We wait ages for the boat to take us out of the Bingyu park, then wait again as the boat makes a leisurely loop back to the main dock. We sit down on the curb to wait for the bus. And we wait. And we wait. A young woman pulls up in a shiny white car, insists that there isn't any bus, and says she'll drive us back to Zhuanghe. She wants too much money, though, so we wait some more.
After the bus finally does arrive, the driver says, "Xiao deng" ( "Short wait"), and both he and the ticket-taker vanish. By the time they return 45 minutes later and we chug back to Zhuanghe, we have missed our connecting bus to Dandong. The last bus of the day.
When I ask for a room at a little guesthouse near the Zhuanghe bus depot, we're given a "suite" - a regular twin-bedded room plus a separate parlor outfitted with a doily-topped sofa, two chairs, and a big executive desk with a big executive chair behind it. The price? US$13. Do any executives ever stay here?
As soon as we step out of our hotel to go for a walk, we notice the stares. Little kids stare at us, old men stare us, young women stare at us. Apparently, not many western tourists overnight in Zhuanghe, even though we're a mere two hours from cosmopolitan Dalian. We wander up the street to a little restaurant, where our arrival puts the staff in a minor tizzy, but our huge (and delicious) bowl of noodle soup ends up costing only 75 cents (US).