Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tiananmen touts

originally uploaded by vfowler.
7AM and the 14 hour journey was completed in just 12. Despite practicing some of my first Mandarin questions on my neighbour, I had absolutely no comprehension of her answers. I'd call that a 50% effort (which is a pass in my books). Before even leaving the giant Beijing station, touts began ramming hotel brochures in my face.

The funny thing about boarding the metro is that everyone queues up outside the train doors, they open, then it's as if the music has stopped and whoever hasn't acquired a seat within 1 second is out of the game.

After checking in to the dungeons of Far East International Hotel, I forked out for the buffet breakfast and had my first cereal in over a year. I thought I'd check out the Far East International Youth Hostel across the road before commiting further nights.

A bit early yet...The morning chill got me lost in the neighbourhood hutong. After using a public toilet in the area, deja-vu, I smacked my head fair and square on the doorway. Through the fog I found Tiananmen Square, and some creative touts found me. The university art students wanted scholarship funds and tried selling me artwork - I agreed to a free viewing as I was not in a sight-seeing mood in the crap weather. It seems like the 4 seasons are a popular theme. Some Americans were purchasing so I didn't feel guilty for sipping the tea and passing the time in their warm exhibition space.

Another tout tried selling me tickets to the acrobatics show. In the end I found some interesting people that just wanted their photo taken with a foreigner. I returned the request and we all got pictures of the countdown to the Olympics. Then we had touts pushing tours to the Great Wall. Our cold weather turned to light rain. Touts selling umbrellas appeared out of nowhere. I dived into a Japanese restaurant to escape and eat.

back street stallWalking back toward the hotel, I stumbled upon a big pharmacy shop. Maybe they have the Head and Shoulders shampoo that is impossible to locate in Hiroshima. As the only customer, I greeted all the staff standing at attention in their medical green uniforms: that's a Ni hao x 12! Found that shampoo and, as I am fumbling with the language and the currency, I asked Doushao qian?

A came back to the hutong later in the evening for a photographic exploration. I also found the really cheap internet cafe that I can't plug any USB devices into, so no camera uploads were possible. Sorry for the delay, things aren't as tech savvy here as I'd hoped. A lot of things just go up in smoke.

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