30 November 2011

Nihao! - Part Two

Part One of my China adventure is here. We pick up our story on the plane from Shanghai en route to Beijing, eager that we will be able to rest soon. Little did we know that our adventure wasn't quite over yet.

Day two - 10pm: The plane touches down in no time at all. It has been such a long day, it is now 10pm and we have been on the move since 9am... suffice to say I am very eager to check-in to our hotel and sleep. I barely have the mental awareness to appreciate the fact that we have arrived in Beijing. After a 45 minute train ride we arrive in the heart of the city, the hotel is near!

The doors open, we drag our luggage up the stairs to the street, it's dark and rather dirty as we reach the barrier to exit the station... to be greeted by a crowd of old men coming towards us! Woah woah, slow down, who are you? The briefest moment of panic before my brain kicked in, a memory forms as I realize that this was exactly like my time in Thailand... these are taxi drivers fighting for our fare haha. I don't know what it is about Asian countries but their taxi drivers are insane.

Isaac signals that he has made a deal with a driver he was talking to, moments later we are in his car on the way to our hotel. Surveying my surroundings, the taxi looked dodgier than usual and I didn't get a good vibe from our driver, despite his broad smile and jovial demeanor. I sat there quietly, half sleeping, half analyzing the differences between Shanghai and Beijing, coming to the conclusion that while in Shanghai I immediately felt at home, Beijing thus far however has felt a lot more foreign and uninviting. Perhaps it is the people, or the buildings, or simply because that it was dark and I was tired, I couldn't quite put my finger down on it. I expressed these thoughts to Isaac and he knew exactly what I meant, he explained that even the people, when he talked to them in Chinese, treated him almost as a foreigner also. Strange.

My vibes about the driver proved true also, Isaac reveals that the driver is going to charge us 200CNY for the trip, which is the equivalent to around $30AUD... that's insane! For the distance we were going we shouldn't have paid any more than 50CNY.  Due to the language barrier there was no way I could argue, and Isaac is a small, quiet guy who wouldn't stand a chance against the older driver.

Overall the prospect of heading to bed soon far outweighed any annoyance I had.  I laughed as I thought to myself an ironic 'welcome to Beijing!'.

We arrive at the hotel, the driver giving a cheerful wave as he drove away (most likely because of the huge scam he just got away with). I dragged our luggage into the foyer while Isaac negotiated with the clerks. I was so exhausted, it was nice to just stand by the door, watching the surprisingly quiet street outside. It wasn't long, from listening to the limited Chinese words I knew and from their tone, that I could sense that something was amiss. I wander over to investigate. Isaac turns to me, a rather sheepish smile on his face "Umm, Aaron... yeah, turns out I accidentally booked our room for tomorrow night instead... and... they don't have any rooms left."

It was now 11.30pm. I laughed "Haha! Really? Ha... umm... ok, guess we better get moving".  I wasn't annoyed, it was a simple mistake. All the more adventure and storytelling I thought.

Again we drag our luggage around (it was so heavy!) out onto the street, from watching it for the last 10 minutes I knew it was a rather quiet road, but I was confident that fate would guide us and that miraculously we would be alright in the end. Fifteen minutes go by and not a taxi in sight. We knew we had driven past a hotel on the way here, we estimated it would be about 800m up the road so we decided to slowly head in that direction, our pace drastically slowed with our bags on our backs. The streets were absolutely dead, which so surprised me as we were only a mere 300m from Tienanmen Square and the governmental buildings. I would of thought there would have been much more people about, or at the very least some traffic on the roads.

I can tell you now that standing on a street corner at midnight with all your possessions by your side in the heart of Beijing with no one but a few night walkers around is a very scary place to be!

I put all my strength into carrying my bags as fast as I could, a good while later we finally walk into the hotel, enormously relieved to be off the street. Isaac works his magic once again and as luck would have it, they had a room. I was dead on my feet at this stage. As we gathered our bags to carry up stairs a Chinese family walks in, only to get turned away... we had taken the last room! If we had been only one minute later our night wouldn't of been over quite yet. It was nice that my confidence that things would work out paid off.

They always do in the end.

We arrange our room, Isaac continues to apologize for messing up our booking. "Don't worry about it" is my sincere reply. The lights go out and we are asleep within minutes.

In part three; Tienanmen Square, Forbidden City and bike riding!


Hannah Marie said...

I have been waiting ever so patiently for your China adventure haha! But wow that is some welcome to Beijing, it just shows that you really have to be on guard whenever you go somewhere new.

Jez said...

Taxi drivers are always looking to make an extra couple of bucks! It's pretty lucky you managed to get the last room, otherwise you might have had to take a night out on the town.
Sounds like an awesome trip so far!

Out of Sync said...

Hannah - Your comment made my day, thank you =) Yes traveling requires some level of constant vigilance that's for sure, but I do find the experiences make you grow as a person.

Jez - Yeah the night could of definitely turned into a much bigger adventure ha! It was a very lucky moment.

I am glad you guys enjoyed this post, I was a little hesitant to write and post it as it didn't have any pictures, and is quite long, but I felt it added to core experience of the trip =)

Sue Lin said...

"I don't know what it is about Asian countries but their taxi drivers are insane."-- this line made me laugh!

I hate it when taxi drivers cheat! It happened to me in Vietnam. I paid and expected my change, he said the fair is double the amount i gave. I yelled that it made no sense and insisted that the amount i gave is all i had (after all its already covers wayyy more than the cost) and ran off!

Out of Sync said...

Haha you ran off? That's awesome =D You are right though you really have to stand up to them, tourists and foreigners are prime targets for scams.

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