Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Baoguo Village and Teddy Bear Hotel

Baoguo Village is basically the base camp for Mount Emei. This is the location where the bus station to Emei Shan is situated. It is also the home of Teddy Bear Hotel but where is Baoguo Village?

In my original plan, I would travel from Xinnanmen Bus Station in Chengdu to Leshan City in the morning to visit Leshan Giant Buddha. After the visit, I would travel to Baoguo Village in the afternoon and stay overnight in Teddy Bear Hotel. Early the next morning, I would go to Mount Emei and stay another night at Teddy Bear if I like Mount Emei. However, I was not sure how I could get to Baoguo Village from Leshan City. Which bus station in Leshan City should I go to? Were there regular buses and where do I get off to find Teddy Bear Hotel? How do I get to Mount Emei from Teddy Bear Hotel? This was information which I could not find on the web.

Fortunately, I found some information at Traffic Inn. At the lobby/ reading corner, I found flyers from Teddy Bear Hotel, with instructions to guests on how to get to Teddy Bear Hotel from Leshan City and Emei Shan City. You can find the same information on Teddy Bear Hotel website at http://www.teddybear.com.cn/faq_en.htm. I did not know about this website until I saw the flyers.

As a summary, visitors going to Teddy Bear Hotel should go to Baoguo Village. From Emei Shan City Bus Station, take a taxi to Baoguo Village. You can also take an unlicensed shared van (mian bao che) for RMB5 per passenger but it is at your own risks. I am not sure whether there are buses going into Baoguo Village but the bus from Baoguo Village Bus Station to Leshan Xiaoba Bus Station that I took stopped at Emei Shan City bus station for a minute or two to pick up passengers. It is possible the same is true for buses coming in the opposite direction.

For those coming from Leshan City, they should take the bus from Leshan Xiaoba Bus Station to Baoguo Village. I understand there were two other bus stations so make sure you are the right bus station.

Baoguo Village has just one main street, stretching from the village square to the entrance archway. After your taxi or bus enters the entrance archway, you would see a row of shop houses on the left. Teddy Bear Hotel lies one block before Baoguo Bus Station but because it does not face the main street, you are likely to miss it. It is at a side street.

Wherever you are dropped off in Baoguo Village, you would not get lost. From end to end, it is only about five minutes' walk. Just stay on the main street and watch out for the Bus Station. Teddy Bear Hotel is just one block away, between the bus station and the entrance archway.

The direction map from Teddy Bear Hotel. Click to enlarge
The relative positions of Emei Shan City and Baoguo Village. Click to enlarge the map
Click to enlarge
The following is a sequence of photos, starting from Baoguo Village Square until the Baoguo Village entrance archway.

This is the main street in Baoguo Village.

I bought my steamed buns here

Behind the building is the bus parking area

You might miss Teddy Bear from the main road as it is on a side street

Teddy Bear Hotel

I must really applaud Andy and his team for providing such excellent service to its guests. True to its promise of assisting guests in finding the hotel, Bella who worked at the reception came on foot to my rescue when I called. The tout whose van I boarded had decided to take me to another hostel even though I told him I wanted to go to Teddy Bear Hotel.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Traffic Inn and Xinnanmen Bus Station

Xinnanmen is known as the "Tourists Distribution Center" while Traffic Inn is a popular backpacker hostel in Chengdu. For backpackers, these are a perfect match, a cheap place to stay with English speaking staff and close to the bus station with destinations to all the popular attractions such as Jiuzhaigou, Mount Emei, Leshan Giant Buddha, Dujiangyan Irrigation System, Mount Qingcheng, etc. These are all World Heritage Sites.

Before my trip to Chengdu, I had been searching for detail information about them. There was hardly any useful material on them in English. I had wanted to know their relative locations as I was wondering whether I need to take a taxi to travel between the two locations or they were located close to each other such that I could easily reach one from the other on foot.

