We woke up to piano music coming from the courtyard below our window. The sun was shining through the curtains of our window- it felt like the first time we’d seen the sun in days!
We packed an checked out of the hotel, leaving our bags behind to go for breakfast. We went to go have yoghurt topped with mango for breakfast. We had seen many places advertising it the day before. We each got a small bowl for 12¥, but it left us wanting. So, we went into a stationary cafe next to the river and ordered a Mandeling coffee with green tea cheese cake.
The coffee was really strong and the cake was tasteless and had the texture of creamy jello. After adding 3 coffee mates to my coffee, I resorted to diluting it with water… I can’t wait to get back to my americano and croissant at the Common!
Despite the disappointing drinks and cake, we enjoyed the ambience of the cafe. They had post-it notes and train tickets all over the walls from people who had passed through, lamps in crevasses in the cafe and little wooden table and chairs, with Nora Jones was playing on the speakers.
By Day 2 in Fenghuang, I found the smells of the city intolerable. The garbage, the sewers, the cured meat, and smell of urine on the streets made me want to wretch. Whenever I passed a cured meat shop, I had to discretely hold my sleeve up to my nose- I couldn’t take it! Although the city was small, I felt as if it smelled 10x worse than any large city I’d been too.
We spent the rest of our time in Fenghuang walking around taking pictures. We bought some kiwi wine and a thank you card for the receptionist who had helped us so much at the hostel and have it to him when we went to pick up our luggage. He was very surprised and reciprocated with a can of Coke and an orange drink from the hostel fridge.
We walked to the South Gate of the city to catch a taxi to the bus station. We took one bus to Huaihua then another to Zhi Jiang.
Bus to Zhi Jang took us through all sorts of little farming villages where it would pick up and drop people off at the side of the dirt road. We had to sit at the front as our legs were too long in fit in the regular seats. It amazed me that the driver constantly passed cars and scooters on the road- even when going around a bend.
All the farmers seemed to be burning things in their fields at this time of night. I had noticed it around Yangshuo, but not to this extent. I wasn’t sure if it was fog or collected smoke that hazed the landscape after awhile. There were also lots of gondolas on the water and big ghostly boats with extensive machinery on them, but looked forlorn and abandoned on the placid green water with the fog around them.
We were feeling a bit concerned as we neared Zhi Jiang as it didn’t look like the type of place that would have an airport and there were no signs for it either. Nicole asked the girl sitting behind her about the airport and was told to get off at the next bus stop as the airport was only a 10 minute walk away. So, we did just that.
We were dropped off in what looked like the middle of nowhere. In the fog and the growing dark, we could differentiate a construction site to our left and farmers fields to our right. As for what was up ahead, we could not tell due to the fog.
What was suppose to be a 10 minute walk turned out to be more than double. With some reassuring gestures from pedestrians we asked along the way, we eventually found ourselves on an air base. It too was dark but we followed cars to a small terminal that was hidden around a bend.
Once there, Nicole inquired about our tickets. Apparently all we needed was the text the booking company had sent Nicole and our passports. It was quite straight forward. We went and sat in the airport cafe where I had a Mongolian milk tea and Nicole and I shared a box of chicken salad flavoured chips.
Security was a breeze. When our flight was called, we waited until the last few passengers approached the gate before heading up. However, when Nicole went to get her ticket, it wasn’t there!
Nicole looked everywhere: her wallet, her pockets, her bags, but her ticket was no where to be found. All the other passengers had boarded the plane by now, and the tarmac was empty except for two airport staff, standing there waiting for us. Frantic we’d miss our flight home, I searched through my belongings, checked the washroom and waiting room floor… but still no ticket!
After a few phone calls, an attendant ran up with a green card with a number scrawled across it. This permitted Nicole to board the plane- we were so relieved! Thank goodness this had happened at a small airport!
On board the plane, we got a free box of Chinese desserts and a tetra-pak of Wanglaoji Herbal Tea to enjoy on the flight. Nicole and I both ate what looked like a brownie and saved our teas for later. I had encouraged Nicole to take some of my cold-symptom medication for the flight, which sent Nicole right to sleep, leaving me worried that I’d rendered the only person who could get us home helpless!
The descent into Guangzhou was beautiful with all the lights aglow in the darkness. I was particularly intrigued by what looked like various roofs or land masses lit up by tightly knit Christmas lights everywhere. Either than was the fashion here or it had a purpose that was skewed by the distance.
The landing was smooth, just like the take-off. In my mind, I’d planned out a plan to get us home while studying Nicole’s Mandarin phrase book, but fortunately, once we landed Nicole was awake! Nicole and I picked up our bags and went to the bus service station to inquire about buses to Dongguan. The next bus home was in two hours, but Nicole met a couple in line who were willing to split a taxi with us, so we hopped in a cab with them instead.