Dan Dot Blog

Based on a true story

Farewell Beijing

I’m on the train now headed south to Nanjing and then on to Shanghai (and Connie, woo!). This will be an exciting trip in travel abroad.

I bought a deluxo-seat on an ultra-modern train. These trains would be the envy of Eurorail and put Amtrak to utter shame. I guess I actually got a bed rather than a seat. The D class trains that run between Beijing and Shanghai are the pride of the fleet and boast truly flat bed experiences for those willing to shell out upwards of 600 RMB (~ $90). For those on a budget there seem to be decent regular seats more in the 300 RMB range.

It was a pretty exciting and hurried trip to the train station. Zhi hui, my new buddy from the coffee shop at Jingshan park, recommeded that I take a bus or taxi to the nearest subway station. Once I got my bearings, I opted to walk to Tiananmen West instead, failing to take into account how far North-South the Forbidden City runs.

However, as I began to make my way, I wanted to check I was headed in the right direction before striking out. I approached a policeman and got to use, verbatim, one of the example sentences from my Pimsleur learning Chinese CD’s. “Dui bu qi,” I began to the police officer, pointing to what I hoped was south, “qin wen, chang ang jie shi tsai nar ma?” (my pinyin is imperfect for this phrase since I’ve never seen, it only heard it). I beamed as he gestured in the same direction and responded, “due (~rhymes with ‘say’) due due due.” Ecstatic, I bounded off south.

Everytime my energy dissipated due to the length of the hike, I was reminded of the humor of using the exact sample sentence I had learned when listening to the chapter about location and streets.

Line 1, the subway that serves Tiananmen, was utterly packed. I got on and just barely squished far enough on board that the doors could close. Fortunately I was only onboard for 1 stop and transferred at Xidan to the much roomier line 4.

From there it was on to Renmin University station to meet Xiaobei for dinner. I was nervously eying our progress north to try to calculate a rough average time per stop so that I knew how early I needed to leave for the train station. Beijing South Railway station is also on line 4 (the same line that serves Beida’s East Gate and my hotel), however it is practically on the opposite end of the line from Beida. I would need to have dinner, finish gong North, grabs my bags, then turn around and make my way South across the city, figure out the layout of the train station, then find and board my train, all in about 2 hours, but as you’ve probably guessed by now, it all went pretty well.

Xiaobei and I had barbecue/shishkabobs for our last Beijing dinner together and boy was it tasty. I wish I had had more time to savor the flavor. We started with spicy rice, yum, then moved on to roasted chicken tendons or ligaments or something like that. They actually kind of looked like pineapple. They were a bit chewy but ok. Next was barbecued sheep livers. Though the texture was a bit novel to me, they were pretty flavorful. After that came chicken wings so big they needed two skewers to be properly supported. These were
extraordinarily greasy and messy, and as you’d guess, very tasty. Best of all was sone assorted goat and sheep meat that looked like it’s been roasted on a spit. Ohmygosh it was so tasty! Unfortunately we had to blitz thru dinner, and although I took it to go, it would ultimately end up in a trash can on the metro after escaping confinement in styrofoam boxes and poking its way out of the bag and onto my jeans.

The train station was a bit confusing. A big sign told me my train would be departing from gate 12, but damned if I could figure out where that was. The only waiting area I saw any signs for was 2F, the one by the escalators. Eventually it dawned on me that 2F meant second floor, so all the departures took off from the upper level. I headed up, got through security, found my gate, bought some last minute provisions, then pushed and shoved my way through the line to get to the platform.

Once on board, a gorgeous train employee pointed me towards the sleeping car section. Service personnel in China seem like a throwback to 50s/60s USA when flight attendants were glamorous, smartly dressed, and just a bit sexy.

I found my way into a cabin where the top bunk was open and haltingly introduced myself. Each cabin has 4 beds: 2 are just off the ground and make nice sofas and 2 are much higher. I saved some money and prevented anybody but me from sitting on my bed by buying a top bunk. Nobody spoke English fluidly, bit we were able to kind of communicate. Shortly after that somebody came in, pointed at my bunk, and yelled at me. It was then I realized that we had assigned beds, and I had not chosen correctly. Fortunately my new friends directed me to my real cabin.

My proper cabin had an older man and woman and what looked like a businessman. They were friendly though we weren’t very good at communicating.

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April 12, 2010 - Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , ,

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