I was also wondering whether they were in an isolated part of Chengdu that finding eateries would be a chore or they were located in a busy area with plenty of places to find my meals. These were unanswered questions before my trip to Chengdu.

This post is to help those who has booked into Traffic Inn know more about the surrounding area, including Xinnanmen Bus Station.

Traffic Inn is not Traffic Hotel
I read confusing articles concerning Traffic Inn and Traffic Hotel. There was an article saying that Traffic Hotel was its former name and has now been renamed as Traffic Inn. There were also articles saying that Traffic Hotel is distinct from Traffic Inn, giving the impression that they were at two differing locations. The implication of this is the taxi drivers might send their passengers to the wrong destinations because of the confusing names.

Traffic Inn and Traffic Hotel are in fact two separate building at the same location, linked together by a short staircase and walkway. Traffic Inn building lies behind Traffic Hotel but its reception office is visible as you walk to the main entrance of Traffic Hotel.

Traffic Inn

I stayed in private rooms without an adjoining bathroom. On the three occasions I booked into Traffic Inn, i.e. on arrival from Kuala Lumpur, after coming back from Jiuzhaigou and after coming back from Baoguo Village, I stayed in three different rooms. The rooms were all on the ground floor. Electric blanket was provided on the third occasion but the air conditioner was not working properly. There was no hot air. The shared bathrooms and toilets were outside the accommodation area. This was my first experience staying in rooms without a bathroom.

Traffic Inn phone number was +862885450470 and the email address was traffic.nihao@gmail.com. The website was http://www.trafficinnhostel.com.

The hostel provides free wifi.

Relative Location of Traffic Inn to Xinnanmen Bus Station

(Click to enlarge)

Traffic Inn lies on Linjiang Zhong Lu (Zhong Lu = Middle Road). Its address was given as No. 6 Middle Linjiang Road ( 武侯区临江中路6号) in my hotel booking confirmation slip.  The gps location was Latitude 30.64513, Longitude 104.07270 (N 030° 38.708, E 104° 4.362).

Xinnanmen Bus Station parking lot is next to Traffic Inn. There was only a brick wall to separate these two addresses. I did not know this at first. On the morning after my arrival, I went in search of Xinnanmen Bus Station. Just as I walked out to Linjiang Middle Road from Traffic Inn and upon turning right, I saw buses inside the compound of Fiesta Thai, a Thai Restaurant. At an adjacent lot, there were many buses there. I walked into the parking lot through the entrance (which was also an entrance to Fiesta Thai), thinking that was the entrance to Xinnanmen ticket office. After lingering around for a while looking for the ticketing office, I left when I could not find it.

To find the Xinnanmen ticket office, turn right at Linjiang Middle Road as you exit from Traffic Inn/ Hotel. As you walked past the bus parking lot, you would see the side of a big modern building without entrance on your right. Through the glass wall, you could see people inside. That's the Xinnanmen Station passenger waiting/ departure hall. Continue walking until you reach the road junction and there, right next to you on the right would be the entrance to Xinnanmen ticket office and the passenger waiting/ departure hall.

Xinnanmen bus station also has an Information Counter with an English speaking officer at the waiting/ departure hall. It has left luggage facilities too, though I did not use it. In the same building to the left of the entrance was the Chengdu Tourist Information Centre. From there, you can get a free tourist map with both Chinese and English written on it. The young officers manning the counter speak better English than most Chinese.

Xinnanmen Bus Station
It has long distant buses to all major tourist destinations. It was the reason why I chose to stay at a hostel close by, in this case Traffic Inn.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

I have read posting from bloggers saying that they needed help to buy the bus tickets when they queued up in the wrong line at Xinnanmen. Communicating with the ticketing clerks to explain the requests was next to impossible.

