Journey to Beijing

I ended work at 8:30pm on Sunday night, October 3rd, and motored it home to finish packing, have a shower and eat something. Our train for Beijing left at around 11:00pm and we had to catch a taxi to the train station, and sometimes catching a taxi in Hohhot can be an excursion all on its own! Tamlyn and I met up with Casey and Kyle at the school at 9:45 to catch our cabs and head over to the train station!

A little information about my travel companions! As you know, I live with Tamlyn from South Africa and couldn’t be more relieved about it. She’s got OCD which keeps me in line when it comes to cleaning the apartment, she cooks delicious vegetarian food for us to eat (I don’t cook anything but kraft dinner), and we get along great. She’s the reason the whole trip was such a success because she planned, booked, and organized all of our methods of travel, our hostels, our expenses and our tour groups! Casey is from America and was one of the purest forms of entertainment on the trip because of her antics! She’s got a great, positive, energetic personality which is exactly what one needs on a trip! Kyle is a sweetheart from England and was such an enigma throughout the week because of his (what I believe to be) undiagnosed ADHD. For example, we hadn’t even gotten to the train station to Beijing and he had already forgotten all the food he bought on the side of the street by the taxi’s. He did his own thing for much of the trip and would meet up with the rest of us afterwards, and I’m glad he came because he’s such a relaxed person. Derek from Thunder Bay has been on an individual adventure across Asia and met up with us on our first day in Beijing and accompanied us for the week. I’m so happy he did because he’s so easy going and it was really nice to spend time with someone from home.

The train station was packed. We waited in a large line that seemed as if it had 1000 people in it. I bought buns and water at one of the food carts because the train ride would be 9 hours long, and though we’d most likely be sleeping for the majority of it, bringing food was a necessity particularly after Kyle left his on the road near the school. The sleeper train is an experience I’ll remember for a long time. Probably about 80 people to a compartment, there are columns of beds on the left and a narrow hallway on the right of the train. The beds are bunked on top of each other, 6 in a group, 2 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, 2 on the top. I was on the top bunk, in a group of bunks that were separate from my friends, and it was a lot higher once you got up there then it looked from the floor. We were warned to keep all of our things near us because people steal things while you are asleep, so I was glad I was on the top bunk because it seemed impossible for anyone to climb up there without me noticing because of the very limited space. The beds were narrow, but surprisingly comfy. We got a pillow and a comforter, but my space at the top was compact because the roof made it impossible for me to sit up straight.

Once the train began its journey to Beijing, the lights shut off after about 45 minutes. I stayed in my bed nearly the entire time, leaving only a few times to go the bathroom at the end of the train. Now, my train ride could have been pleasant, I was perfectly ready to simply put in my earphones, play my ipod, and sleep away the night, if not for the man in the middle bunk opposite of me. His snoring (if you can call it snoring, it was more like screaming/gasping/choking/crying) was so indescribably loud and so unbelievably irritating that I barely got 2 hours of sleep that night. I described this mans crime to Derek, and he suggested that the man had sleep apnea, which I think is a correct assumption:

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud, chronic snoring
  • Frequent pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Gasping, snorting, or choking during sleep
  • Feeling unrefreshed after waking and sleepy during the day, no matter how much time you spent in bed
  • Waking up with shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, nasal congestion, or a dry throat.

This sounds bang on. But unfortunately, it wasn’t the man who felt the consequences of his disease. I DID. At one point, probably around 5am in the morning, I actually threw a bun at his face in a fit of sleep-deprived rudeness. He didn’t wake up though…shame. All I could do when the train arrived in Beijing station around 7am was give him the coldest, dirtiest, you’re-dead-to-me stare I could muster and openly point at him while explaining to my friends why I was so tired, knowing he couldn’t understand english.

So we arrived at Beijing station a little worse for wear, but I was still elated that we were there! I could feel the change in the air as well, much more pollution and stickyness to Beijing. The train station was enormous and we had to find our way to the ticket booth in order to book our tickets to Qingdao then so we wouldn’t have to worry about it in 3 days when we’d be back at the train station. After we purchased our tickets, we found the taxi cue and headed to our hostel!

Our hostel was in an interesting location, right near the Lama Temples, on a busy street with quaint shops, restaurants and malls, and very close to the subway station. We couldn’t check into our hostel until the afternoon, so we spent a lot of the morning booking tours for the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and night shows with the hostel’s administration women. Our hostel seemed pretty nice, lots of foreigners to talk to, free internet access, a cute bar on top of it, and the room ended up being nice too. Kyle went and did his own thing for the day, so Casey, Tamlyn and I went exploring the streets for the afternoon. We ended up at a mall and ate Subway (so good! We don’t have it in Hohhot) and shopped a bit.

We were exhausted from the train ride (well, I was anyway) and we got back to the hostel around 3pm. Our room still wasn’t ready yet, so we hung out in the lounge for about an hour. Derek came around 4:30pm ish, I met him outside on the street and introduced him to the gang. We finally got access to our hostel room, which had 3 bunk beds, a bathroom and lockers to lock our important things in. We had about 2 hours to rest and get ready for the evening adventure.

Around 6pm, we got into a pre-paid cab and headed towards the Kungfu show! I don’t know why we were sent there so early, because the show didn’t start until 7:30pm, so we found a restaurant near by and ate chinese food for dinner before the show. The show was neat! Lots of different kungfu styles were shown, some of which blew my mind. It did have a rather lame story-line though, I noticed me and my friends laughing out loud at the cornyness of it sometimes. But still, such a good experience to see.

Afterwards, we asked the cab driver to bring us to the Bar Street instead of back to the hostel. He dropped us off in a cool area where bars lined the streets, music blared, and foreigners were everywhere! We bar hopped for a few hours, having a drink at one and then going to another bar for another drink! It was strange because a lot of the clubs had underwear-clad “dancers” (not strippers) dancing on poles, clearly visable from the street. Probably because thats what they thought would attract people to the bar. They also had employees on the streets outside the bar, advertising the club and shouting things at us like “Hello! Pole Dancing!” and “You are beautiful, get inside!”. After a few hours of this, we ended up at a bar that we all liked and decided to stay at. I think it was called “The Kissing Oh” but I really don’t remember. From the street it was down this long hall and up a flight of stairs, kind of sketchy. But we had a great time dancing and talking to people. We met a group of gaysians (gay asian men) and they were so funny, it made my night!

Not too ashamed to say that around 1:30-2am we stumbled out of The Kissing Oh, found a cab, piled inside, and somehow directed him back to our hostel. We sloppily got ready for bed and fell asleep, and so ends Day 1 in Beijing! In hindsight, partying the night before a 7am tour around Beijing was not the smartest decision we ever made, but you’ll find out how that played out in my next entry! 😉


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Ben Babcock
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 00:46:29

    I’m pleased to hear you continue to have awesome adventures in China. I’ve continued to follow your posts. 🙂 This year of university, my professional year, has been the most stressful and busy year yet. Next month I get to try my hand at student-teaching … we’ll see how that goes.


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