After finishing my year contract with EF I knew that I wanted to travel the country a bit. We only get ten days off during the entire year and that really isn’t enough time to travel and experience the country. So with some money in my pocket and my sister (Jennifer) agreeing to join I planned a trip of southernChina.
Now a lot happened during our trip so I will be telling you the story in parts. Sorry if they are kind of long, I have a lot to tell. Here is part one of my travels; from Qinhuangdao-Beijing-Shanghai.
After saying my goodbyes and packing up I was ready to go. One of my RE students, Linda, offered to take me to the train station. It was really sweet, she acted like a protective mother saying goodbye to her child; sitting with me until my train came, making sure I had enough food with me, walking me to the train itself. I even saw one of my Small Stars students, Elie, at the train station and getting on the same train with his mother. He’s a really funny kid so it was a good send off.
Now this is where the first leg of my trip gets interesting. My big dilemma was what to do with my bags. I didn’t want to leave them in QHD because that would have meant that once I got back from my trip I would have to shlep all the way out to QHD and then shlep all the way back to Beijing for my flight home. I only have one friend in Beijing and his place was too small, so I couldn’t leave them there either.
Luckily my friend Becca (who I was about to meet in Shanghai) has a cousin named Brandon who lives in Beijing and he agreed to hold onto my backs. I talked to him a few times and he seemed like an ok guy and he told me to give him a call when I arrived inBeijing.
So my train arrived in Beijing a little late and I tried giving Brandon a call. No answer. I got that message that says “the person you are trying to reach is not available, please hang up and try again.” I was getting a little bit worried. So I tried giving Becca a call hoping that she might know an alternative way to get in touch with Brandon but I got the same message, “the person you are trying to reach is not available…” I started to freak out now. I thought my phone was seriously broken. I tried giving my friend a call and it went through. I even have him try calling Brandon to see if it is just my phone. At this time I was already in a taxi heading out to the address Brandon gave me.
Finally Brandon called me back. He was not at home but at a dinner, and he wouldn’t be at the address he gave me. He asked me if I could stay with friends and come back in the morning. I told him I couldn’t I was even hoping that he would offer to let me crash on his couch until my flight the next morning at 11 am. He then offered for me to come where he was and drop my bags off there with him. So we turned the cab around and heading in a new direction.
I finally arrived at his development, met up with Brandon and gave him my bags. I was still hoping that he would offer me a place to crash for the night, but the invite never came. He asked me if I was going anywhere to meet up with friends. My only friend in Beijing was out at a pool party and my hopes of a place to stay for the night had just been quickly dashed so I was kind of put on the spot. Not wanting to sound like a loser I said “of course I’m meeting up with some friends.” So Brandon put me in a cab and told the driver to take me to Sunlitown, which is a popular bar area in Beijing.
So I arrived in Sunlitown with no one to meet up with. It was a Friday night and people are out in their party/club clothes while I was walking around with a big backpack looking like a total idiot. After walking around for a little bit I decided I might as well crash at the airport for the night, so I headed for the nearest metro so I could take the airport express train out to the airport. The only problem was that there is no metro stop close to Sunlitown. I had to walk 3-4 miles in order to get to the metro (I was tired of paying for cabs). But by the time I made it to the metro it was late and the metro had closed for the night. So here I was in Beijing, hot, sweaty, and tired, not knowing what to do next.
Finally I though screw it, I might as well take a taxi to the airport and sleep there as opposed to sleeping on the streets until the metro opened (there were no hostels nearby either). The problem was that it was a little hard to hail a taxi at midnight, especially one who was willing to go all the way out to the airport. Finally I found one and dropped about 80 RMB on the cab fare.
The airport was fairly empty and I had no trouble finding a place to sleep. It was a hard metal bench near counter A in terminal 2.
It isn’t the easiest thing falling asleep in an airport. First of all they never turn off the lights and second of all at night are when the cleaning crews come in. I was also nervous that someone would steal my bag while I slept (because it had happened to me before in Israel) so I slept with one arm constantly in one of the arm loops.
I woke up at the crack of dawn (ie. 4 am) and since the Chinese are sooo accommodating (NOT!!!) I had to wait around till 11 am for my flight. So I had plenty of time to explore. I am now an expert on all three terminals at Beijing International Airport, so if you have any questions about the airport in Beijing please feel free to ask.
After what was a long day for me I finally made it to Shanghai and met up with Jennifer and Becca. We went out for dinner and some drinks and had a really nice time. The next day we were off to Suzhou. Shanghai was just a meeting point. Looking back at those last two days it was hard to believe that my trip hadn’t even really started yet.