The country people in the smaller cities, towns and villages are the heart and soul of China with their traditions, beliefs and customs that have been largely unaffected by western influence. A great way to see a different side of China is to visit these smaller of the beaten path towns in the middle of now where, meet some locals and check out their way of life.
Their dialect may be a little hard to understand and don’t expect any English but they are generally friendly, warm, down to earth and great people to meet and share a bowl of rice with. So when a friend invited me to visit his home town called Liao Yuan near Changchun where I live, I jumped at the chance.
Where was Liao Yuan? No idea. Asked around and it was a two hour drive to the south. What kind of place is it? Not a clue. A large town with a couple of factories. How to get there? By bus. Most of the smaller towns don’t have train stations so you get there by long distance buses.
Long Distance Bus Stations
Rural China is crisscrossed by a network of long distance bus routes connected to long distance bus stations or Ke Yun Zhan in Chinese. These long distance bus stations are an essential part of country life and sitting in them for a couple hours waiting for your bus and watching people from all walks of life pass through is a travel experience itself.
They tend to be dusty and non descript with all the travel essentials such as toilets, small shops and basic restaurants in the bigger ones, with entire clans camped on the concourse and small groups scattered around the waiting area playing cards and eating tubs of instant noodles.
The Changchun high speed long distance bus stop was no exception. Buses were leaving every 20 minutes so I bought my ticket, went for a wander and it was time to jump on the Liao Yuan bus.
The drive through the country side on the way to Liao Yuan was enjoyable with plenty of farms, small forests and tiny towns and hamlets along the way. Most passengers drowsed or played with their mobile phones.
Arriving in Liao Yuan is a little confusing because you get dropped off on a large street full of buses with no bus station in sight. The best idea is to follow the crowd who headed to the station which was a few minutes walk away. What is more confusing is that the bus station you catch the bus back to Changchun is not the same one that you arrive at. You need to take a trip to the other side of town.
To be honest, there is not much to do in Liao Yuan apart from eat, climb the local mountain and watch a movie at the local cinema. Liao Yuan has a street full restaurants so we went there for a hot pot which is a local specialty. The food was great (ate too much) and cheap.
After lunch it was time to climb the local mountain which was more like a hill but I did not have the heart to tell my friend. The walk up the hill was quick, easy and enjoyable and there was a delightful little pagoda at the top.
By the time we got back to the car park at the bottom of the hill, it was time to head back to the bus stop and catch the last bus back which left at 4:40pm.
Overall a very enjoyable day with country drives, excellent company, an interesting insight into Liao Yuan, delicious food and an refreshing walk up a small mountain with height issues.