Travel season is again upon us, and eagerly I am perusing train ticket sites. My passport isn't yet back from its annual validation ritual – obtaining a new visa, so, for now, I am only dreaming of all of those far-away places and the people I've been missing for so long.
Shenzhen. I've been there before and have many friends there, some I've yet to meet. Among those there is Martin, a former student. His mother wishes to travel there with me. I will do everything I can to prevent us traveling together, but will be delighted to meet her once I get there.
If you want to know the reason why I am assiduously avoiding traveling with her, please see my previous entry.
And now, Lancy: a dear girl, also a former student, who lives in Dongguan. We've stayed in touch all of these years and I've long wanted to visit her. Her schedule or mine always prevented it. But now, with the whole summer yawning ahead of me... why not?
Well, other than the fact that I wanted to travel north during these hot months. It is quite hot enough in Wuhan during the summer; why go further south for more heat and humidity? Still, a short hop to visit Lancy...
Immediately she took over my travel planning via text message:
“Take the Gao Tie （高铁 ) to Hu Men (虎门）, and then the subway to Dongguan (东莞) train station, and then another train to Zhang Mu Tou (樟木头) and I will meet you at that station.”
“Why can't I just take the train from Wuhan into Dongguan?”
“It will be too complicated for you, and it will take too long.”
Wow. Stop. Too complicated for me? Take too long?
Here we go again with those assuming I am incapable of managing anything on my own (see previous entry). As if that weren't maddening enough, suddenly travel takes too long?
Folks, don't get me wrong: Chinese bullet trains wonderful. They are clean, safe and efficient. When I have to get somewhere quickly, I buy passage on such a train.
I mostly travel for the joy and experience of it. While I agree that speed has its time and place, if I'm traveling for pleasure, I'd rather prolong the journey, not rush from one train station to another as quickly as possible. And pay a higher fare in the process – high-speed rail tickets are substantially more expensive than the overnight trains that I love to ride. I am a budget traveler, after all.
Thus it would seem like a great deal for me that Lancy would reserve and pay for my hotel. Her proclamation of intent to do so immediately set me in shivers. Here's why: she is young, recently married, and doesn't earn much. As I have the funds to travel and visit, I see no reason to strap her financially. Besides, if she would let me cover her expenses when she visits me, under the rules of 'turnabout is fair play', I could easier accept her paying my way. However, that is not the case.
I've long ago learned to nod and agree with those who feel it paramount to 'manage' me with no real understanding of my motives or desires. They get to feel like they've done me a great service, and I get to go about settling things to my liking, with no further meddling. Thus I started looking for train tickets directly from Wuhan to Dongguan.
Apparently, everyone else likes to travel the slow path, too. There was no ticket for a berth on the overnight train available for the next 7 days! There were some seats available but, unless going to Dongguan is a dire emergency, I see no reason to spend sixteen hours, sitting up.
If my travel were a dire emergency, I would take the bullet train.
Now stuck between the promise of visiting and the only possible route to Dongguan suggested by Lancy, I balked. Surely there has got to be a better way than capitulating to high-speed travel plans someone made for me!
And then, I remembered Shenzhen. Last time I visited that city, Lancy met me there. And Martin's mother wishes for us to go to Shenzhen! Surely there could be an easy way to get to Dongguan from Shenzhen, right?
At the risk of sounding pig-headed, I am still not traveling with Martin's mom, sweet and overbearing as she is. I can make my way to Shenzhen by myself, visit with Martin and his mom, and then head to Dongguan – again, unencumbered by anyone who might commandeer my life, find my own hotel and surprise Lancy.
Now, that sounds like a plan!