Beijing Day 1 – Shower. Cash. Food. Taxi Adventure. (Mon) 17 May 2010

So after six days of train warping, I managed to crank by brain back into action and made my way to the Inner City Hostel. (If you ever find yourself in Beijing, I very highly recommend them. Hands down best hostel I’ve ever stayed in in China.)

It’s quite a walk from the tube station, but not that hard to find. Very nice little place in a pretty hutong (traditional Chinese courtyard residence), next to a bustling but clean market. Very nice staff as well.

I got dad and I our own spacey twin room with private toilet and shower. Definitely a luxury by the standards I’ve been living in!

And yes! Dad is coming to meet me in Beijing! Woohoo!

First things first. Shower. If I ever have to choose a best shower of my life, that was it. Not because the bathroom was amazing (though it definitely was nice), but because I really badly needed one. It was definitely a challenge trying to arrange my matted clumps of hair in a way so that it doesn’t look, uh, matted.

Second thing. Cash. The last time I was in a money changer was in Russia, and it was a wildly different experience. In Russia, money changers were all over the place. Think hole-in-the-walls and singular squatty ladies. You stick your wad of cash in through a hole in the window. They stick roubles out back at you. No paperwork. No questions asked. No cultural exchange.

I tried speaking, but I invariably had ladies (they were always women, for some reason) scowl at me; wave me off with a swat of the hand; belt out a string of Russian at me; or point and shout at me. I met one singular oddity who smiled – widely. I was left perturbed.

Here in Beijing, I had to go to a bank, was asked for my ID, and they made a copy of it. I had to fill in a form, obtain a numbered ticket and wait my turn with everyone else doing normal banking stuff. When I was called up, I had to sign some other paperwork and wait while they verify whatever until I was giving my cash.

Upside is, instead of getting shouted at, I had an obviously bored customer service guy chat to me while I wait, leaning over the counter, asking me why my hair is wet.

Met up with some friends of Nasty and I for a hotpot dinner. It was massive. It was the largest amount of food I’ve seen and eaten in two weeks. Evidently, my stomach wasn’t accustomed to that much food and I spent all night trying to keep it all in. Lesson learned.

On the way back to the hostel, the tube stopped in the middle of nowhere and dumped us out because it was closing time. Argh. I stood on a street corner, it was close to midnight, and tried flagging down taxis, but no one would take me. I started panicking until one finally picked me up. Even with the address in hand, he had no idea where my hostel was. (I suppose there is a reason it’s called “Inner City”?!)

“What sort of hotel is this? If it’s a big hotel, I would definitely know where it is!”

“But it’s a really nice hotel!” (I don’t know the word for hostel in Mandarin.)

“If it’s a nice hotel, then it wouldn’t be located in such a ‘gui di fang’!” (Literally translates as “ghost place”.)

I thought that was really funny (and also because my vocabulary has probably come to its limits), and I just laughed.

Despite of what he was saying, the taxi driver was actually very nice and humorous. We spent quite some time driving around, turning my rudimentary map over and upside-down. He laughed at my Mandarin, while in the same breath telling me that it’s not actually that bad. He even let me off paying him the Y1 fuel surcharge. But I paid anyways, he deserved it. :)


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