I woke up from a variation in the conductor’s yelling; someone wants my card and returned my ticket to me (one must give the ticket to a guard after leaving the platforms to prove you didn’t ride too long by “accident”). After waking up the remaining three chinese students informed me that the train was some 20 minutes late, but since I probably couldn’t check in so early anyway it didn’t matter much to me.
Actually I had some time to kill before getting to the hostel, perhaps some sightseeing? But having all the luggage it would need to be on a bus or similar though. I got an idea, why not make things a little more interesting than showing the hostel’s card to a taxi but instead try to find my way there myself? Said and done.
I started by walking along with the crowd, perhaps I would pass a bus-stop with a name that I would recognize on the routes? No luck there, so I started walking a road called something-east in english. The hostel was located in northeast of Beijing and I was on Beijing West station so how hard could it be? After some 15-20 minutes of walking I stumbled into a food stall and grabbed some fatty pancakes to munch down as I walked. It was perhaps time to get on a bus, the question was which one. I decided that 34 seemed like a fair enough number, and jumped on.
The conductor on the bus tried to explain something when I pointed to northwest on my map of Beijing. I smiled. She charged me 0.05 € (which is strange since the cost is 0.1 €) and scribbled down something on a note, I could read the number 390 but that’s about it. She then gave me a sign to leave the bus after a few stops. I waited until I saw a bus with the number 390, jumped on and showed my note to the driver and conductor (feeling a bit like a illiterate schoolchild only lacking a name tag around my neck). They didn’t charge me but instead tried to explain something in chinese. I smiled. Another note was scribbled down, this time the number 974 was readable. After a few stops I was instructed to get off and did so.
Here it was a bit trickier to find the bus-stop to 974 though, so I walked a little bit until I saw something looking like a larger bus-terminal. I went in and asked at the information if they spoke english. This made a security guy walk up to me and gesture me to follow him. Through security, into the waiting-hall, through it and out to some girl verifying tickets. She gestured to another girl, and the trio walked all the way back to the information. I pointed on the northwest of my map and tried to pronounce chaoyan (the rather big district I was going to). No luck. After a long discussion involving several other people and me smiling someone said 715 in english. Everyone seemed happy and 715 was apparently the new black.
Well outside I found a stop for 715, waited and jumped on. Did the now quite drilled routine with map and speech, the conductor did not charge me but instead shake her head. Was I on the wrong bus? No. I should go with 715, but in the other direction or something, she gestured me to wait and pointed out a bus-stop on the other side at a stop. I went there, waited for a 715 and jumped in.
Same story, the conductor does not charge me but starts to scribble down yet another note. This time 974 was teh shit. I smile. I ride for a well 30 minutes in the warm bus and get off when gestured too. I should cross the street to reach the stop for 974, but I was interrupted by a sight of an Yoshinoya sign. I took this as a sign and went in for my second breakfast. 1.3 € later I felt that bus 974 would be my lucky bus, the clock was now half past eleven and I’ve already met so many helpful chinese.
So which way was the bus-stop now again? Searching the area a bit I realized that a bus stop for 974 was nowhere to be found, well it was fun while it lasted. I got into a cab, showed my card and some 10 minutes later I start to recognize the streets. The driver is lost though, and starts to call the hostel. I friendly give her direction as she goes (a bit startled by my mad navigations skills) until we finally get to Poachers Inn.
I put down my stuff and give Ray and Florence a call, Florence answers and I get over to their place to get more stuff and return the Tibet book. We chat about Tibet and when leaving I mention that I plan to give my china-bought jacket to charity rather and if ask she might know how those things work in Beijing. Is there a coordinated place or should I just give it to a random beggar? She says that the random beggar might be rather well off from the start and just sell it, but if I really want to give it away she can take care of making sure it ends up with someone needing it. This sounds perfect and the warm cosy feeling after being a good guy stays with me all the way in the taxi back to the hostel.
I decide to get some pedicure after gathering my complete luggage and realizing that someone has kindly set up a unprotected wifi accessible from my room. I had no idea my feet could deteriorate so fast, I feel sorry for the girl when she uses something resembling a cheese slicer with much needed effect. After pedicure, scrubbing and a nice foot massage I grab some food at a classic corner/worker-place without english menus. Some dumplings and a dish ends up costing 0.7€. Not that bad.
After some hesitation I decide to pay Dragonfly Massages another visit, money is only money while spending money is what counts, right? Two hours of “The ultimate indulgence” and I walk back home feeling like a new man. On the way back I pick up some cookies and foul liquor to have a cosy night at the hostel. The liquor was the same mentioned in earlier episodes bought by Ulf and strangely enough it wasn’t more drinkable this time. Some surfing, trying out newly downloaded Fallout 2 and it was time to sleep again.