My Favourite Commute: Ground Level Guangzhou

For the first in a new series, Talk Wellington’s Project Manager reminisces…


“Ni hao!” the old lady at the bus stop cheerfully greets me. She launches into a stream of swift something-or-other. Well, it’s Mandarin, but my Mandarin is limited to getting myself home in a taxi when I’m drunk. I smile widely, nod enthusiastically, and say “Ting bu dong” (“I don’t understand”) a few too many times.

I lived in Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city (and the one that no one’s ever heard of), for three and a half years. I taught English, did voice recording work, got into the poetry scene, and eventually ended up as editor-in-chief of a magazine. For the better part of those years I used the metro system. It was incredible. Clean, always on time, well thought out, fabulous when it wasn’t busy, but jam-packed at (c)rush hour a vile experience of fighting to get in and out of the carriage.


Ugh. I remember it well.


By the time I was working for the magazine, I’d moved to a leafy suburb (they do exist) and had enough of the subterranean stresses. It was a 10-minute walk to the nearest station, two stops before changing lines (which also involved a few minutes of walking), and then a 10-minute walk at the other end. It was taking me an hour and I was miserable.

Then I noticed a bus on the road outside my office. It went straight to my ‘burb! I couldn’t believe it. I’d spent so much time underground that I hadn’t realised the overground route to my office was way more direct.


Delightful Dongshankou


Five stops. That’s it. Five stops around 20 minutes even in the worst traffic and a much more comfortable experience. The route took us across the river; it was beautiful, it was serene, it was the perfect start to my day.

I lost myself in daydreams on that bus. I talked to God on that bus. I had old women touching my stomach assuming my belly was a pregnant one (“No, I’m just fat!” I would tell them) and ushering me to a seat on that bus.

I loved it. I loved waking up slightly earlier to catch the 7:10 to avoid the crowds of the 7:25. I loved that I felt like I’d achieved something I’d figured out the mysteries of the bus and was truly native!

I’ve been in Wellington for the same amount of time that I was in China. I’m settled here; I’m not planning on moving countries again. But that bus ride. That bus ride will remain my favourite commute.



Do you have a magical bus ride memory?

Email us your favourite commute story to feature on Talk Wellington!



Picture credits

Cover image CC by Kate Spencer

Crowded metro image CC by Payment Week

Dongshankou image CC by Travel News GD


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