(note: I'm sure you can go cheaper on some of these things since I booked private rooms rather than dorms. I've done dorms before but I personally wanted the extra security of having my own room for storing stuff and washing clothes without getting in anyone else's way.)
- Trains. I booked an 8 hour train from Zhuzhou to Guangzhou and it cost me about 91RMB since I paid for a hard seat. You can take a fast train and the ride would be about 3 hours but if I remember correctly, it's about 300RMB. Of course, that's to sit. Since it's a 3 hour ride you could probably pay for standing room and get a better price. I'm looking at a soft sleeper seat for the 24 hour ride back from Kunming to Zhuzhou and that's going to be 509.5RMB. I think hard seats on that train go for 198 but I'd have to double check that. But out of a combination of curiosity and the realization that I will be on that train for 24 hours, I do want the chance to ride soft sleeper at least once. I'm catching another train from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, and I'm planning on getting a train from Shenzhen to Kunming. The Shenzhen one is looking to be about 29 hours long, which I'm not thrilled about but it's cheaper than flying and trying to find a place to stay so it'll save me some and I can bring bao and noodles onto the train since I know how long it'll take this time instead of mishearing others.
- Buses. I know I'll need at least one bus to get to YuanYang since it's not a big city and it'll take at least another 20 yuan after arriving to get to the village I'm looking for. Then I'll need to work my way back to Kunming to catch my train. The bus costs 136RMB one way, and another 20 yuan to catch a bus to DuoYiShu (which I've heard leaves when it's full, but I've also heard it can be easier to try arranging other transportation with people instead of waiting for the bus).
- Boats. I'm taking one boat to Shenzhen from Macau and I think it's about 210MOP (Macau Pataca), roughly 163RMB. The boat to Macau from HK is about 121RMB/151Hong Kong Dollars.
- Accomodation. Hong Kong and Macau are pretty pricey, but Hong Kong seems to have more budget options than Macau so you can play with what you want a little bit more. After going through the cost of staying in the two SARs, Kunming seemed much cheaper than it had initially (though a private room at Cloudland is costing me about 500RMB for 5 nights). For staying in Guangzhou at a Youth Hostel for a week, I paid about 1000yuan. Yep. Pricey. But staying in Macau cost even more and I'm not staying there for a whole week (I've resisted using my American account in just about every case except this one because it would have wiped out what I saved in China whereas the exchange rate means my other account covers it for sure). YuanYang would have been pretty cheap but the prices nearly triple over night with the spring festival (150RMB for one night, and 380 per night for the other 3 nights because it's during the new year). It's a 7 hour bus ride from Kunming so I can't really take a day trip there either. But I can't say I've traveled to the more rural areas much so it'll be a nice change from the cities. And I've looked at the pictures of the rice terraces and they look pretty spectacular and the room I'm booking is supposed to be in a good area for catching sunrises too.
- Food. Food will be a light affair but given that this is China the street food is always a fun and wild adventure anyway. And Guangdong seems to have a reputation even among the Chinese for loving food. So I guess I'll be getting a lesson in the hundreds of kinds of bao and noodles one can eat over the course of a month. And barbecued goods, though I've been warned about avian flu too so bao might be safer. If I want fancy things like McDonalds or Pizza Hut, I can do that when I get back to Zhuzhou (though even Burger King is cheaper than Pizza Hut).
Leaving out Macau because I'm not paying that with my earning since I got here, I'll be paying roughly what I'll have when I leave: 5,800. So I guess one month's stipend is covering my rooms and one month is covering my travels. What's left is going to feed me. So is this expensive? Yes. Is this crazy? Yes, but for all I see and all the madness of finals it's looking pretty good right now. And my head is buzzing with the idea of seeing the 70 surfing arhats in Kunming, the rice terraces in Yuanyang, the diaolou in Kaiping, Sun Yat Sen's hometown of ZhongShan, the kiln in Foshan, seeing Hong Kong (though that was never really on my list, if I'm in looking at Guangzhou and Macau I might as well go) and Bruce Lee's ancestral home (his father was a Cantonese opera performer), Macau's architecture (and food), and I guess just the chance to see another side of China since I usually spend my weekends passed out after teaching. I might spend quite a bit of what I saved, but I also saved it with the knowledge that I wanted to travel so I guess it's just going towards what I saved it for anyway. And I'll be back two days before being paid again so even if I do come short on funds on my return, I can start saving again almost immediately. So yes, the part of me that likes keeping extra tucked away somewhere doesn't like digging into what I've saved but I'm not penniless either.
And again, this could be much cheaper had I gone with dorming with strangers as I have before in Europe, but I think I know myself well enough to know that I do need some space to myself at the end of the night to read or write about the day without wondering about all the other young people running out for drinks at some late hour or the guy talking in his sleep or disturbing others if I arrive at an odd hour and flip on the lights (or have to leave early and get out without disturbing everyone). So saving a fair chunk of what you earn as a WorldTeach teacher every month can indeed get you through a month of traveling if you are tighter about your budget than I was in planning this. I normally don't like going crazy distances and making too many stops but this is my one extended vacation time when I can really spend time in a place. I just wouldn't feel satisfied if I tried to come to Guangzhou for a weekend and run back up in time for school. Assuming I took the fast train, that'd be like spending 600 yuan and having all of Saturday and part of Sunday to see all the things I wanted to and it just wouldn't happen. The hardest part to work out has definitely been getting to Yuanyang since it's not big city, but I'll leave a picture of DuoYiShu, where I'm going, to show you why I'm looking forward to spending some time out there (and also what's pushing me to get everything done this week). I think it'll be a nice place to breathe and relax before coming back to home base in Zhuzhou.