Forget it, Jake, It’s the Chinatown Bus

This week, the Fung Wah bus company got shut down by the federal government after its buses failed safety inspections, which didn’t surprise anybody who had ever ridden on one. Fung Wah, like the other Chinatown bus lines, is not for those who want to have ordinary or particularly safe journeys. The drivers of these buses rarely speak English, act like they’re unfamiliar with speed limits, and make unscheduled stops for gas or to pick up passengers; the buses have been known to break down or leak gasoline; the companies are occasionally owned by criminal syndicates who set fire to their rivals’ buses. But these outfits provide a valuable service for people who don’t have cars and need to go between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, DC, and other eastern cities for cheap (an Amtrak ticket from Boston to New York is $71 while Fung Wah charged you $15). In honor of the crackdown on both the zaniness and the danger of one of the worst and best bus lines in America, we decided to compile some stories of traveling on Chinatown buses.

Illustrations by Sam Taylor. Follow him on Twitter @sptsam or visit his website at


I was going to DC, and right when I got on the bus, there was this real bad smell permeating everything—it smelled like shit, basically. I sat in the front to be as far away from it, ‘cause it was inescapable. They announced that the bathroom was out of order, so on top of dealing with the awful stench, no one could take a piss for the duration of the hours-long ride. The smell kept getting worse and worse, until it was stifling—it was all you could think about—and everyone was complaining and putting their hands over their mouths, but what could they do? Near the end of the ride, this poop-colored fluid starting leaking out of the closed bathroom door and trickling down the aisle, real slowly, until it was near the front. We had to pick our bags up off the floor to avoid getting shit and God knows what else on them.
-Wilbert Cooper


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I was living in Boston and my plan was to go to a Halloween party in Brooklyn, so what better way to get there than taking the Fung Wah the day of the event? I’d ridden that bus like 100 times by then and never had any problems. It was always lightning-fast, too. This ride, on the other hand, was ten hours of hell thanks to the horrific amount of traffic. And the driver never got off the freeway to stop. Everyone was in costume, and by hour seven, when we knew we were still a long ways away from NYC, it had turned nightmarish. I recall an enormous black woman in pink mesh who looked like she was going to shit herself and have a heart attack at the same time—she was sweating and moaning and the sweat made it look like she was crying glitter. A couple dressed as bacon and eggs near the front of the bus started arguing about which party to go to now that there was no way they’d be able to go to both of the ones they had planned to attend—it was like watching a Raymond Carver short story unfold before my eyes. A guy who I can only describe as thug-plus-Dracula was smoking cigarettes in the bathroom. Everyone was on their phones going, “I don’t know when we’ll get there.” People started asking the driver what our ETA was like he’s a fucking pilot or something, like he knows, like he isn’t just an irritable Chinese man on an ephedrine binge who has probably already done this trip twice today. He started screaming at people, telling them to calm down. It was pandemonium. Being trapped on the Fung Wah for nearly half a day will rip you apart mentally. By the end of it I was so delirious I could hardly speak.
-Sean Yeaton



A Chinese Pre-Thanksgiving Dinner 

For the night before Thanksgiving I was invited to a dinner at Fung Wah restaurant in Daly City which our host arranged a custom menu in advance.  Our host went to the restaurant a few days in advance and ordered special items not available normally or maybe offered in limited quantities for the evening.  

I will mark with a * the items that are normally available, and the food there is quite good and reasonably priced. 

  • Fried quails - Delicious little birds fried to perfection
  • Salt and Pepper wings* - One of the consistently good dishes at the restaurant.
  • Steamed mushroom and Minced pork “pancake”* - This is a classic old school village style Chinese food.  
  • Stir fried clams with onion and peppers in black bean sauce
  • Spring onion and Ginger stir fried crabs - We had a 6 people so we ordered 2 crabs
  • Steamed whole fish in green onion and soy sauce

I have been to Fung Wah before and the restaurant can be very busy due to the small kitchen and large number of takeout orders.  If you go there and the place is packed, you may find a bit of a wait before your food is served, especially if there are large tables seated before you.

Fung Wah Restaurant
7007 Mission St
Daly City, CA 94014


Dear Fung Wah,

It’s been over 9 months since I last rode you from Chinatown to Boston for $30 roundtrip. I miss you. I’ve been thinking about all the fun times we had together. Remember how my pants used to get stuck to your seats? Or how you’d say you had WiFi, even though we both knew you didn’t? Funny the things you miss.

I’ve never told you this before Fung, but you were my first. The first to take me to Chinese buffets in shady parking lots in the middle of the night. The first to make me sweat as you recklessly swerved between lanes at 115MPH; only you could make me clench my butt cheeks for five hours straight.

Then, one day without warning, Uncle Sam tore us apart. He said that you were dangerous and that you’d hurt me if we stayed together. He didn’t understand our love and the risks I was willing to take to maintain our relationship. Waiting indefinitely on cold, rainy streets for you. Being smashed between morbidly obese men and the bathroom door. That one creepy guy who carried a hatchet onto the bus.

I’ve tried to move on. I even had a couple of dalliances with Bolt and Megabus, but they could never provide the excitement you brought to my life. THEIR back wheels never broke apart on the Mass Turnpike. THEY never had a woman try to punch out the emergency glass while holding a baby. THEY never let people clam-bake the bathroom. How could you ever be replaced? You whose ticket prices were the only ones I could afford?

Some days I just sit in my room, looking out the window trying to remember the feeling of your rust-stained frame. All of a sudden I’ll think I hear that sputtering sound coming from your duct-taped exhaust pipes… but then I realize it’s just grandma clearing her throat.

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I miss you Fung Wah. I will always love you for your prices and your carefree spirit. Now I have to pay $70 for a round trip to Boston on the GreyHound. Tyranny. I hope you’ll come back soon.

With love,


Fantastic. Is it weird that this song always evokes the Fung Wah bus for me (which let off at Canal and Bowery)?