Queuing up in the wrong line was either a thing of the past or not true. You can queue up at any line (except the right-most line which was for "return ticket") to buy your tickets to any destinations because the whole ticketing system is computerised. In addition, you can buy the tickets in advance too. In my case, I bought my one-way Jiuzhaigou ticket three days in advance. If you just mention the destination to the ticketing clerk, she would assume that it is for the same day travel and for the next bus leaving the station. For destinations with frequent buses such as Luodai, the time stated is not the departure time of your bus but the departure time of the last bus. Using this ticket, you can take any bus any time up to the last departing bus. I learnt this lesson myself when I got confused with the departure time stated on the ticket to Luodai. Compare my tickets to Jiuzhaigou and Luodai.

If you need help reading the ticket, go to the waiting/ departure hall where an Information counter is located. Try to ask the less-than-friendly officer on duty to help. She might speak some English, just enough to help you understand.

The security procedure at Xinnanmen was not as strict as those at Chengdu North Railway Station. After getting your ticket, proceed to the passenger waiting/ departure hall to the left after coming out from the ticket office (directly in front of the main entrance). If you are carrying baggage, you will need to have it screened like at the airport. Then, proceed to the gate stated on your ticket and wait. When you see fellow passengers proceeding to the gate close to departure time, say 10 minutes, just follow them. If it is not your bus, the ticket inspectors manning the gate will stop you and ask you to wait. Just don't feel embarrass when you are stopped. I was embarrassed three times at the Leshan Bus Station while returning to Chengdu. Luckily, I have thick skin, toughened over the years. Once you are through the gate, follow others and go to your bus and take your seat. If no seat number is assigned, you can sit anywhere, just not the seat beside the driver. That seat is reserved for the conductor.

For public buses returning to Xinnanmen, the drivers would stop at a bus stop nearest to Xinnanmen Bus Station and not at the station itself.

On most of my trips, the buses stopped at the bus stop close to ABC Bank at Linjiang East Road. On the map, I marked it as S1. These happened with the buses arriving from Huanglongxi and Luodai. In the case of the bus arriving from Mei Shan, it stopped near Home Inn at the end of Shiqi Street. The only bus that stopped very near to Xinnanmen (or rather to Traffic Inn) was the bus arriving from Jiuzhaigou (or was it from Leshan? I could not remember!).

Vicinities of Traffic Inn and Xinnanmen Bus Station
During my stay at Traffic Inn, I would always walk to Shiqi Street to look for my breakfast and dinner. South F North N Restaurant, the steamed bun shop, the Muslim Lanzhou La Mian shop, Wonton King Dumpling King Restaurant and the street vendors were all located here. So was the pharmacy where I bought the Hong Jing Tian traditional medicine to prevent high altitude sickness. There were convenient shops, gift shops and hotels here too.

If you want to catch a taxi to Jinli Street, Kuanzhaixiangzi Alley, etc., you should wait at the side entrance to Xinnanmen Station, which I marked as X2 on the map. Taxis arriving at Xinnanmen Bus Station would drop and pick up passengers here. Flagging down a taxi on the main road would be an utterly wasteful effort. Taxis on the road would 95% of the time be carrying passengers.

If you intend to take the subway or MRT to Tianfu Square, North Railway stations or Wenshu Monastery or other destinations on the MRT Line 1 and Line 2, you should turn left after exiting to the main road (Linjiang Middle Road) from Traffic Inn. Walk until you reach the first bridge you see (on Renmin South Road). Then, turn right and walk straight along Renmin South Road until you see the Jinjiang Hotel C1 Entrance. It is barely 50 meters away past Minshan Hotel. There is another entrance designated as C2 Entrance a little further away. These entrances are on the Minshan Hotel side of Renmin South Road. On the Jinjiang Hotel side of the road, the entrance is designated as B Entrance. Just walk on the pavement. You wouldn't miss them because they are right on the pavement.

Buses numbered 303 are parked on the side street beside Minshan Hotel. 50 metres further away is the MRT C1 Entrance. On the other side of Minshan Hotel are a few tourist agencies housed in the CITS building.

Both Minshan Hotel and Jinjiang Hotel MRT Entrance C1 are about 10 - 15 minutes on foot from Traffic Inn.