Saturday, September 14, 2013

Final Days in Beijing

I spent the remainder of my time in Beijing seeing the recommended sights. I started with a trip to Tienanmen Square which I remember from the pro-democracy movement and protests in 1989.
As I looked down the wide boulevard, I remembered the man that stood in front of the tanks.  It is a humongous square and was filled with tourists at 9 AM. Across the street from Tienanmen Square was the Forbidden City, the Chinese Imperial Palace. I decided to visit it with half a million Chinese.

The smog was heavy and the humidity and temperature were unbearable at 9 AM. The crowds of tourists were not something I enjoyed, I sucked it up and visited the Forbidden City. The complex is huge with 8700 rooms but I was very disappointed. It was not what I had expected and most of the  buildings were not well maintained. After the first few, they were all very similar. Maybe it was the heat and crowds but I did not appreciate it. I was very disappointed. Most of the buildings were empty. No period furniture. I have seen much better cities in other parts of the world.
As I exited the north gate of the city, I started walking along the streets and got lost. It was hot and I was tired and made a huge mistake. I was approached by a rickshaw driver and he asked if I would like a ride. I pointed to where I wanted to go on my map and he said 3 Yuan. This is what everyone seemed to be offering so, I thought it was a fair price. I got in the rickshaw and he was taking me to the metro stop. I saw several Chinese people using them and did not think anything about it. This family seemed to be enjoying themselves on their rickshaw ride.
I was counting the blocks as we went down the street and watching the time. We seemed to be heading in the correct directions. I was enjoying the local scenery. Look at this little girl styling it with a big hat and sunglasses. ADORABLE!
I saw the metro sign and asked him to stop. I had gone 4 blocks in 5 minutes. I knew I was in trouble when he continued another block and pulled into an alley. He stopped and I gave him the 3 Yuan we had agreed upon. This is when it went downhill. He looked at me and said "No, 300 Yuan not 3 Yuan." What?!?!? I was not paying 100 times the agreed upon price. I said no, we agreed on 3 Yuan and handed it to him. He started yelling at me and said "Give me 300!" as he pushed me to the wall. Crap! I looked around and noticed about 5 men standing around. I started to argue with him and showed him my wallet with only 6 Yuan. (I always keep small amounts in my wallet and everything else in a money belt.) I told him I did not have 300 Yuan and that he needs to learn to speak English instead of lying to people. This got him a little angrier and he said he wanted my camera. I told him if he took one more step towards me I would scream. He didn't believe me. I had always read screaming was the best defense for a woman. I had never done it but it was now or never. I let out a scream at the top of my lungs. I looked around and all the men were staring at me but nobody was coming to help me. They all just stood there staring. I just kept screaming. This seemed to bother him and he kept telling me to stop. I put the money down and started to walk away. He grabbed at me and I let out a blood curling scream. He finally realized I was not giving him anything and took the money. I left quickly. At the end of the alley was a police officer and a man. The just stared at me. I was angry and a little scared. I yelled at them to quit staring at me and said "If you are going to be wimpy ass men with no balls to help a woman stop staring at me! F@*%@*# losers!" Their mouths dropped open and they knew they pissed me off. I hate that they did not help me. Yes, I was stupid for taking the rickshaw but all over Asia it had been safe. I made the mistake of not reading the scams for Beijing. I later read this is one of 3 very common scams in the city. I was grateful I was ok and learned that I must read up on tourist scams before visiting a city. As I told my story, I heard several others from men that had been taken for $500-1200 at bars and tea houses. The other lesson I learned was to always see if a woman needs help if the situation looks questionable. Never just stand there watching.

I was safe and walked back to the metro. I was done for the day. Hot, exhausted and ready to relax at my hostel. Tomorrow would be another day to explore. I went back to the hostel, had some dinner and talked with the travelers. Eyle tried to talk me into getting up with him and a couple guys to go to Mao's mausoleum at 6 AM. I knew I did not want to. I told them not to wait for me in the morning.

In the morning, I decided to visit the Summer Palace, the vacation getaway for the Emperor's of China. I met a British guy at breakfast and he decided to join me. The Summer Palace is more beautiful than the Forbidden City. The palace sits on Longevity Hill on the shores of Kunming Lake. It has beautiful gardens and gazebos which were serene even with the hordes of tourists.

I had no plan, just wandering and enjoying the views. Ben and I walked along the lake taking photos and stopping for water. Another hot day in Beijing but at least the sky was clear.
We explored the grounds and enjoyed people watching. As we climbed Longevity Hill, the views were fantastic. The city of Beijing was sprawling in the background. Many of the locals took the weekend to explore the area and ride boats on the lake.

As Ben and I got hot, we decided it was time for an ice cream cone and to head back to the city. We met up with the others at the hostel. The mausoleum and Forbidden City were not what they had expected either. they wished they had slept in and joined us. Since we had met and bonded during our time in Beijing,  several of us decided to go out for a last dinner since we were all headed in different directions the next day. We got really lucky because Bonnie came along and could speak Chinese. We all let her order the food and it was delicious. Afterwards, we returned to the hostel for a relaxing evening chatting and watching soccer.
A fantastic "Goodbye China" dinner.
I awoke the next morning with a day to kill. My flight was not leaving until 2:00 AM. I was exhausted and tired of sightseeing. I was ready to be in Bali to spend 3 relaxing weeks of doing nothing. Long term travel is exhausting and I had hit my wall. I was editing pictures when Bonnie came to chat. She was wondering if I would share a cab with her to the airport since she had too much luggage. The only problem was our planes left 12 hours apart. I offered to help her get her bags to the airport tram. So, we were off to the metro with her backpack and great suitcase. I don't know how she made it to the hostel with this much luggage. It sucked carrying it up all the steps. After I sent her on her way, I decided to wander the hostel neighborhood. Bonnie told me I had to try a local crepe type of food. She wrote down directions and the name of the food in Chinese. I was surprised I found it. The girl made what looked like a crepe, broke an egg on it and added onions, black sesame seeds and spices and then folded it up.

Yummy! It was good and a nice meal. I topped it off with some dried kiwi and almonds. I figured the leftovers would make a nice treat on the plane. I went back to the hotel and chatted with the new arrivals and joined in on the free vegetarian noodle night at the hostel. I shared my experiences in China with the new arrivals and answered questions. Soon, it was time to say goodbye. I left China a little sad the experience was over. I enjoyed my trip and know I will be back to travel in China again. I already have another list of sights to explore.

As I sat at the airport, I was planning my next adventure. A short layover in Kuala Lumpur and on to Bali! I can't wait for my next country!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Michelle. I too enjoyed the Great Wall and the Summer palace when I was there over 7 years ago. It was so hot when I climed the great wall I got heat stroke and had to do take this luge sled ride back down! I'm just wondering when your reading up on the scams you mention to you find them on the internet or are you reading about them in a book? Also, on your prior post you mention that you had someone pick you up in Pingyao when you arrived and that they had a sign with your name on it, were they from the Hostel? Do you find that most of them arrange transportation when you book and are they for free or do they charge you? Sounds like your next stop in Bali will be a great place to relax and unwind. I'm jealous as I haven't been there yet. I've got 12 more days until my last day here at work. I'm Looking forward to hitting the road in December! Love to read your stories and learn from your experiences. Take care, Marsha Calvo (Nutrilite)