Sleeper Bus from Shanghai
Never, ever, if you value your sanity, take a sleeper bus from Shanghai to Xuzhou! We had a nightmarish, "squashy" ride to kick off our Qingming Festival holiday trip in April 2009.
The bus took on a host of extra passengers by the roadside after we left the main long-distance bus station in Shanghai. Needless to say these passengers and the driver were trying to save on money by not buying official tickets at the long-distance bus station. Since we were one of the last to board the bus at the station (and since everyone just took places anywhere they liked regardless of what was printed on the ticket), my 2 friends ended up side-by-side on the upper level at the back, and I got the lousiest space ever possible on a sleeper bus: at the very back and in the middle!
The extra passengers (from what I could see, all migrant workers) all crowded to the back and the ticket guy on the bus started asking them to pay for their ride. To my indignation, he kept asking me (in some strange dialect, but we could all figure out what he was talking about) to pay for my ride, even when I told him many times in no uncertain tones that I got on at the station with an official ticket! Had to yell extremely furiously at him before he reluctantly left me alone, though I'm sure he still thought I was cheating him out of his "deserved" money.
Well, that wasn't the end of our troubles. This particular long-distance bus was actually terminating somewhere in Shandong province, further north. Thankfully I had asked about the time and location that we were supposed to arrive at, in Xuzhou, as we had to inform our CouchSurfing host in advance. We were told that we would arrive perhaps around midnight or a bit after, at "somewhere near the train station". Very clear indeed! In the end we ended up being dumped unceremoniously somewhere in Xuzhou (thankfully, apparently not too far from town) at around 0230! Taxis were waiting for passengers and we got a ride to Carrefour (where our CouchSurfing host stayed, in the middle of town) for 10 RMB.
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No English Spoken
If you're visiting Xuzhou for the first time, you probably will find the problem of communication. Since Xuzhou is not a large city in China (and not as accessible to foreigners as Beijing or Shanghai), many locals do not speak English. It would be best to have a tour guide who speaks Chinese. If not, try your best to communicate to your taxi driver where you want to go (point to a location on your map or write down the location in Chinese). There are not many westerners or foreign tourists in Xuzhou (but that does NOT mean you can't go!).
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