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Entries about trains

Train Stations, the Zoo, old China town and a stupid cold!

sunny 27 °C

Today has been long but eventful! Prepare yourself, this is going to be a long one!

I got the subway (again - I'm a pro now!) to meet up with Mish and we headed to Beijing North Train Station to get my ticket to go to the school on Saturday in XinXiang.

This would be fine accept we got out of the subway and couldn't find the main train station, so we're stood there looking at a map when a friendly Chinese face pops over the map and says, with a slightly American twang "You guys need some help?" - THANK GOODNESS!

So she directs us to the train station and advises us that we need to actually get there which is daunting as there is an assortment of highways twisting and looping about themselves right between us and the train station. I almost wanted us to be in a movie and as the camera pans out to show the mass of road we needed to cross there would be a kind of "duh, duh, duuuuuuuuh!" musical moment as our task was laid before us!

However, we eventually found an underground root which cut out the overpass completely - very useful!

The next 2 hours were border line psychotic...!

We waited in not one, not two, but four queues, upstairs, downstairs, outside, inside, everywhere, only to end up at the same window we started at, frazzled and confused and no further in our quest to get me a train ticket.
I noticed a Chinese girl in front of us, probably no older than 15, maybe 16 who had hand written English on her backpack - I tapped her on the shoulder, refusing to be beaten by a sodding train station and showed her a simple message I had translated on my phone simply saying, in Chinese, "Do you speak English?".
By some glory of Darwin, she replied, "Yes, a little" - we showed her Mish's ticket and explained, as simply as possible and with a lot of non-verbal communication (AKA, a lot of hand motions and raised eyebrows) that we needed another ticket, like hers only for me, but it needed to be the same day, same time, same train!
A few quick words of Chinese later, my passport and the equivalent of £18, I had my ticket for the 5 hour train journey to the school and mine and Mish's home for the next year.

It's now 1pm.

We go to the subway to head back into town, then decide to go the zoo as it's the next stop on the subway anyway.
The Beijing Zoo subway stop was between where we were and the National Library. However, the Beijing Zoo subway stop was out of service, so we ended up on the other side of it at the National Library - we then walked. And walked. And walked some more. Found a park with an elaborate entrance, but no zoo.
We showed a passer-by the map and pointed to the zoo, they directed us around the corner; we walked some more.
Eventually, after several offers of Rikshaw rides and some of the most pungent street foods ever created, we found the zoo!
Yay!
So for what was essentially £13 we got a ticket for the main zoo, the Panda enclosure and the aquarium.
Beijing Zoo is bloody enormous.
They had lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) and a giraffe and birds and eagles and reptiles, you name it, they had it.
They also had this little guy:
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I hand-fed him bamboo and when I noticed there wasn't any water for him, at all, I took out my bottle of water and covered the bamboo leaves with water, next thing I know there is a huge trunk snuffling it's way towards me, and in one curl of its muscular nose, the wet bamboo was swept straight out of my hand!
Then he starts sniffing around the bottle, so I pour some water into my hand, and there he goes again, sucking up the water through his nose with a force that can give a Dyson a run for it's money on suction power.
Well needless to say, that entire water bottle went to that little guy and then everyone around me started joining in - there were people with their hands thrust through the gate pouring water, tea, anything they had on them onto the floor and the leaves and apparently elephants like Starbucks.... but they don't very much enjoy eating the cups!

My good deed done for the day helping the animals, we ventured into the Aquarium.
Oh. My. Jeeves.
Best Aquarium ever. The zoo was ok, about from some of the animals were clearly distressed and were beating their heads against their enclosures which was really upsetting. But the aquarium. Wowzers.
We were greeted by the obvious choice for a Chinese Zoo:
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Koi fish!
We then walked across a little bridge over the Koi pond to find this beast!
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Holy Hell-Fish, Batman!

