Monday, September 30, 2013

Takeoffs and Landings

When we arrived at Beijing National Airport on September 22, we were greeted with an unpleasant surprise: our flight wasn't leaving from that airport. It was leaving from Nanyuan Airport, a solid hour and a half away. 

Cut to uncomfortable shuttle bus ride back to Dongzhimen Station and sardinish metro ride to Xiwuman followed by a bizarre pseudo-taxi ride to an airport down a decrepit street on the outskirts of Beijing.

Needless to say we made it in time for our flight to Chengdu and a long night sleeping on the chairs in the airport.

When we got back to Nanyuan Airport, after a turbulent flight, we were greeted with umpteen cabbies who kept saying "Mei yo" to our destination - Beijing Central Railway Station - and many a scam taxi driver offering to take us there for 100Y. We finally got a cabby who didn't "Mei yo" us, but he took us first to the South Station and then to the Central Station, so it ended up costing us 97Y anyway (ridiculous). 

We get there and we hadn't bought our return train tickets to QHD because, truthfully, we weren't sure when we would get to the station. We got in Line 41, which looked the same as all the other lines except it was moving faster.  We stood in that line for about 20 minutes. When we got to the counter the woman working said, "Buy tickets?"


"Counter 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48." The lines stretched to the door. 

After standing in Line 43 for the better part of an hour, being jostled by people weaving through the lines, standing behind a guy who smelled like week-old boiled cabbage, and watching - no, hearing - some attendant back up spit bibs twice in the middle if the floor, the woman behind the counter didn't speak English. So we waited - Jake patiently and I less so - for her to fetch someone who could assist us. And wouldn't you know it was the woman from Line 41.

All the morning D-trains (a.k.a. the fast, clean trains) were filled and all that was left before 1:30 p.m. - mind you, almost exactly 12 hours subsequent to us purchasing tickets - was one seat and one standing room spot in the Y train. At least it wasn't the K train (a.k.a. the slow, dirty train) or as I like to call it, the Shit Train.

So we got our tickets for the Y train and headed past the scads of homeless people into Beijing Railway Station. People with apparently similar itineraries to ours but who had obviously arrived first were sleeping triple, quadruple, pentuple, sextuple wide in some cases on the benches, leaving the rest of us to bunk on the station's questionable floor for a long night only to be awoken at 5:30 by a woman with a megaphone personally visiting everyone and demanding they stop sleeping.

What a weird place.

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