Beijing Travel Blog› entry 43 of 111 › view all entries
We arrived in Beijing at around 7:30am and pushed our way through the crowds at the station. We had arrived at Beijing Xi (west) station, which is the largest in China, so there were hundreds of people all over. We had directions to the hostel but decided that rather than trying to work out which bus to get, where to alight and so on, we’d just take a taxi. We knew it’d cost around 30RMB, which was a bit indulgent (bus would cost around 2RMB each) but we figured we could afford the luxury of a taxi for £3.
We had a flyer with the address in Chinese characters which we gave to the driver. He seemed confused and kept checking the map as we were driving along. We were convinced he was just guessing, but as the meter rolled round to 33RMB we arrived at our hostel.
We checked in and found our room. Goodness were we disappointed. Our previous hostel in Pingyao had been very cosy and comfortable, and as we entered the building in which our room was located we realised that the name of the hostel, P.Loft Hostel, was not misleading at all. We climbed up the industrial iron stairs and into a dimly lit warehouse block, which reminded me of a prison without the mesh fence, and entered our room, which was pretty small and smelt of sewage. Great start. We were tired so chilled out for a bit before heading out for the day.
We went down to reception where we met the two resident cats and kittens, and discovered that the hostel didn’t sell English language maps.
We had vague directions from the guy at the hostel so wandered around looking for the square (which you would think would be clearly signposted).
We pottered through the streets, full of tacky gift shops and overpriced restaurants, but the famous landmark was no-where to be seen! We searched in the back alleys - finding the sex shop district, and the classic Chinese road works (they dig up the road, you walk over its ‘remains’ while they work on it - look out for the heavy machinery as you walk).
I’m sure you’re thinking, ‘this doesn’t sound too bad’, but let me mention this. The temperature was in the mid 30s (late 80s), and the whole area was enshrouded with mist, making it very humid. On top of this, the sun was reflecting off the mist, and made the whole area blindingly white. Stupidly, I left my sunglasses in the hostel, so I suffered while Fab used his, then we swapped over and back again.
Finally we found the square, and to be honest, it was the biggest anti-climax of China so far. We didn’t visit the Forbidden City, which was probably a mistake, but in that light, and with the temperature, we simply wanted to retreat back to our ‘warehouse room’.
We took a few photos and headed back, via the street snack vendor, selling a pancake filled with scrambled egg, a strange poppodum type crisp, chilli sauce, coriander and spring onions.
We took a nap and headed out a bit later in seach of dinner. We wandered through the local streets and found a supermarket which sold refridgerated milk! It was a revelation; after weeks with no dairy, it was incredible. The milk was so sweet and cold, just what we needed! We also needed some quick and easy food, and one thing you can rely on to be quick and easy is McDonalds. We figured with Beijing being such a huge place we’d end up finding one nearby to get some dinner.
After walking for around 30 minutes we gave up and figured we’d go back to Tiannamen Square to see if there was anywhere to eat near there. We stepped into the square, and the mist had lifted and the sky was clear.
A young couple approached us and started chatting with us about our time in China. It seems that Beijing is where the English speaking Chinese people congregate, whether that’s because there are lots of universities there, or that being the capital, that people are more confident about practicing their English, I don’t know.
We wandered around some more and after 2 hours of not finding any fast food, and only finding expensive duck restaurants we grabbed another pancake snack and headed home.