04-Jul-2010 -- Story continues from 32°N 121°E.
It rained briefly during our return bus ride to Nántōng, but had stopped by the time we got there. We purchased tickets on the 2:15 p.m. bus to Tàizhōu (泰州市), then had a bowl of noodles for lunch in a clean, air-conditioned, fast-food restaurant opposite the bus station, a few doors down from Motel168, where we'd left our bags.
Just as we finished lunch, it really started pouring down. We waited until the rain eased off a bit, then collected our bags from Motel168 (where the pudgy receptionist continued to hassle me about not having a visa), crossed the street back to the bus station, and were soon on our way to Tàizhōu.
It rained on and off along the way, and we passed several accidents—one where a vehicle had somehow managed to end up upside down on the median strip of the perfectly straight, flat, multi-lane divided highway, confirming Peter Hessler's observations on the driving skills of many Chinese drivers.
We had to wait less than a quarter of an hour in Tàizhōu for our next bus north to Xīnghuà (兴化市), which left at 4:40 p.m., arriving in Xīnghuà shortly before 6 p.m.
Our first order of business was to gather intelligence on the buses that we would need the following day. Having done that, we walked to the three-star Shangri-la Hotel (香格里拉大酒店) next door to the bus station, and checked in. Unlike the previous night, the girl on reception was very kind and helpful, not even asking to see my passport, but simply registering me using my Hong Kong ID card.
On the way into town, we'd noticed a big U.B.C. Coffee place on the corner not far from the hotel, and had decided that that was where we'd go for my birthday dinner. However, when we got there, we discovered that it was out of business. Instead, we ended up at the Insho Pizza restaurant. They had the same puff pastry soup that I was looking forward to eating at U.B.C. Coffee, so that was okay. The restaurant was pretty empty (unlike the KFC next door), because Chinese are still not all that enamoured with cheese, and therefore with pizza.
That night I finished the first third of Peter Hessler's book Country Driving: Three journeys across a changing China, which was good timing, given that we were now one third of the way through Jiāngsū's nine confluences.
The next morning, we ate our complimentary breakfast at 7 a.m., and checked out at 8 a.m. The sneezing I had been experiencing the past couple of days had now developed into a continually running nose and the occasional cough. At least the weather looked to be dry.
Following the directions we had obtained the previous afternoon, we took a taxi to the Nónggōng Bus Station (农公站), where we found the Línhú (林湖乡) bus, which left at 8:30 a.m. sharp, despite there being only one other passenger besides us. The driver was extremely talkative, and introduced me as "my Australian friend" to every new passenger we picked up along the way.
Upon our arrival in Línhú, which means "Forest Lake," we tried to hire a three-wheeler, but the driver wanted a staggering 40 yuan (US$ 6), so we decided to walk the roughly two kilometres instead.
We made our way through the interesting little town, past a wineshop, until we reached the small road that exits the town from the northwest corner, and is the only possible route into the confluence. There were so many canals going every which way, it wasn't easy to find the correct way through the maze. There were people living in houseboats on the canals.
Deciding to walk turned out to be a good move, because the walk was very pleasant, especially the second half, which was along a small path shaded by trees, and which would have been too narrow for a three-wheeler.
We saw plenty of interesting things along the way, including quite a number of what looked like little gunships: small flat-bottomed boats each with a large cannon on board. The locals use these to pump water over the banks of the canals into the fields for irrigation.
We also saw two different styles of graves. One type consisted of a cone of dirt a couple of feet tall, topped off with another smaller inverted cone, although the tops of some of the older graves had broken off. The second type of grave was much more elaborate. They were in the shape of miniature houses, and in front of each there was a white tombstone bearing details of the dearly departed. The top of each of these tombstones was adorned with a picture of what looked like a potplant, but probably wasn't.
On our way to the confluence, we also passed by a duck farm and several fish farms. On dry land, there were people out tending fields, which were planted with various different crops.
The confluence was in a field that had recently been prepared for planting. We took the customary GPS and north-south-east-west shots.
There was a guy nearby, tending a fish farm, and he told us that the land on which the confluence is located has been bought by an entrepreneur who intends to turn the area into a tourist spot. Plans are apparently already underway to build a bridge over the canal just west of the confluence, which will connect up this otherwise isolated piece of land with the main road system.
Story continues at 34°N 120°E.