Two days ago, we were sitting on top of the world in gleaming Guangzhou. But then, at last, we finally ran into a few Spring Festival travel obstacles that we were simply unable (or too stupid) to get around, and which ruined our brilliant but not so best-laid plans.
So, how do you know it’s three days before Chinese New Year? Answer: when all the seats are sold out for the next two whole days on the always-unpopular high-speed rail, which we NEVER have to book in advance. We shouldn’t have been so complacent. But the clerk at the ticket window, checking the system for available seats, was just as amazed as we were.
Oh well, no trip up to Shaoguan. After a team huddle outside the station, we decided to stick around and make a tour of Guangzhou’s outskirts. As it turned out, even the short distances were pretty slow-going, but we did manage to do some walking and talking in a couple outlying neighborhoods, including a leftover “water town.” We also caught a boat out to the restored site of the former Whampoa Army Officer Academy. It was okay.
Today we also “bumped into some nails,” as they say around here. Up the West River, in the smallish city of Zhaoqing, streets are packed and sights are closed. But our setbacks are minor. For people trying to get home to be with family they see once a year (including perhaps their own wife and kid), sold-out tickets, delays, and getting through masses upon masses of people are problems that have got to be stressful on a whole other level. Heck, we saw two guys almost come to blows today when the one in front leaned back too far in his bus seat.
For some of the hardest workers on Earth, what a vacation.