Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Day One in Beijing: Things Not to Do When Travelling!

Day One in Beijing: Things Not to Do When Travelling!

“Okay, this is why people take tours!” When we got off the airplane slightly disoriented and very confused, wandering around a strange airport, we had a momentary epiphany that maybe a tour would have been a wise move. We managed to navigate the airport thanks to the signs also being in English and found our luggage. How grateful I am that we speak the language that always seems to be included in the written directions! We had the forethought to print out the name of our Hotel in Chinese, so hopefully the cab driver would be able to figure out where we wanted to go.
As we followed the signs to the taxis, a lovely young Chinese woman came up to us and started making small talk. Sure enough, she wanted to give us a ride into the city for only $60. My spidey sense was active, and I grabbed Bryce’s arm and abruptly told her that we would take a taxi. Immediately a young man came up to us and started in with the same line. “Humph, “ I thought, “we are way smarter than we look!” We found the lady at the taxi counter and asked her how much for a taxi ride into the city. She said that it was all metered. There was a designated waiting area, and shortly we came to the front of the line. The men standing there said that they would take us in a van because we had so much luggage. Here’s the part where we should have been paying better attention. They showed us a price list, and because we were more than a little dazed from the whole experience, we did not figure out that the 700 chinese yuan is $112 Canadian! Sigh……Note to self: always use the metered taxis!
Traffic in Beijing rush hour is an experience not to be missed; it was a 45 minute ride from the airport, with people weaving in and out; apparently turn signals are redundant, and it is customary to get as close as you can to the car in front of you before changing lanes. Then there’s the bicycle riders, motorcylists and pedestrians who just seem to walk/ride out in front of traffic assuming that the cars will stop for them. It is all a cacophony of movement, and we miraculously made it to our hotel without incident. When we checked in, we asked what it should cost for a ride to the airport and they said that it was usually $20 American. ARGGHHHH!
So, why didn’t we take the tour? Well, we are crazy, independent thinkers who find that half the fun is figuring out our own way around a new place. Reading the guidebook and discussing what we want to do for the day is our way of having fun. We are also not very patient with groups, and know that it would just drive us crazy to have to wait for Fred and Martha as they bumble along through the sites….or maybe, wait, now that we are seniors, we might be Fred and Martha!
Anyway, for your enjoyment, I have copied my brother’s email to me, who is unfortunately still a working stiff. He is a year younger than me, so hopefully his turn for retirement will come soon. Thinking of all of you back home.
Arlene and Bryce:
 I am very sorry to hear that you are going to have to do some more traveling. It seems so unfortunate when I think of how sad you must be when you think of the rest of us LUCKY ONES that get up every morning and trundle off to work. The guilt that you must feel knowing that while we continue to contribute part of our wages into things like CPP and OLD AGE SECURITY so unfortunate souls like yourselves have to travel to boring places like China. Well let me tell you that I will be thinking about you a lot while you are gone and be consoled that while I feel very sorry for you I will continue my contributions so that you can continue to do this terrible thing called TRAVELING.


Love, Bryce and Arlene

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