I arrived in Changchun at dusk with no hotel booked. . . Long story.
Then, to spike the adrenalyn, the huge railway station was undergoing massive construction. Despite wanting to go to the South side, we were all funnelled out to the North with no option to turn back. “Too far, too far!” I was told when asking how to walk through or around the station.
“Is that too far in Chinese or Kiwi walking distance?” I wondered, stubbornly declining to catch the bus someone had kindly directed me too.
On asking yet another passerby, a lovely young girl with less English than my Mandarin, and explaining in the end that I had no hotel but had a start point in mind on the other side of the station, this angel in disguise kicked into full gear. She rang hotels, grabbed me by the arm and made me get on that bus. It was only on trying to push money into her hand that I realised “feiji” meant “free!”.
The bus, packed to the roof in rush hour and with me hovering on the edge of a seat with my big pack still on my back and my wallet and water bottle swinging around, launched off into the traffic chaos. It seemed to go off onto this highway and that underpass and several times, tired from my long journey, I asked my angel where we were on the map. Where was I being taken? Who can you trust? Was she working alone?!!
Finally the bus arrived on the South side and I recognised my originally planned hotel of first enquiry. My angel knew I wanted a cheap hotel though, and close to the station, so we visited three or four before one accepted me, and me it, paying more than I planned but not wanting to keep this poor girl all night.
Fengfeng invited me to her house that night for dinner, and the next day, and I feel terrible that I declined. I planned to quickly visit the Imperial Palace in the morning then train straight out to Harbin.
As my hotel formalities were being attended to, Fengfeng disappeared into the night without even an exchange of contact details, just with a surprised but heartfelt thank you from me.
The name Fengfeng (assuming I heard it right!) will always be lucky for me! I slept soundly feeling a little sheepish and very very grateful.
To top off a lucky visit to Changchun, after visiting the Imperial Palace the next day I walked leisurely back to the hotel thinking I had all the time in the world to catch my train, my hotel being practically on the station forecourt.
I had a snack, sat for a bit, grabbed my pack and went off in search of my train. Slight catch, noticed too late on my ticket, my train left from the North side!!
At least I knew how to get there now and I queued in a long line for the free bus, watching time ticking by… I literally ran across the huge station forecourt, pack bouncing and Tevas plopping, and almost yelled at the security attendant to find the train gate….
I got to the gate five mins before departure and the ticket lady blocked my path. “Late”. “No, five minutes! I can go!!” I replied starting to wind up into full traveller fighting mode!! “No,” she said, “Late. Train late.” “Not late! Huh? Train late?!!”. The train was delayed half an hour!!
I took a seat in the waiting area, puffing and amused, and looked around for Fengfeng.