AsiaChinaBeijing

Out on the town

Beijing Travel Blog

 › entry 310 of 658 › view all entries
South Gate at Tiananmen Square

People I met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Kevin and Brian (USA), Jose (Puerto Rico), Mart (Finland), Vivien (China)

After a wonderful day at the Great Wall, the natural conclusion to the day seemed to be going out on the town. I phoned up an American student called Kevin, who i met in Seoul and is studying in Beijing and he kindly offered to be our 'guide' for the night. We agreed to meet a bit later, as i had my new laptop been delivered by travbuddy Portia's brothers driver! Long story :)

Some sweet and sour pork worked as our stomach lining, before heading to the metro station near his university to meet up at 21.45. Kevin didn't know the station particularly well, so we just decided that we would manage to find each other at one of the exits and if this didn't work, then i would just call him.

Vivien, Jose and I


15 minutes of trying to walk around the area had proved fruitless, so we went in search of a phone box, only to find that they were all card operated. Eventually Julia spotted a kiosk with phones out front and it was at this point that i realised some idiot had left his diary with the phone number back at the hostel!

Around 22.20 we were beginning to understand what a fruitless task that it was going to be, to run between the 4 spread out exits, which were bisected by a busy main road. All of a sudden though, we spotted a guy with western looking clothes, who was walking away from us around 100 metres down the road. Already a bit hot and sweaty, we agreed that we would run down the street after the person, in one last hope of finding Kevin! Luckily it was him, i think we'd been walking in circles after each other for the last half an hour.
Julia and I at Propaganda


Kevin's Chinese is pretty good, so it was surprising how hard we then found it to get a taxi from where we were, to his student flats. For some reason drivers didn't want to make a right turn at the junction where we were flagging them down and it took a good 10 minutes to eventually grab one that wanted our business. 5 minutes later and after a brief stop at the 7/11 for beers and we were been introduced to a colourful bunch of characters back at his room.

Jose was the first guy we met, a Puerto Rican who had moved to the States and was enjoying his first taste of travelling life. He had a real enthusiasm and bubbly character, which was rather infectious. Next up came Finnish Mart with his Chinese girlfriend Vivien, both of whom appeared in traditional Chinese gear! Lastly to appear came as the biggest shock of all though, as i had no idea Kevin that not only had Kevin got family in Beijing, but his twin brother Brian was there! It was a fantastic cosmopolitan mix and what travelling is really all about as far as I'm concerned.
Vivien and Mart in their traditional Chinese clothes


The ice was really broken, when we got to watch a home made video of the guys in their local hotpot restaurant, devouring bulls penis and sheep's balls. Hysterically this led to projectile vomit flying across the Dinner table and it had me in stitches. I was just pleased that my Dinner had had plenty of time to digest already.

The agenda for the night was to head to a favourite bar of their's called Propaganda, which had an 'all you can drink' Wednesday night special. Men paid an entry of 70RMB ($10) and women paid 30RMB ($4.30) and for this you could drink any cocktails or beers that you fancied. Kevin very generously treated us to our night out, which was unexpected and much appreciated.

Having encountered a few bad memories with such drinks offers in the past, i decided that i was going to do the sensible thing this time and just drink Tiger beer and not try to empty the bar of its top shelf.
Jose, Julia and Kevin
.. been there done that, have the liver to prove it. Our new friends on the other hand were in top form, necking pretty much anything that found its way into their hands! It was funny to watch them all in action and i particularly enjoyed seeing peoples reactions in the bar to the twins.

The night was a huge success and fun was had by all. Around 4am we decided that we really should be making our way home, as the club was beginning to die down and we had drunk our fair share. After saying our goodbyes, we jumped into a taxi and surprisingly had no hassle in getting home, bringing to an end a fantastic night and eventful day.

