On The Road Beijing – Subway

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May 27, 2009
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May 31, 2009

On The Road Beijing – Subway


Imperial Palace

In my initial post on Beijing, I wrote about our search for the elusive (to me, born without an internal compass) Peking Duck.

Today, I’ll take you along with my friend Maureen as I recount our adventure on the Beijing Subway.

Maureen and I landed in Beijing as the city was frantically finishing buildings and subway lines in preparation for the 2008 Olympics, just a few short months away. Although it was Spring Festival – Chinese New Year, traditionally a very temperate time of year, it was COLD, windy and gray. On the upside, the air was clear and there were very few fanny packers blocking the already crowded streets.

After a day or two of very serious shopping, it was time to inject a bit of culture and history into our heads, where visions of Prada and Gucci now danced.

On a COLD, windy, gray morning we headed out to Tian’anmen Square, the Palace, and the Forbidden City. After  photographing the square and buildings, we were drawn, like moths to a flame, to shop. Outdoors it was COLD COLD COLD. Inside warm warm warm – and the dollar wasn’t too bad, 1 dollar US equaled about 7 Yuan. We felt the need to get back to our itinerary – if you’ve read the Passport DC post – you know that would be eat. drink. shop. repeat.

The wind whipped through the square, burning our cheeks. We tried to get a cab, but just like in the city when the weather’s bad – fuggetaboutit. No stinkin cabs anywhere.


Subway Car - Tian'anmen Station

In Beijing, many of the main directional signs are speckled with English looking words, so if you have an idea about the general area you want to be in, those of you who are not as directionally challenged as I am would certainly find your way.

The subway is not like that. Not at all. No English, Chinglish or anything that looked like ish. Oh boy.

We thought we wanted to go to an area we thought was Dongsishitiao, or was it Donzhimen? It didn’t matter at that point, because we were busy trying to figure out where to by a ticket or fare card, and how much that would be, and what line or lines served our sort of intended destination.

Being the ever intrepid explorers, or perhaps just blissfully ignorant chicks, we walked up to a counter with a clerk standing at the ready. We asked, in our best Chinese, for two tickets to Dongsishitiao. I whipped out 100 yuan and handed it to the clerk. She was not happy. The reason for her unhappiness was apparent in the 96 Yuan she handed back to me, along with two paper tickets.subwayticket

bjsubwaymapTickets in hand we walked over to the subway map. Seeing what looked like some letters strung together to form a word that somewhat resembled our intended destination, we boarded a blue line train and hoped for the best.

Being veterans of the city subway system, we kept our bags close and our eyes down. I did glance up momentarily to a car full of people staring directly at us. I soon realized why. Maureen is a beautiful, statuesque redhead, and I, well, I have red hair too.

We were perhaps, an oddity. Back then, we were Canadian, rather white redheads in the subway. There were no other people like us anywhere in the station or the train.

We did not stare back, not because we are not rude, but because we were trying to figure out where our stop was. One thing we did find comforting, just like home – the station announcements are inaudible. At least we recognised something.

In spite of our focus on the stations, we did not see our stop. Luckily, the line we were on was a loop, so we stayed on the train for another go round. The next time we de-trained at what looked like Dongsishitiao. As we climbed up out of the station, we realised we did not recognise anything. Wrong stop.

Back down into the station we went. It was all good this time – I had four Yuan at the ready, we were now veterans.

We eventually made our way to the shopping district, and as we left the area with our day’s catch, it suddenly dawned on us, we had taken a cab to Tian’anmen Square, so where was our hotel?

Was it Jianguomen? Wangfujing? No matter. We were Canadian redheads, Maureen could see above everyone, and we had a pocket full of Yuan. We’d figure it out.


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