Beijing (part 2)

Beijing, may 5

..looking forward to recover a few days in Beijing..
Train K28 arrived in Beijing Central according to the timetable (08:40am), our hotel is only one stop away on subway circle line #2. We did not mind being in morning rush hour. Strange though: hardly anyone in the subway. It is friday today, no?
No, it is SATURDAY!!! Proof of holiday sinking in: no sense of time anymore...

We could check in since our room was ready. Nice shower, shave and breakfast. We decided to take it easy today and focus on updating the travelog. I had to pass the previous hotel to collect my left-behind laundry. Passed the post office to ship excessive luggage back to Europe. Since my hair never stopped growing during the last few weeks I would not mind visiting a barber. Next door to the previous hotel was a barbershop and since we passed the place anyway I might as well...
Small one-man business in the hutong. Three women and a teen daughter in line. I queued. No hurry and the temperature was very nice. Finally it was my turn. Realizing my Chinese would most likely NOT be sufficient to order my regular "clipper - position 3", I pointed at his clipper and the adjustable head while Pete wrote "3 MM" on his palm. The barber nodded and set off vigorously. "Hm", I thought while observing myself in the mirror, "this is a bit less that 3 millimeter but OK, it will grow back".

When I reached the stage of almost baldness (but still some coverage), the guy got his razor and installed a new blade. Ah, I thought, getting for the finishing touch and trim the nape and sideburns as usual. He set the knife behind my right ear and before I could raise a finger, he drew upward to my skull top, leaving a 3 inch wide (white) lane... "Hm, past the point of no return". I submitted to the situation. Pete's grin grew and grew with each stroke of the razor.

The bill: Chinese to me. One of the patrons helped out, stating in English: 180 yuan. My mind was too far gone to realize that was quite stiff for an elementary clipping and trimming and I forked out the amount without hesitation. Only later in the street, with a grinning Pete walking next to me I thought: haircut, trimming ánd fucked in one smooth action...

The rest of the day we spent updating the travelog and the pictures while eating take-away Chinese, Coke, beer, seaweed Pringles and Snicker bars. To add to the atmosphere we should mention the endless fun and laughing fits which once led to Coke streaming from Pete's nose...
Good night! We are sure we will sleep comfortable and deep in this Ibis Jianguomen. The view over the innercourt amenities space will add to the experience. No kidding: this hotel is really just fine for a citytrip when you want to economize. The rooms are modest and not too large but exactly what you can expect from the Ibis formula. And for € 40 a night worth the money.

May 6

Breakfast served on bed by Pete, who went out to the local bagel shop. Sunday today and very smoggy and hot, no climate for activity. We still had lots to finish after a week in the DPRK.

Updating the log, reading, preparing for the next phase on the train. In the afternoon we could not resist the temptation of a relaxing footmassage in the massageparlor across the street. The masseuses clearly enjoyed their work (and their customers..). Pity our Chinese was at par with their English, but it was very clear that "extras" were available. Pity for them we decided beforehand our feet would be the only bodyparts for a massage.

Footmassage.. ..but extras available..

For dinner we opted for the local McD and we enjoyed every shred. The prices are not even close to what we are used to in the West: we scored two Big Mac-menus with all extras and two shakes (and chicken nuggets) for Y61 (=€ 7.50)...

Evaluating the day, reviewing some video footage of DPRK and back to sleep.

May 7

Today we have two missions:
-collect the Beijing - Irkutsk traintickets;
-visit the CCTV-headoffice.

For mission #1 we needed the help of anyone who knew how to get around Beijing AND speaks basic English since we could not work out where our pickup point was. It was written in English but not proper. Street names in Beijing have a different logic and could be something like "the central section of the 3rd ring next to the cursing dragon-bridge". If you see that written in Chinese it will turn out to be a very long line of characters.