Needless to say we felt a bit ropey on Thursday morning and lazed around in bed until the early afternoon. Eventually we dragged our butts to KFC to eat some of their amazing egg tarts, you just have to try them! With a bit of energy in the system and the weather been thoroughly miserable, we decided that it was time to check out my new little toy � the Asus EEE PC that i'd had delivered the previous day.
Jose loving Kevins taxi service


I spent the rest of the day playing with my super dinky little contraption, which Portia had sent me from the States. Its mainly so as i can keep up to date with my blogs whilst travelling around by bus and train, and I'm actually writing this as we speak on the bus to Chengde, useful! It comes fitted with pretty much everything i could desire and for $300 is a complete steal in my opinion, so go out and buy one before you go travelling!

I did receive some slightly problematic news today that Tibet was also not going to be open for us to go and visit, and news from a travel agency there suggests that independent travel will soon be a thing of the past. The Chinese government look et to stamp down laws making a guide and permits always necessary, which really sucks! So the new plan is to head along the Silk Road and through the 'stans'.
Kevin, Me and Brian
.. watch this space :)

Friday morning the two of us had a pretty clear game plan, Olympic Stadium, train ticket to Lanzhou and then go to Chengde. The first portion worked out well as we caught the metro out to the Olympic Village, had a brief look around at what we were able to see and then made a move. Sadly the stadium wasn't completed, so it was impossible to see inside. In fact a lot of Beijing is kind of incomplete at the minute with building work still going on at a frantic pace. The dust that this produces and is then blown around by the wind was proving to be a real pain in the arse.

Beijing Main Train Station is a hectic place with long queues of people snaking from the ticket windows.
Kevin, Vivien, Mart and some wierdo
Add to this a handful of people who think pushing in is acceptable and it leads to  lot of noise, squabbling and almost punch ups in some cases. After 30 minutes we eventually got our turn at the ticket window and handed over the piece of paper with destination, class and date. A shake of the head, so we changed the date, same response. Changed again, same response. What about soft sleeper rather than hard sleeper? Nope. No trains with any kind of sleeping birth to Lanzhou for the next 5 days at least, we gave in trying past that! The only other option was to sit for 21 hours in a hard seat, which is a wooden bench, I've tried that for 15 hour once before and it wasn't fun, so we decided to head across town to Beijing West Train Station and try our luck there.

After taking the metro and walking to the station we eventually made it an hour or so later and found a ticket window with 'English speaking' above it.
Olympic Stadium
The problem is, if there aren't any tickets, it doesn't matter if the person tells you this in English or just shakes their head, and once more we were met with a definite no! At this point the Lonely Planet came out and we decided that we would have to go somewhere else and then try and get to Lanzhou from there. It was decided that we'd aim for Yinchuan, but incredibly no tickets whatsoever again. We were starting to run out of options, so decided to try for somewhere even closer to Beijing and settled for Hohhot, which isn't even halfway to Lanzhou. Thankfully we eventually managed to score a ticket, all be it not for another 4 days.

It was already 15.30, so our day had pretty much disappeared from beneath us, so we jumped back on the metro for the journey all the way across to the east of town to the bus station that served Chengde.
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
'Sorry, no bus' were the first words i heard from the ticket attendant... now there's a surprise! I looked on the board and it said buses ran every 30 minutes until 17.30, it was only 16.20. I queued up again and this time the woman took a bit more interest, but then i didn't get a ticket anyway. Around 16.30 she tells me 'last bus 16.30'. But ive been stood here since 16.20, you stupid bi*ch!

