14.02.2013 - 14.02.2013
Leaving things somewhat to the last minute I found myself at the bus stop around 7.45 PM, knowing that I was either waiting for the second to last or last one. The last bus leaves the interchange at 8.00 PM and arrives in our village about 20-25 minutes later. After a few minutes had passed it became obvious that I must be waiting for the last one and what with it being dark and quiet I decided that it was possible there were no more buses and I had best save time and start walking towards the interchange and if I saw the bus come past me (towards my village) I would catch it when it came back up. This daft plan might have worked if I had found the next bus stop, but it had apparently been destroyed or removed. when they dug the road up to install lamp posts. So I tried stopping the bus anyway when it came past again and naturally it simply drove past me as if I were a ghost.
I wasn't exactly stranded, an occasional taxi tooted me, but taxis to the interchange can be quite expensive at this time of night. At least a staggering 2 pounds! So I went on foot and it was 2 hours brisk walk to cover the whole distance, carrying my rucksack and a bag. Not really that much time but it felt epic. The mainly flat and straight route between our village and the interchange is comprised of industrial buildings or apartment shells. Much of it is fairly dark because there are no lampposts, the pavements have not been laid and there is just icy mud and chaos. Traffic consists of occasional cars doing about 200 miles an hour and lorries groaning past slowly.
Catching a taxi from the interchange to downtown was easy enough although there was a comedic situation with the first one that offered its serviced as I tried to explain that I knew where I wanted to go but couldn't tell her the name of the place. She desperately wanted the fare but was wary of this foreigner who seemed to her not to know where he wanted to go. Then I found a cab with a meter and all was well.
My hotel downtown, standard business twin with carpet and internet, was 98 RMB and it was quiet. Early the next morning I caught the train to Beijing and it was 11 hours and 25 minutes. A text I sent to James:
'The lass opposite me has made a couple of attempts to engage me in conversation. My inner radar says she is oblivious to the waxing moon and by ignoring her I am probably cheating myself out of a vertical dance. She just gave me a pillow and I mumbled an inaudible thank you.'
The last attempt this young lady (about 27-30, that is young these days) made to engage was when I got up to leave at Beijing and she handed me my headphones I'd left behind. I told her in Chinese that they don't work.
Ah, sleeping arrangements. I did that same trick I did before of turning up in Beijing with no hotel. Beijing North is a peculiar station, it really is. There were no taxis outside or anywhere near it, no hawkers hawking beds, no hotels, no buses. I know what you're thinking. It's a major railway station, this cannot be. But I was there. There's a shopping mall and a subway and a flyover. That's your lot.
So I caught the subway to Beijiing Railway Station. I found a nice lady selling rooms and agreed 150 on a Super 8 if I left the next day at 10.00. She handed me over to another woman and told her the agreement was 10.00 and her colleague walked me across to the other side of the station and put me in a mini bus. Then after a few minutes she said I'd have to leave at 7.00, not 10.00. I marched off in a huff (minus box) and went to find the original lady and give her a piece of my mind. I.e 'you cheated me!' Definitely the minus box, she didn't cheat me. Her colleague's colleague did and even then it was hardly a big deal. I've got to stop losing my temper over silly little things.
Meantime, a young girl came over and tried to sell me another hotel and she was very pleasant but I had lost all trust in the hotel hawkers collective and went off, unhuffed, across the road. There I met an old hawker and I decided that it was time to let bygones be bygones. He took me to an old hotel that looks pretty seedy to me but had everything I needed and cost 198 rmb. He asked for a dollar and I said I wasn't American. I showed him an old fifty pound note in my passport case. He tried to take it. I gave him 10 rmb for his collection instead. You don't have to tip these agents, they make their cash from the hotels, but he was very pleased to get his meagre amount of money and I was glad I gave it.
Now here is the thing. Today I am due to check into the Jinjiang and then go and pick Myra up at Beijng West and that's all fine but I can't walk. My legs are shot now. Shin splints and blisters.
I probably should have got a plane to Beijing. Due to the Spring Festival, I couldn't get a train ticket on the 15th and I could only get an early train. Hence, I've ended up spending on 2 hotel nights before I've even met Myra.