We slowly are getting the hang of this country. The process of locating the closest subway station to a given streetname (and we mean a MAJOR artery) took 10 minutes and four phonecalls between the front desk and the people at the travel agency. But when we exited the indicated subway station we found out we still had to cover two kilometers (which we did by cab). Guess what? A subway station in front of the designated address! But the fun was yet to begin...
We had to report at building "D", according to the English written address. The security guard of building "D" redirected us to building "B" when we showed the strip of paper with Chinese translation. In B-block we rang the bell on door 3F. The door opened and a (very) senior citizen faced us in total puzzlement... Ours was minimal his...

Creation Rem Koolhaas.. Head office Chinese Television

Finally the pieces fell into place. The hotel desk clerk had translated the English D in a Chinese B-equivalent. We were in the wrong building. By way of the basement (since the main entrance had magically disappeared) we made it to building D and found apartment 3F. This time the door opened on a group of 6 Chinese, enjoying their lunch. Welcome to DH Travel Agency annex take-out restaurant! The CEO was a cheerful man who could appreciate what happened to us and was not even surprised. Good man! Our tickets were there, our mission was successful and we were sure that the paperwork was done now. All the way from Beijing to Amsterdam.

We then set off to the famous China TV head office, designed by our fellow countryman Rem Koolhaas. He is a reputed architect, though personally I am not too keen on his style. Expectations came true when we saw the building. It is "different from the rest", and dubbed 'The Pants' by the local Chinese. The building indeed looks like a squatting person from a certain angle. Not my taste, and the fact that it already looks a bit shabby does not really help to create a positive impression.

Difficult to pronounce.. Chinese camper Ibis Janguomen

Back to base, where we enjoyed a not-bad-at-all steak frites in the hotel's restaurant.

May 8

Weather prediction for today: 30 C low, no wind, high smog and dust levels. Advice to take it easy yet again. Though the view would not be wonderful we set off for the Central TV tower. Being the highest building in Beijing and meeting my criteria, it had to be scaled! Built in 1994, standing 405 meters tall. Public access at 238 meters. Outdoor ring, no glass.
The ring below at 235 m. acts as exhibition space for China TV, a newsdesk and weather presentation mock-up included. We took turns acting as TV hosts and - anchorman for the pictures. At a certain point we were discovered by a huge group of Chinese visitors and they were determined to have their picture taken with either Peter or me behind the newsdesk.

Central TV Tower, Beijing ... Rotterdam in Beijing and now: the weather..

On the way out (in the towers' basement) we passed a huge electronics outlet: bigger than any I have ever seen in the world. Pete wanted to buy an Ipad here, since prices are very competitive. The right model was available, invoice printed but paying with creditcard was not possible! Only a China Card would be accepted. The Chinese do not accept the major credit cards generally, except in hotels.

Last stop was the Central Station to make sure our train would REALLY leave from this station. Beijing has 5 railway heads, you see? Snack time at the stations' McD. We are leaving tomorrow. Let's enjoy the last evening of this overwhelming city...

Talkshow ft. Miss Beijing View from the Central TV Tower Bridge from nowhere to nowhere.. ..until this settlement will be cleared

When you are done using public transport in Beijng, you can return your chipcard and get a refund on the deposit AND the remaining credit. It says so on the Beijing Transport website and in several travel forae. Return can be handled in any subway station. Normally. But... After having crossed the entire subway station and reported at all four sub-ticket-windows we were sequentially directed to without any result, we shrugged our shoulders and just took our loss. Only a few Euros, not even worth sweating over. Forget the refund system.

Back to the hotel for the final packing. We decided to spoil ourselves rotten before boarding the train to Irkutsk for three days. What for dinner? Take-away from the local foodstall on the sidewalk. 16 Yuan each for a scrumptious and very tasty platter. Really! This is one of the many things we DO appreciate in China. The food...

Centerparcs Beijing ..ANY MEANS allowed to watch Yeopardy No more seats in train K3.. Nursery of this travelog:
Ibis Jianguomen, room 731

This will be our last day in Beijing, as well as the last day with Internet connection. Arriving in Listvyanka (Russia, lake Baikal) in three days but not sure if Internet will be available. The next update might take a while...

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