMB total).
I’m really warming up to Ctrip, one of two major online airline ticket sites in China (the other being eLong) that offer service in English. We’ve used both, but I dig Ctrip because they will deliver the ticket to my door (I ordered it at 9 a.m. this morning, and it arrived before 11 a.m.), where I can pay in cash.
I also used Ctrip’s hotel booking for a number of the hotels I needed when my family was visiting for our wedding, and it went flawless. Reservations were kept, prices guaranteed, and no deposit needed.
It’s nice to see that China’s travel market is opening up enough that some solid competition is creating quality service. Travel in China is still largely a pain in the ass (as compared to many other countries), but it’s improving.