One of my best purchases in Dalian so far has been my bus card. This handy little piece of plastic fits in my wallet, and as soon as I hop on a bus, all I have to do is tap it against the automatic sensor and it deducts the appropriate fare (1 or 2 RMB). Before I had a card I was always digging around in my wallet for spare change, which was a huge nuisance considering how often I ride the bus.
The bus system can take me pretty much anywhere I need to go. Margaret discovered that Google maps can give directions using the public bus routes, which has been a huge help when we’re trying to get somewhere new. The nearest bus stop is a stone throw’s away from my apartment. It services two different bus lines (26 and 3), and a little further down the street there’s another stop with another line (901).
The bus stop signs are all very clearly labeled– one side has all of the stops written in Chinese, and on the other side there is an English translation. I’m extremely directionally-challenged, but even I can make my way around Dalian fairly easily. The best part about some of the Dalian bus stops are what I affectionately call the “butt rests.” These are simply curved pieces of metal that are just the right height for your butt to rest on while you wait for the bus. Genius! (Eric models one below.)
Butt rests come in handy because the bus schedule is unpredictable. Sometimes a bus won’t come for ten to twenty minutes, and other times three busses will all arrive at the same time. The busses range from being practically empty to i-can’t-breathe-there-is-no-more-room-on-this-bus-stop-shoving-me! Sometimes to get on a crowded bus, you have to squeeze your way on. I’ve learned pretty quickly how to push and shove with even the most aggressive Chinese grandmas. Just when you think you couldn’t possibly fit anybody else on the bus, add about ten more people, and then the bus driver will finally close the doors and drive off.
Dalian also has a light rail that is very modern and slightly faster than busses when there’s lots of traffic. A subway system is under construction in Dalian and should be ready in 2012. Apparently the lady below really wanted to catch the train!
Motorcycles are fairly popular, but to me the most fascinating part is that they all seem to sport the same fashionable crocheted seat cover. I have no explanation for why this is the case. Most motorcycles also have huge fur-lined gloves (hand muffs?) attached to the handles to keep the drivers’ hands toasty despite the winter wind.
There are several other popular modes of transportation in Dalian, but I’ll wait until I have pictures to explain those.