11-Feb-2002 -- This story continues from
MONDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2002. At 11:30 a.m., I was on a bus from Zhao'an to Zhangzhou. It arrived in Zhangzhou at 1:25 p.m. My next destination was Longyan, but buses for Longyan left from a different bus station, so I hopped on a motorbike and made my way quickly across town to the other bus station.
Not quickly enough however, because I missed the last bus to Longyan by five minutes. This was to be my first taste of the difficulties of obtaining public transport during the Chinese New Year festival period. After a mass movement of people to and from every part of the country, all returning home to celebrate Chinese New Year with their relatives, it was now Chinese New Year's Eve, and public transport suddenly evaporated into thin air. There was none. Everyone who was going home was already home by now, including all the bus drivers, ticket sellers, and the rest of the people who made up the public transport infrastructure.
With little option short of abandoning the chase altogether, I reluctantly forked out big-time for a taxi to Longyan. It was probably worth it for the personal service I got, though. Upon arrival in Longyan, the driver first took me to the train station, where I established that at least this good old state-run organisation carried on operations regardless. I bought a ticket for the following evening's 8:02 p.m. train to Meizhou, back in Guangdong province, which would be my next destination after completing this confluence. My Zhangzhou taxi driver then took me to the Houston Hotel (picture #2), which he explained was on one corner of a busy city intersection, and that the corner opposite was where Longyan's paltry half dozen or so taxis congregated when unoccupied.
I paid off the taxi driver, ensuring he enjoyed a very prosperous start to the year of the horse, then checked into the Houston Hotel at 3:30 p.m. I deposited my backpack in the room, then, just on spec, crossed the road to the local taxi stand, and inquired about a taxi to the confluence. I really didn't hold out much hope for completing it that afternoon, because on my way into Longyan, the freeway on which we'd travelled had passed within six kilometres of the confluence, and all that I could see were tremendously high mountains. But at least I thought I'd do a quick reconnoitre to more accurately gauge the degree of difficulty.
Lo and behold, to my pleasant surprise, the confluence was located in a valley, on cultivated flat ground, and, just like the confluence to the south that I'd visited earlier that day, very easy to reach. I arrived at the confluence at about 4 p.m., took the usual photographs, and was back at the Houston Hotel by 4:40 p.m.
The very understanding girl on the front desk gave me a full refund when I explained to her that I'd changed my mind, and did not plan to stay overnight after all. I collected my backpack from the room, then headed back to the train station to see if I could exchange my ticket on the following evening's train for one on a train leaving that night, so that I could proceed immediately on towards