One could get to Wuhan from Huangshan via Hefei (capital of Anhui Province). The Bullet train from Hefei to Wuhan would speed things up and provide a break from sitting in a bus. We chose to go the direct route by bus, a marathon 8 hour (or so we thought) ride starting at 8 in the morning. The Anhui scenery was pleasant despite the rain (true to forecast). The bus took the freeway route all the way stopping only at service areas and toll gates.
Our GPS capable tablet helped us track our route on the way and it looked like we would make it to Wuhan by 4:30. But it turned out that we had misunderstood the destination of the bus. We knew that Wuhan is actually 3 cities, but we never expected that the bus would terminate in Hankou (crossing the Yangtze River bridge separating it from Wanchang) and that too after a nightmarish crawl through rainy Wuhan. Most passengers got off at some street corner or the other, but we were looking for a long distance bus terminal to continue on to Yichang.
We made it to Hankou by 6 pm (we were the only two remaining on the bus). Our anxious queries were just met with jeers and dismissive gestures by the driver and conductor. Some helpful co-travellers tried to give us an idea on the terminus and how long to get there. Eventually, we did get there in the pouring rain. As we got off and loaded our packs, a tout who had heard us ask about Yichang bid us follow him. We did, but eventually V found out that he was intending to put us on a bus departing at 8 pm which would be too late. But we did well to find the ticket office and get on a 6:30 bus to Yichang.
Arriving at Yichang at 11 pm (15 hours from Huangshan), we walked across the street from the bus terminal to Wonhow Motel (!). Without really intending to bargain, we inadvertently got one. The woman at the check-in counter tried in vain to raise her hand high enough to point to the rate board. The 200 RMB room seemed reasonable and we asked to see the room (can, can?). It was ok, but when she drew up the receipt, we were surprised to see double (we had not imbibed enroute). Oh, no, we said, we thought the 200 was for the room and not per person. As we were about to turn back and walk out into the Yichang night, she rapidly wrote down 160 on a piece of paper and then multiplied it by two. We said 320 is too much as well. To our surprise, her next offer was 160 for the whole room for the two of us. It still doesn't make sense as I type this as to why she gave us a room for 160 when we were prepared to pay 200. There was some confusion over an extra 140, but this turned out to be the standard key deposit that Chinese hotels collect at check-in time to be refunded on check-out. Key theft must be rife in China. (Why?)
None of the brochures at the Wonhow Motel or the nearby Yichang Hotel or Views Hotel were in English. None of the travel agents spoke English. We spoke to 3 of them and got some information on rates and what were included. But we could never be sure due to the language problem. Also went to the ferry ticket counter to find out if we could just tour on our own without a tour company. Eventually, we walked a couple of blocks to find CITS (China International Travel Service). The sign had some other name but they admitted to being CITS when questioned. Fortunately, the staff summoned one of their colleagues from upstairs who could speak some English. We did see a lot of advantages to going on their tour (with guides who can speak a little English, we were told). And so our plan was set.
We explored the street food options in Yichang with a set of onion pancakes as well as custom stir fried vegetables. We had a free afternoon but no place to stay except the lobby of the Wonhow Motel. We used that to good effect to catch up on our Shanghai and Nanjing blogs. Have you read them yet?
Aha - you are heading west and south as I thought. Is Kunming on your itinerary ?? And an overland crossing into Vietnam ?
By the way, since you are headed into the Three Gorges area, I would heartily recommend the book River Town by Peter Hessler - Lovely book that I thoroughly enjoyed. From , on Jun 27, 2012 at 04:42AM
@Ramesh: Yes, you are correct. Our original plan was to head to Sichuan and then to Guilin for overland crossing to Vietnam. But to avoid logistical complications we chose to enter Laos first and then to Vietnam and Cambodia in a clockwise direction. So we had to replace Guilin with Yunnan/Kunming. From, on Jun 27, 2012 at 06:29AM