As is our custom, we journeyed from New York to Washington (and back) on the so-called "Chinese bus." It's a bargain: round-trip between Chinatown here and Chinatown there for just $35. It's a non-standard, non-greyhoundish, no frills experience. It's also shoestring capitalism in the raw. When a potential passenger arrives at the East Broadway departure site, he/she will be accosted by young female representatives of several different companies, each touting her own organization. The ladies are aggressive but hard to decipher inasmuch as they shout in Chinese and possess only the most rudimentary English. A traveler must be careful to board the right bus at the right hour (the first time I used this service, I was almost shanghaied to Boston). The buses are not well marked and misrepresentation is rife. Leaving New York last time, we talked with a number of travelers who were frustrated and angry. Some had been told that the bus would set out for Washington at noon, some at 12:30, some at 12:45 -- whatever time would sell the ticket and get the luggage on board and the passenger into a seat. Because there's no terminal and the streets are so crowded, the bus had to run a loop around lower Manhattan. Each time it set out, there was optimism, but then fifteen minutes later it would return to square one to board more passengers. We circulated three or four times. At 1:30, which was in fact the scheduled departure time, we were on the road, but with quite a number of unhappy passengers in tow.
A few years ago, almost all the passengers were Asian, Nowadays, the news is out and it's all complexions from ebony to ivory. Still, the dominant language and the dominant food odors are Chinese.
Sometimes the driver bypasses a scheduled stop. Sometimes it's necessary for one passenger to discipline a fellow passenger for surreptitious smoking, Amenities are minimal. The waiting rooms are small, dank, and squalid. On the bus, the john is unspeakably foul. BYOTP.
But it's inexpensive, it's fun, and it gets you there.