Back on the metro for another 30 minute journey back to the hostel and it felt like everything was going wrong. I rang Kevin to see if he fancied going out and he did, so maybe it wouldn't be a lost cause after all. I phoned him back a couple of hours later and found out he'd just had his wallet stolen, so now wasn't sure what the plans were. This was a bad day! I told him that i thought it may be best to just skip the night out as it would probably just end up tragically too, so we reluctantly agreed to put it on ice.
Zheng yang Gate at Tiananmen Square


After heading to our favourite little restaurant for some baby shrimps, egg fried rice and some pretty tasty soup, i suggested to Julia that we take a walk near Tiannanmen Square, to take some night time photos whilst the buildings were lit up. Jokingly i said that they would probably turn them off when they saw us arrive and after taking my first couple of shots, low and behold, everything went dark and they really did turn them off. You've got to laugh haven't you!? We went home, drank and beer and desperately waited for the clock to turn to midnight to end the day!

On Friday, we hoped things couldn't get any worse and decided to go to Tianjin for the day instead of Chengde.
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
I looked on the internet and saw a plethora of trains plying the route, so i was confident nothing could go too wrong. After been refused at the first ticket window, i don't know why she wouldn't serve us, we tried at another - both times we had to be part of a huge queue. This woman was nicer and looked on her computer, but to my horror, there were no available trains for the next 4 hours, and this wouldn't leave any time to look around Tianjin! Once again, we were screwed!

Back to the hostel and thankfully they refunded me the money for the night as it was still before 12.00, so we checked out, packed an overnight bag and decided to head to Chengde after all! This time we did manage to get a ticket, yippee, miracle. Sadly we were put on some minivan rather than a bus, which had to drive around the busy streets of Beijing trying to pick up customers.
Building around Tiananmen Square
An hour later and we still haven't left the city... please let this luck end!

Deats says:
Hey, the laptop is really good for doing the simple things - its a great travelling computer! Im not sure id buy it for general use at home, it doesnt have a CD drive for example. Still at $300, a steal!

Thanks, im glad you liked the blog :) Im glad i have readers to sympathise with me haha
Posted on: May 28, 2008
Traveller_Gin says:
Fantastic blog Phil....I feel your pain with your dramas though....but better you than me ;-)

Stay safe!
Posted on: May 27, 2008
treadie53 says:
Hi Phil
Your woes just sound sooooo familiar! How's the ASUS whatsit doing? I need to update my computer and I was thinking of organizing one in the States on my way home.Much cheaper than Oz.
Posted on: May 27, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
Vivien, Jose and I
Vivien, Jose and I
Julia and I at Propaganda
Julia and I at Propaganda
Vivien and Mart in their tradition…
Vivien and Mart in their traditio…
Jose, Julia and Kevin
Jose, Julia and Kevin
Jose loving Kevins taxi service
Jose loving Kevins taxi service
Kevin, Me and Brian
Kevin, Me and Brian
Kevin, Vivien, Mart and some wierdo
Kevin, Vivien, Mart and some wierdo
Olympic Stadium
Olympic Stadium
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
Zheng yang Gate at Tiananmen Square
Zheng yang Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
Building around Tiananmen Square
Building around Tiananmen Square
Zheng yang Gate at Tiananmen Square
Zheng yang Gate at Tiananmen Square
Brian and Kevin with one of their …
Brian and Kevin with one of their…
Drinking our free beers in the 7/11
Drinking our free beers in the 7/11
Kevin gets ready to give Jose a li…
Kevin gets ready to give Jose a l…
The terrible twins!
The terrible twins!
Thats 2 free beers ive got in my h…
Thats 2 free beers ive got in my …
Vivien, Kevin, Mart and I enjoying…
Vivien, Kevin, Mart and I enjoyin…
Julia modeling Portias earrings
Julia modeling Portia's earrings
Me and Julia, just lovely!
Me and Julia, just lovely!
Me and Julia still looking sober
Me and Julia still looking sober
Brian playing bouncers
Brian playing bouncers
Brian playing bouncers
Brian playing bouncers
Brian been accosted by another wom…
Brian been accosted by another wo…
Me at the Olympic Stadium
Me at the Olympic Stadium
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
South Gate at Tiananmen Square
Street light around Tiananmen Squa…
Street light around Tiananmen Squ…
Beijing
photo by: Deats