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Saturday, December 04, 2010

N. China - Day 2, Part 1 - Beijing

"Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead." - James Thurber

***

After fiddling around and solving problems with my new laptop, my travelogue resumes.

N. China
Day 2 - 31st October - Beijing
(Part 1)

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Hostel courtyard. This was indeed one of the nicest hostels I'd been to.

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"Peking Breakfast: with sausage, egg, bacon, potato pancake, organic vegetables, 1 slice toast"
Err.

The first order of business for the day was to buy the train tickets for the rest of my trip, so I headed to Beijing West Train Station.

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Beichizidajie - 北池子大街. A very straight and long road.

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"提高防范意识:请大家注意:防火,防盗, 防诈骗...冬季来临,请大家一定注意预防煤气中毒"
("Raising awareness of prevention: everybody, please take note of: fire prevention, theft prevention, fraud... Winter has come, everybody should take note to prevent coal gas poisoning")

When I took this I thought it was a poster urging people to denounce counter-revolutionaries (i.e. report those spreading anti-CCP messages)

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"China's time-honoured brand"

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A three-wheeled vehicle in the day

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Dahuamen - 大华门

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Water obstacle at Dahuamen. I believe the wall marks the Forbidden City.

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Fishing. I'm sure this was illegal.

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What was probably a tower of the Forbidden City

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Snacks. I had a round thing (bottom right) which came with an egg inside (another place sold it as "鸡蛋灌饼"). It cost me 3¥; China was more expensive than I remembered, after the Great Food Price Inflation of 2008.

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Garden that was closed, and sign with its name. I can't be bothered fiddling around in the IME pad to figure out what the characters are.

There were soldiers standing guard at the subway exit. Maybe because it was Tiananmen.

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"Do a good job in census in an effort to serve the cause of building up Beijing into a harmonious society"
Census Propaganda

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Their Millennium Monument. Wth.

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"名烟, 名酒, 名茶" - "Famous Smokes, Famous Alcohols, Famous Teas"
This was the perfect combination. Other shops I saw didn't have Famous Teas.

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Be Good Citizens

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Beijing West Railway Station
Its appearance is not the only WTF thing about it (to make it even more WTF they played Big Ben chimes - everything in China is counterfeit); there is still no metro station nearby (2 years after the Olympics, it is "Under Construction"), so one has to walk for 10-15 minutes from the nearest metro.

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Street Snacks. Chicken and the ubiquitous 饼 (bing)

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More Census Propaganda: "Census Benefits All". Except those who have more than 1 child, Falungong members, and other enemies of the State.

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Near the station there was a Yoshinoya. Given the Rampant Nipponphobia in China, I was wondering how the chain survived. The answer? Nothing in the shop indicated that it was Japanese in origin - it was just bland marketing talk.

In the station there was one ticket queue for the Elderly, Sick and Disabled. And another for Reporters and Soldiers. No wonder the PLA actually has to turn away volunteers.

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"No Smoking. Beijing Patriotic Health Campaign"

Very irritatingly, the train station didn't accept credit cards. In fact, none of the places where I tried to pay accepted credit cards. So I blew a lot of cash on buying night trains (indeed, the only trains I took were night trains!)

Unfortunately, some of the night trains I wanted to take were sold out - or at least the proper night train tickets were sold out. I had planned to take the night train to Taishan that evening, but only hard seats were left for this. It was the same for the next evening. I guess I should've asked Charis to help me book the tickets a week in advance - oh well, hindsight.

Having to reconsider my itinerary, I decided I was willing to give up QuFu, but not Taishan - I needed nature to leaven the hordes in the cities. Well, there would be the hordes on the mountains, but that was different. Kind of.

And so I decided to bite the bullet and take a night train from Beijing to Taishan the same evening - on a hard seat. I decided that I would check in to the 3 Star hotel on Taishan to pamper myself after what would be a hellish night.

At this point, let me go on a brief digression about the types of night trains in China. Generally there are 3 types of cabins that one can ride in:

1) Hard Seat
2) Hard Sleeper
3) Soft Sleeper

The first is more or less what it sounds like - you spend the night in a seat with everyone around you. The hard sleeper is similar to the European Couchette. And the soft sleeper is a shared cabin.

On reflecting on my itinerary, I realised that it was not actually fast paced - I had plenty of time to do each place. However, I was going to move from place to place at a hectic place, never spending more than one night in each place, and sleeping 6 nights on trains, and only 5 on a stationary bed.

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"向前一小步,文明一大步"
("That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind")
A more literal translation: "A small step forward is a big step for Civilization"

I learnt a new bust presentation technique from this girl who was wearing a top which was divided into 2 areas with a colour. There was no clear demarcation between the areas, as the border was a gradient. Unfortunately this made it look as if either she had pulled a tank top halfway down over an existing top, or that her breasts were soaked. I'm not sure which was worse.

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"爱我? 就别害我. 保护女性免受"
("Love me? Then don't hurt me. Protect women from harm")
Sexist anti-smoking ad.

A guy sitting on a bench looked at what I was taking a picture of (i.e. the above). I'd have launched into a discourse on sexism and heteronormativity, but I didn't have the vocabulary for it. Besides which, I doubted that Chinese had a word for "heteronormativity" (Google Translate tells me it's "异性恋", but that is "Heterosexuality").

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Ad at the bus stop. I want to know what sort of work gets you 8,000¥ a DAY. It's hard to earn that even in Singapore. Actually, I can guess: "男女公交" ("Male-Female Public Intercourse"); "私人傍游" ("Private Travel Companion")
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