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Hezhou, buying a bus ticket

Hezhou, buy a bus ticket, it can't be difficult. Right? Wrong! During one of my first visits to China buying tickets for bus or train were serious exercises. Buying a ticket was a time consuming thing, even if you spoke Chinese, which I didn't.

The road from Hezhou to Langmusi

The road from Hezhou to Langmusi in February,
on the lower right side... the bus drives away....

Some of the time I had help from very friendly local Chinese people who were willing to get me a ticket or at least tell the people at the counter what I exactly wanted. But this was Hezhou, a little town in Gansu, north China.

It was an early morning when I arrived in Hezhou from Xiahe and Labrang Monastery. I had left without any problems and without any warning Linxia and after a few hours in the bus I arrived in Hezhou. As it was only 11am or so, I decided to buy a bus ticket to the next destination: Langmusi.

As I was already at the bus station this couldn't be too difficult. I got out of the bus and went inside the ugly greyish building. I saw the counter and there were some people buying tickets. The row wasn't very long so it was soon my turn. I showed them the name of the town I wanted to go to but instead the woman behind the glass said: "meio".

Meio, the most feared word in those days in China. In fact it means only "no" but usually after a meio nothing else was possible. In this case it was slightly different. With an angry face the woman explained in broken English I needed a permit for traveling in this part of China and she would only sell me a ticket if I had a permit. I could buy a permit in an office at the other side of the road.

Hezhou, the Tibetan temple

Ticket for the Tibetan temple in Hezhou

No problem I thought, I went to the office. A few guys were reading newspapers but they too told me they couldn't sell me something. If I wanted a permit, I needed a bus ticket! Rules were rules. One of the guys went with me to the bus station to help me out in buying the bus ticket but at the bus station they were stubborn. No permit, no ticket.

Langmusi village
Langmusi village

The officer who joined me stood there and told me if they wouldn't want me a ticket, he couldn't sell me a permit! He shook my hand and walked away!

In other words, you could only get a bus ticket with a permit, and to get a permit, you needed a bus ticket!

So here I was, in Hezhou, I couldn't go anywhere, not even back to Linxia! So, what to do? The first thing was to find a hotel. That was easy, near the bus station was an ugly building were I could get a room.

Hezhou was quite a big city. When I was in the bus I had seen a monastery just at the outskirts of town. So I decided to visit this. It would kill some time and in the morning I would see how it would go on.

Langmusi Village

The bus

The next morning I was at 6am at the bus station. There was only one minibus available. I asked some people and this was indeed the bus to Langmusi. Now I needed a ticket. As expected I was not able to buy one so I decided to play the same game: being fundamentally stupid.

One of the  monasteries in Langmusi
One of the monasteries in Langmusi.

I went to the bus and got me a seat and waited. Sooner or later someone would come to check the tickets. 10 minutes later two woman came in the bus to check tickets.

Monastery in Langmusi

They tried to convince me to buy a ticket in the bus station but knowing this would only lead me another day in the city, I played stupid. Their questions about piao (ticket) I answered with a big smile, wanted to give them money which they refused (as expected too).

Langmusi village
Langmusi village

A while later the driver came in and told me: "you buy ticket". I said:"sure, how much?" Y50 he said which was more then 5 times the price. We bargained a bit and gave him Y9, Y1 more then the ticket price and I was happy, I was able to continue my journey.


The bus drove out of town. It was cold, around zero C. The road out of town was white of snow. On my left and right I saw just mountains. In front the road went on forever, it seemed. Hours passed, the road was mostly but on both sides the mountains were still there.

Langmusi, Gansu Province

Hour after hour passed. It must have been around 12 when the bus stopped. Some Tibetans got out. I didn't understood it as we seemed to be in no mans land. Not a house, let alone a village was to be seen.

It was the moment of victory of the driver. Slowly he turned around and with a big smile he said: "this Langmusi, you get out!" (and everyone else in the bus looked at me... what's the crazy man going to do?).

Monks on the way to the prayer hall

Remember, there's nothing around, no village, we'd seen no traffic on the road and all I have with me is a small backpack because my big bag had been stolen in Xining.

Street life in Langmusi

Now what to do? Get out and wait in the cold with no village and only snow as company? Well, there were anyway about 10 Tibetans too. So there should be something in the area. I went out, shook the drivers' hand and the bus left.

Langmuisi, around the monastery

During the hours passed I had not seen any vehicle passing us. This road was completely empty! And here I was, in No Mans Land, with 10 Tibetans. The guys were smiling. I had no clue what to do, wait for another bus? Maybe.

One of the monasteries and the Mosque of Langmusi
One of the monasteries and the Mosque of Langmusi

After about 15 minutes a little tractor showed up. It had a loader behind. The Tibetans jumped on and waved me in too. Not having much choice I joined, There was a little gravel road a bit further on. The tractor went on the road and moved away from the main road. Behind the hill I saw it, the town I had been looking for: Langmusi.

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