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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Beijing - On the Subway

So for our last day in Beijing and really the last day not spent on an airplane of our trip, we decided to have an awesome day riding the subway! Yes!  Just the way to end things off.  Ouch.  Writing that is making me a little sad, it's the end!

So on our fun subway ride, we went to the Olympic Park to see the iconic Bird's Nest.  We heard it was rusting, so it might not look this good for long.  It was really cool to see, glad we did that, even though it probably took an hour and four transfers to get there, for about a five minute walk around.

The Water Cube - This picture cracks me up because of that man running.  Guess he hasn't heard the Olympics are over. 

Next stop: Beijing Zoo to see a panda.  Another fifteen transfers and an hour and a half later, we arrive there (I may kid about the transfers but oh my it felt like forever). Pay our $2.50 admission and walk in, see the panda and leave.  The zoo was actually kind of sad, it did not look very well kept.  The panda laid there like this the whole time too.  Not very exciting.  But it let us stay on the subway for longer!


After this, we hit up the embassy area, which we heard was a cool place to shop and eat.  Across town.  It was okay, we stopped at the Hard Rock, but nothing special and seemed so expensive compared to the rest of Beijing.



So although riding the subway may sound like a good time (my tongue is in my cheek here), it is not the greatest highlight.  The system is very easy to navigate, quick, fairly clean, and there are constant trains coming in, but they are always full.  Sitting down on the subway does not really happen.  Ever.  Being pressed up against someone you don't know and only really know how to say hi (ni hao) or thank you (shi shen - spelling is interpretive at best for both!) too happens every single time.  This gets a little old, even in 3.5 days.  Considering how cheap taxis are, we probably should have "splurged" on one, and shortened our transport time down a bit.  Live and learn I guess.

Riding the subway led to one of my favourite stories though.  To get off the subway, you really have to push your way through, as you are jam packed in and they don't stop for long.  Andrew would usually go first, as he is a bit more aggressive and also a lot larger than me (and everyone else).  On one of our last rides, he was getting ready to go and told me to stay close.  All of a sudden, I saw the elastic on his day pack streching waaay out.  Turning to see what he's hooked on, I see a petite Chinese girl being dragged by her scarf across the train car!  I quickly told Andrew to slow down, but being on a mission, it took a few yells for him to process it.  By this time, the poor girl has almost been dragged off the subway by this giant white man.  I quickly unhooked her scarf, tried to apologize (in English), and then we took off.  Sorry!  

Another time, we did see a white couple on one of the trips and immediately wanted to talk to them, but felt a bit shy.  When it's difficult to speak to anyone, after being used to travelling in your own language, you just feel a bit of a connection I guess.  We ended up right behind them in the pack getting off the subway and talked extra loud, hoping they would talk to us.  And they bit!  The lady said that it was so good to hear some English and we had a nice little conversation.  Funny enough, they were Canadians, from Vancouver area, who were originally from Brooks.  Brooks of all places, to meet someone in the middle of Beijing.  Travelling is so weird that way.  

We almost invited them for coffee (they had been in China for five weeks and seemed quite homesick or maybe just hearing English sick) but didn't and had a break at Starbucks by ourselves.  Honestly it felt really nice to just be somewhere a little familiar, and able to sit down and not worry about seeing everything.  Travelling is wonderful, but sometimes you need a little rest!  A bit of shopping and a stop at our favourite place (Wangfujing) got us going again.  

That night was the last night of the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival which was a really cool way to end our trip.  From about 6:00 when it got dark, to midnight, there were fireworks going off constantly!  Constant.  And not just little fireworks, big ones too.  You started to ignore them after a while because there were so many.  People just lit them off anywhere, on the side of the street, wherever.  Really awesome and kind of fitting, as our last night in Auckland we saw fireworks too.

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