We continue on through the aquarium and find these exquisite Jellyfish, dancing through the water (safely behind a thick wall of glass!)
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Then we moved on to these:
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Back in the zoo, and this angry little fella LAUNCHED himself at me:
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Almost embarrassed myself in public - luckily, I'd used the toilet in the aquarium!
I say toilet....:
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Yep - that's the toilet, a hole in the floor with foot grips so you don't fall in your own wee!

Then we went to see the Pandas!
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When we couldn't walk around the zoo anymore, we got a taxi back to Mish's hostel so she could change her shoes that had begun eating into her feet :( then headed to the older part of town that has the best food and shops!
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After gorging on some amazing dumplings and undisclosed meat on a stick:
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we met these guys: IMG_2253.jpg then ended the evening ordering bottles of booze through Mr. Wong, a wholesaler who spoke brilliant English and discussed our futures here in China whilst his colleague whipped me up a hot tea with honey and lemon for my increasingly annoying cold and apparent cough now as well.
Walked Mish to her hostel then on my way back to the subway to head home I noticed a Chinese Medicine store and popped in to see if there was anything I recognised to help with fix my broken body.
The woman behind the counter had a book with symptoms written in Chinese and English - I pointed out cough and sore throat and she put some elixirs and potions on the counter:
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Best stuff I've ever bought, within an hour the cough syrup had sorted me right out!

I think that will do, don't you!?

  • Sleeps*

Posted by Lady Mantle 08:18 Archived in China Tagged trains chinese_food subways language_barrier questionable_meat beijing_zoo Comments (5)

A Foreigner in Beijing...

sunny 28 °C

I took the subway today....!

After a 25 minute walk through 28 degree heat to the subway, I went to the ticket booth to pay my CNY2 (£0.20) for a one way ticket anywhere I wanted to go - Amazing.

I was then greeted by this:
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Now I thought the London tube got crowded....The Chinese have us beat, hands down - I didn't even need to hold on to anything as the amount of bodies in those subway cars held me perfectly in place.
Apparently my 'dance space' doesn't register with the people here.
And my, my, how they like to stare. I had so many photos taken of me I felt like I should have been getting paid for it!
On the plus side, the Beijing Subway system is much more efficient, even if it's more crowded, than any other train/tube system I've encountered. They have the lines and stops like the tube, but they have little lights signalling which door will be opening, which station you're at and which one is being approached next, and the announcements are in Chinese, then in clear as day English - better than Boris!

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So I change at 3 different stops to get to the one closest to Mishel, my soon to be flat mate at the school in Xinxiang and followed the instructions to her hostel.
I find her waiting for me in the lobby and we head out into town to check it out, and lo and behold, what do we find?
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That's right people, a McDonalds! And I found a KFC as well... so much for authentic Chinese cuisine!
You will be pleased to know however, that after walking down by the most beautiful river walkway and crossing a tiny little Chinese-esque bridge, we found a little restaurant and had the most enormous chicken salad with goats cheese and a mango, papaya and banana smoothie - IN YOUR FACE COLD! (which is finally starting to subside - yay!!)

Tomorrow we're going to go to the zoo and go on these amazing little motor powered boats on the river round the corner from Mish's hostel!

I saw other foreigners!! I've never been so happy to see white people! It was a beautiful sight and we all exchanged a welcoming smile and acknowledging nod of respect as groups of teenage Chinese girls kept taking photos of us!

On my travels in central Beijing today, I also found this little beauty:
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Doesn't taste the same, but the sentiment is all that counts!

I've breached the subject of checking out of this hotel early, which is difficult considering they don't understand what I'm saying, but I need to be closer to Mishel and central Beijing so we can get to our excursions and the train station to get to school on Saturday so hopefully it will all be ok.

Going to the main train station tomorrow to get my ticket so I don't have to spend 3 hours in a queue on Saturday and hopefully when I go to my new hotel on Wednesday, the taxi fare won't bankrupt me! We shall see!

Quite an eventful day in old and new parts of town and grabbing a cold can of pop in a travellers bar :)

Good day!

Posted by Lady Mantle 03:10 Archived in China Tagged trains travel mcdonalds language_barrier beijing_subway Comments (4)

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