08-Jul-2010 -- Story continues from 34°N 118°E.
Our taxi driver dropped us off at the ticket office of Suīníng's long-distance bus station, where we bought tickets on the 4:20 p.m. bus to Huái'ān (淮安市). As we entered the waiting room of the station, we dutifully put our bags through the X-ray machine, but in fact we needn't have bothered. The guy who was supposed to be watching the X-ray monitor had his head down, totally engrossed in the game he was playing on his mobile phone.
The bus to Huái'ān did not originate in Suīníng, so apart from inevitably arriving late, there was also a mad scramble for seats when we and the other passengers got on board. Nevertheless, we managed to secure two seats together near the back.
We arrived in Huái'ān at 6:30 p.m., and walked up the road from the bus station until we found the four-star Huái'ān State Guesthouse (淮安迎宾馆), where we were able to get a three-star room at a three-star rate. We then went out for dinner at a specialty fish restaurant, which was quite enjoyable.
Because the Huái'ān State Guesthouse is set well back from the road, with extensive gardens between it and the busy city street, our hotel room was very quiet. That evening, I finished reading part two of Peter Hessler's three-part book, Country Driving: Three journeys across a changing China.
At 7 a.m. the next morning, we enjoyed the same complimentary breakfast as the four-star guests. We checked out at 8 a.m., then crossed the road to a travel agent to purchase our air tickets from Nánjīng back to Shēnzhèn at noon the following day. We then walked the two blocks back to the bus station, and bought tickets on the 9:20 a.m. bus to Jīnhú (金湖县).
We arrived in Jīnhú shortly after 11 a.m. The bus driver drove very sedately compared with some of the maniacs we'd experienced earlier on this trip. The Jīnhú bus station was a brand new affair, in the middle of nowhere, more than four kilometres east of town. By contrast, the confluence was less than two kilometres south of town.
We took the no. 2 commuter bus into town, then a taxi to the southern end of a road running north-south, pretty much dead on the 119th meridian, which put us just a couple of hundred metres north of the confluence point. On the right-hand side of the road was a brand new, expansive, driver-testing station, with a flashy new car dealership on the corner. On the left side was the large Jiāngsū Zhōnghuì Metal Manufacturing Company Limited (江苏中汇金属制造有限公司).
And straight ahead of us was a massive roadworks project!
The road was being extended south, right past the confluence point. This turned out to be to our advantage, otherwise we would have had to first head off to the west, away from the confluence, in order to find what used to be the only nearby bridge over a canal. But now we were able to cross the canal on the foundations of the new, extremely wide road bridge.
Once across, we had to dodge steamrollers and other heavy machinery as we made our way over to the left-hand side of the roadworks. From there, it was a simple matter to reach the confluence, which was situated among some small, makeshift plots planted with a mixture of peach trees, wheat, pumpkin and soybean. I took shots of the GPS, and the views to the north, south, east and west.
As I was doing this, a small crowd of onlookers gathered, including Liú Xùmíng (刘序明), who tends the small plots around the confluence. They told us that this area would soon be cleared for new building projects.
For us, this marked the culmination of our confluence hunting expedition. We had successfully visited all nine of Jiāngsū's confluences within the space of eight days, at a pretty leisurely pace, made possible due to Jiāngsū being absolutely flat, and having an excellent road infrastructure.
We caught a bus back to Nánjīng that afternoon, then our flight to Shēnzhèn the next day, from where we once again availed ourselves of the very convenient cross-border bus service to Hong Kong. I finished Peter Hessler's book on the way, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the real China.