city of eggplant/no cab drivers knowing where our hotel is
25.05.2007 - 02.06.2007 28 °C
The fun thing about entering China by train is border crossing day: two six-hour stints on either side of the border getting your passports checked and your bags poked through and waiting in the train station. In the Russian station everyone (not just our group...everyone) looked down in the dumps: worn out, soggy from the weather, hungry, grouchy. There wasn't much food available, little room to walk around, the border patrol was full of sullen young Russians who looked more like hooligans than law enforcement.
The minute we stepped into the Chinese station, the atmosphere changed. Everyone around us was smiling, laughing, drinking. The station was much more open, cleaner; there were shops, there was food, even the ramen for sale was better. The women of the Russian train staff were cheerfully buying scarves on the second floor.
Beijing had the same sort of instantly favorable impression on me. The city's bright and full of life, the weather good and hot. It's easy to get around -- taxis everywhere if nothing else, though most of the cab drivers don't seem to have a clue as to where our hotel is. We're very near to the Forbidden City and Tian'anmen Square, which is convenient. People are generally pleasant and helpful, and there hasn't been as much staring as the warnings led me to expect there would be (aside from a group of high school students passing through Peking University snapping photos with their cameraphones and shouting "Hello! Hello!" -- the one English word everyone seems to know here, even the tiny two-year-old girl we passed in the Summer Palace). Shopping here is like a sport, temples and palaces are huge and gorgeous, good food is beyond reasonably priced -- it's downright cheap -- and incredibly varied. We like the eggplant.