Friday, April 08, 2005

Day 9 Beijing

So I arrived in Beijing. Nothing exciting here. It was just an airport, not different from any other airport in the world. No shifty-eyed communist agents, no interrogation, not even any reference to communism. A bunch of ads everywhere for all kind of capitalist companies.. What a rip off.

The airport guy looked at my passport and just stamped it. No minder, no interrogation, no movie..

The next adventure was supposed to be finding an ATM machine that would accept my capitalist mastercard plus card. However, there was one just outside the arrivals area, so no fun there either...

Getting a taxi to the hotel was more fun with people approaching you claiming to represent taxi companies... Many wear official-looking suits and try to get you into some taxi while flashing you a card that claims a 350 kwai charge for the privilege of being driven into town by them. I had to forcefully rip the card that had my hotel name on it from one of these.

I looked for the least active taxi driver and got into his car. The more lazy he is the less likely he is to rip you off. Ripping people off requires way too much energy, too much trouble. You need to pretend to be somebody you are not, convince the person that he is paying the right price, and run away so fast that he does not recognize that he has been bamboozled..

So, in any case after an uneventful 40 minute trip from the airport which cost me a whole of 94 kwai I arrived in the hotel. The whole time I was making sure he was going in the right direction by using the compass I had acquired for 5 HKD. With my sense of direction this was the best investment I ever made. I am never going anywhere without it again. The hotel was in a shitty smelly part of town, but it itself was not too bad. A couple of people even spoke English. I am guessing I was the only white person that stayed in this hotel in a long time, but the service was reasonable. The only problem was getting from this hotel to the center of town. I had to take a bus to get to the subway. After I figured out how to do this I only had a problem with transportation once, when I was returning late from the center and the buses stopped running....

After settling into my hotel room and taking a shower I was off to Tianamen square. Apparently white people are about as common as green monkeys in the outskirts of Beijing because on the subway I was being stared at continuously. If somebody had offered me a banana I wouldn't have been surprised.

I arrived in Tianamen square after a short journey. Now I was in the heart of the beast, and Ronald McDonald was right there with me, along with 7-11 and Colonel Sanders. Anyways, Tianamen is a humongous concrete square with several monuments in the middle. I arrived first at the gate itself where the big poster of Mao is displayed and from where apparently he declared the People's Republic of China. Got a picture taken and headed south. I was approached by a couple of friendly kindergarten teachers who just happened to be on their way to work through the square. They asked the usual questions and then proceeded to explain that where I should really be is the Old part of Beijing which is being torn down for the Olympics and that they were headed in that direction themselves. I don't know why, but I didn't fully trust these kindergarten teachers, and left them to wander southwards towards Mao's tomb. I looked back to notice the kindergarten teachers striking up a conversation with some other tourists.

On the way to Mao's tomb I was approached by a couple of history students from the university who just wanted to speak English and also casually recommended that I should go to Old Beijing. In any case I was able to get a bit of an explanation from them about several of the monuments. Apparently one was the represenation of one of the four classes of people they have in China. This was a sculpture of the soldier class, which along with the worker, farmer and the academic classes made up Chinese society. I don't know where the merchants and the beggars come into this class system, but there were definately quite a few of each in the area. Now for some reason I didn't trust these history students either, so I proceeded to go to 7-11 to get some food and then home and fell asleep. I didn't sleep much the night before because I had an early bus to catch to the airport and I got a new roommate who had travelled through Thailand and throught the States so I was talking to him for a while.

I had planned on waking up several hours later and going to explore Beijing some more, but couldn't force myself up and ended up getting about 12 hours of sleep that night...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always told you so..
And the other undisposable things you should carry are
salt and matches.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Undisposable means indispensable.

6:15 PM  

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