Beijing, China and Lijiang, China
11.02.2008 - 11.03.2008 53 °F
So I didn't eat anything at the Night Market. Looking satisfied my hunger enough. And so many choices--roaches, snakes, earthworms, crickets...how is a girl to choose? Better to appreciate and leave wanting more than to gorge myself, right?
Dennis and I went to the Olympic sight at night to see it all lit up. We met Jim Song, a Korean American, at the hostel who came with us. Jim has an entirely different set of problems when he travels in Asia. Everyone assumes he speaks the language and is from whatever country he's in. So it's even harder for him to get around. In Japan, they wouldn't take no for an answer and continued to speak Japanese at him.
So, after transferring more times that we knew possible on the Beijing Underground, we finally got there.
And it was dark.
There were flourescent lights to see the paths and some blue lights in the concrete that made parallel lines as far as the eye could see. But other than that--nothing was lit up. We were very disappointed. It was still majestic but, come on, we came at night to see the lights! So we walked around a bit and I decided to take a photo of the blue lights. I was framing the shot, ready to press the button, when...ALL the lights turned off. It was completely dark. Apparently time to go home, all we could do was laugh and go home. And skip and do the monkey walk down the middle of the 6 lane road. The place was completely deserted. Hardly any people and definitely no cars. It was as if everyone just deserted after the Olympics and got the heck outta Dodge. Even the vendor tents were still up--just empty.
After that we went home and chilled with Nick the Swiss. He's got a boating license or something from Thailand so we call him Captain Nicholas. He always sits in one corner of the common room and works on his computer. It's his unofficial office and if he's not there we get nervous that something happened to him. Just kidding Nick.
I made myself say goodbyes and go to bed--I had a taxi coming at 5am to take me to the airport. I set my iPod alarm. Then, that night, I had all these musical dreams and couldn't figure out why. I slept through the alarm and woke to a small Chinese man tapping on my bed at 5:15 shouting "Driver! Driver!" Good thing I packed the night before.
The taxi dropped me at the wrong terminal, so I had to walk the length of the terminal to find out I needed a shuttle bus that was back at the OTHER end of the terminal where I previously was. The flight was uneventful, but I did nearly break my own neck whipping my head around when I heard English being spoken. It was Ariel and Claudia, from Boston. Ariel is living in Beijing, working, and her mom, Claudia, used to. I kind of stuck with them because the English translations from the flight attendant needed an English translator.
We had a 60 minute stopover in Kunming where I was hoping to us the Western toilet only to find out it was locked and probably being used for storage.
That's when I met the Austrailian woman. I never got her name-just involved in her uproar. She had a leg problem and couldn't bend one knee. Therefore she can't squat to use the ever so aptly named squat toilet. Now she apparently really had to go. So she went on a mission to get the door unlocked. She explained her situation many times, with the only repsonse being, "But the door is locked. You can't get in. Use the regular toilet." Then, to my suprise, she demonstrated how she couldn't use their toilets. It was hard not to laugh. A crowd gathered, an interpreter was found, and she explained all her lifes bathroom problems to a teenage Chinese boy who looked like he'd wished he didn't speak English. My role in this was to stand next to her, as support, saying things like, "Yeah, it's totally locked. No-no squat! Unlock it! No squat! No, no squat!" They generally pretended I wasn't there. In the end she had to wait to go on the plane. Because the manager of the airport (who she demanded to speak to saying she'd spoken to every airport manager in China) was eating and couldn't be bothered.
On the 45 minute flight, Claudia handed me an American Elle magazine saying, "You must be starved for the likes of this." I was and to my delight, when I tried to give it back, she insisted I keep it.
The Lijiang airport was the size of the Bloomington-Normal airport. Before renovations. Maybe smaller.
After I got my bag, a Frenchmen I'd breifly spoken to on the plane (and decided was annoying) offered to split a cab into town with me. I accepted only to find out it was really his shuttle to his hotel which he refused to let me split once we'd reached the hotel, saying he would have taken it anyway and just wanted to extend the favor. It was actually the most calm ride I've had in China, though the driver (wiry black hair, skin the color of milk chocolate, slightly reminiscent of a pizza delivery boy) was fond of using the center line to center his car on. We arrived at Frenchman's hotel--very cute with a courtyard filled with cats and kittens, dogs and puppies lazing about. A girl there called my hostel and arranged for someone to come get me then told me to sit and wait and brought me an apple and a cup of tea.
May, from my hostel, walked over to get me and even carried one of my bags. The 8 bed dorm I booked (for $4.65 a night) had a scenic view of a moss covered and mold covered wall next door and it smelled like a basement. So I splurged (at $18 dollars a night!) on a private room with my own bathroom and a double bed.
The hostel is very cool, with three levels, lots of outdoor seating, little alcoves, a TV/DVD room, an indoor wood burning stove and communal dinners if you'd like them every night. Apparently it gets busy in the evenings, with everyone coming back from their day but I wouldn't know. I went to take a nap at 4pm and woke up at 1am. Maybe I'll meet some people tonight. For now it's out into Lijiang to explore.
I do miss my friends from Beijing though. Especially Dennis--he and I checked in on the same night. But I've already gotten messages from some of them--we just can't let go!