updated 14 Oct 2010, 11:15
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Tue, Aug 31, 2010
China Daily/ANN
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Take a ride on Beijing's love bus

After almost a month on the road, a love bus aims to bring the capital's lovelorn close together is laboring to get out the first gear.

Zhang Peng, the man in charge, said since they launched the activity on July 26, more than 100 people have booked tickets online. But only one-third of them have actually showed up.

"We have merely an average of five people every day on the bus. I think the lack of popularity is due to the fact that the idea is so new that people still have doubts and dare not try it," Zhang said.

"But the situation may change as time goes by for we are gaining attention from media and some companies."

The journey, named "Love on the Third Ring Road", starts from the No 944 bus stop near Gongzhufen in Xicheng district at 5 pm between Monday and Friday and travels the Third Ring Road clockwise before terminating at the same stop. The whole journey takes about three hours.

The bus is free to persons still single. Seats are booked in advance on a website called Tickets are designed just like a typical train ticket in China, but state: "No 520 bus goes from my heart to your heart" and are issued by Cupid, the god of love.

However, the free ride comes with particular rules. Female passengers should take separate seats, and male passengers need to change seats every seven minutes. The men are allowed a one-minute presentation in any form they can think of to show off their charms. Women decide whom they want to sit with by raising boards showing either a circle (accept) or a cross (refuse).

"I'm not hitching a ride. Actually, I need to go back to the starting point and change to another bus to go home. I came because I found the journey interesting and it is a good way to relax by chatting with new friends on board at the end of a stressful working day," said a woman, surnamed Han, 28, who works in the cosmetic industry.

Gong Xiaoxue, 29, the founder of the activity, said the idea came to her when she was waiting for the bus one day.

"I saw crowds of people waiting anxiously at the bus stop not talking to each other," Gong said. "At that moment, I felt how lonely we are as city dwellers. We are addicted to online chatting, but in real life we are strangers."

She thought it might be a good idea to make use of the time spent every day commuting. Perhaps by chatting with a person that they had feelings for at first sight young people might find their true love.

A wedding gown brand, Nanako, has offered to sponsor the love bus with wedding gowns free of charge for the first 30 single women who hop on the bus during the week starting Aug 23.

Currently, the monthly expense of the operation is about 10,000 yuan, which is covered by Zhang said the activity will go on for an unknown length of time and they have no plans to charge at the moment.

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