Getting Lost the Right Way on a Scenic Ride Around the City
To experience a new kind of adventure in Hangzhou, follow Hannah as she goes for a ride on the public bus system. The rules are easy. The road? Not so much.
The Game: Get lost in Hangzhou
The Materials: A bus card/loose change, dice (1), lots of patience
- Start at any subway station in Hangzhou.
- Count the subway exits, assign each exit a number value, and roll the dice to choose which one to take.
- Count the bus stops at that exit, assign each stop a number value, and roll the dice to choose which one to go to.
- Take the first bus that arrives.
- Roll the dice.
- Take however many stops were rolled, then get off.
- Repeat steps 4-6 until satisfied.
NOTE: For best results, avoid rush hour! (Usually 7am-10am; 4pm-7pm).
11:30 am: Start out of the Wulin Square metro station. As close to empty as the Hangzhou metro gets. I count two exits. Decide that if I roll an even, I’ll take Exit B. An odd, Exit E.
11:31 am: Even. Exit B it is then.
11:33 am: Count 5 bus stops out of Exit B. I number them 1-5, and then roll the dice. Roll a 2. Exit the subway to find the bus stop called: 轮船码头 (lun chuan ma tou).
11:45 am: Ask a shop owner where the bus stop is and find out that I walked right past it. As it turns out, I don’t even need this game to get lost in Hangzhou.
11:46 am: Bus 32 arrives. I roll the dice: 4 stops.
11:50 am: Bus 32 veers off of Tianmushan Road, and I soon have no idea where I am. (Read: bad at directions). A rainbow-colored building houses a marketplace underneath. The bus goes under a large bridge, and passes the silk market. Decide to revisit it sometime.
12:10 pm: Get off at 大学路北口 (da xue lu bei kou). It feels like a different Hangzhou than the one at Wulin Square. Aiyis debate in dialect over which bus to take. A few point at my plastic container with dice in it. It’s fine: I’m a laowai: even at my most normal of times, I’m still a sight.
12:13 pm: Bus 401 arrives. I see the words “下沙” in the route, which is a faraway district I used to work in. I roll a 5. To Xiasha?
12:20 pm: Bus 401 rolls along the road, passing an old city wall with crenalations and moss all over the brick. The road’s too bumpy for photos. Other passengers: a woman knitting either a scarf or a very modest loincloth, and a man with a white burlap sack.
12:25 pm: We pass Sir Run Run Shaw, which is by 青春广场 (Qing chun guang chang)and a massive church. At the stoplight, we wait for a bulldozer to clank along the crosswalk. As you do.
12:27 pm: I get off at 凤起东路顺福路口 (feng qi dong lu shun fu lu kou). 3/5 buses are night buses. The 401 is also there, as well as route 1601, which is in a different color. I don’t plan on taking the same bus again if I can help it, and hope for the best.
12:28 pm: The best. A small, tan minibus arrives with “1601” flashing on the front. A residential route, with me as its only passenger. I roll a 6.
12:30 pm: Get a Wechat message from a friend: “Hannah, where are you?” Lol, I have no idea.
12:34 pm: Route 1601 reaches its final station after 2 stops. I get off after we pass what looks like a white-washed version of Sauron’s tower from Lord of the Rings. There’s only one bus at this stop, Route 66. The bus driver stoops on the curb until the next Route 66 arrives and he can start his shift. “Is this the right one?” I ask him. He nods and waves toward the door. I get on and roll a 2.
12:40 pm: The neighborhood has red papers flaking off of the walls and trees painted onto the sides. As Route 66 passes, I see bamboo peeking through the buildings. The driver, likewise, peeks from around his seat to see if I want to get off. Not yet.
12:45pm: Reach the second stop and get off. Route 66 is the only bus at the stop, which happens to be a small park. Decide to take a short break from bus-riding and go for a walk.
(NOTE: I recommend taking a break every hour/whenever you strongly desire to get off: otherwise the game loses its charm).