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Published: August 26th 2010
Forbidden City Princess
Local Chinee girl enjoys a popsicle at the Forbidden City.
I've been home for exactly 2 weeks now but I needed some extra time to process my thoughts on what I would write for the time I spent in China.
Bascially, I think I spent 90% of my time there praying to God. Generally it went something along the lines of: "God, please help me find my way home... God, please let me catch my flight on time.... God, please let this man not be a physco killer". All of these prayers were said at least once during my 5 and a half day stint in China.
So, what actually happened I hear you say. I will write a brief account of my China dramas as I intend to catch up with most of you in the next week or so and I have to leave a juicy story or two for then. For those of you who can not wait here's how China unfolded:
At 4.45am I finish off the last of my water before checking in my baggage at KL's airport
After an 19 hour layover, a 6 hour flight and only a few hours of sleep I arrive at Tanjin Airport, China (I think I have
Gotta be one of my Asian highlights
landed in Beijing)
My backpack is mistakenly taken (by someone who needs to learn how to tell his own pack). I wait in the arrival hall for 3 extra hours. A few tears are shed due to exhaustion and frustration.
6pm I leave the arrivals hall with my own backpack but am confused when the printed instructions to my hostel are not as easy to follow as they should be.
I get on the airport tourist bus to the train station.
While on the bus I decide that I will forgo the extra cost and just get a taxi to my hostel, as it was getting dark and I recognised my need to water, food and sleep.
I arrive in a suburban street with lots of taxi's and not much else.
I get into a taxi and ask them to take me to my hostel. Of course the address is written in English and my driver can not read english. Thank God for the phone number. He calls the hostel to ask for directions.
Taxi man tells me it will be 500Y (equivilant to $85 AUD). I feel angry as I think he's ripping me off but I am desperate
Not up for discussion so we had to be careful aout what we said about 'the events'.
to be there and so I agree.
We drive for 45 minutes in peak hour traffic before pulling over onto the shoulder of a very busy, fast moving motorway.
There is a black sedan parked ahead and my driver tells me to get into this car.
I panic and start crying but realise I don't have any other choice but to do what he says.
I get into the car, crying and shaking with fear and we continue to drive along the motorway. I wonder where i am being taken.
About 30 minutes in I look up to see a huge green sign saying, "Beijing 98km" and it all sinks in within a matter of seconds.
I had arrived in a town 3 hours drive out of Beijing. The taxi man I thought was ripping me off had actually driven me to the furthest point he could, then organised a driver to take me the rest of the way. He had charged me a fair price and had done his country proud for taking such good care of me.
Once i realised all this I began to relax and so did my driver (not that he could speak any english)
Stopping for dinner in downtown KL China Town.
I arrived at my hostel at 10pm that night and had a well needed drink of water and slept like a baby.
The next few days went along swimmingly. I took in the sights, saw the Great Wall (yay), ate Peking Duck at a Chinese only restaurant thanks to my new friends - one of whom spoke Chinese. I only had one more drama while in Beijing and that was the night after getting there. I had booked a Kung Fu show and at 6pm I waited downstairs for my pickup. He came but instead of a driver, we walked, caught the subway and walked some more before arriving at the theatre. once there my guide told me, "when the show is over you walk home, even though 10pm our streets very safe". Safety wasn't my first priority though. Finding my way back was! I managed to get back with one hiccup close to home but I have to tell you that being lost in Beijing- a city of 19 million people, is definately on my list of "things I never want to do again".
I had booked my flight home out of Shanghai and so I caught
Beijing Roast Duck
Our chef carves up our Peking Duck intoexactly 128 slices. Yummo
a 17 hour sleeper bus there and arrived late. By the time I had checked in and showered off the standard issue bus grime I had to dash off quick smart to see the World Expo. I arrived back at 7pm that night with a niggly feeling in my stomach combined with a twinge of dread. Sadly my worst fears were realised a mere 30 minutes later. Yep, just as I did not fly into Beijing, I did not fly out of Shanghai. In fact my correct airport was in a town 2 hours away by train called Hangzhou.
With all of the energy I could muster I planned my 5am wake up in order to get to the correct train station and hopefully get to my aiirport by 12 noon.
The turth is that i nearly didn't make it. The way I see it someone upstairs was watching over me...big time. I met a Chinese/American family and after hearing my delima, the Dad encouraged me to get on their train which left Shanghai a full 45 minutes earlier than mine. He said the sheer volume of people meant they couldn't check everyone's tickets and if I was checked he
World Expo Shanghai
Kicking goals outside the South African exhibit.
would talk to them. He told me that i might have to pay a fine/ buy a new ticket, both of which i was more than happy to do since a new flight would have been much more costly.
Yep, it all worked out and no one checked my ticket. I arrived at Hangzhou train station and paid a taxi driver an extra $5 to go "quickly, quickly". I was at the airport by 12.15 and checked in well before it closed.
The rest of the trip home is a bit of a blur. My body was ravaged with exhaustion both physically and mentally. I touched down at Perth airport at 5.15am and thanks to the speedy customs crew that morning I was soon on home turf. When I saw Mum, of course it was like a cheesy girl movie, running hugs and tears all round. The initial warmth of 'being home' lasted all of 5 minutes before I realised how bloody cold it was. Luckily M&D came prepared with a coat to wrap my frozen body in.
So, that is how China played out. An exhilerating ride right down to the wire. Most people i have already told this story to have commented on what a nightmare it must have been, in a large part they are dead right. After 6 months of empowering, lone-wolf style travel I was on the boarder of losing all of my travel confidence. Then I began to see things differently, yes, I did have to use all my resources to get me to where I needed to be and yes, there were times where I was scared out of my brain. The thing is that out of all those potentially horrible situations I was helped time and time again by the wonderful, beautiful people of China who took time out of their lives to help me. These people made phone calls on their mobiles for me, stood in line with me to buy tickets, provided tissues for my tears, just to list a few ways they offered support.
For these reasons, I choose to remember my time in China with a cheeky smile for all the mistakes I made and a profound and deep repsect for the strangers who helped me in every way they could- often with very little english.
That's it for now folks but before I finish up I really do want to say a massive thankyou to everyone who read my blog over the past 6 months. Your comments and messages have been inspirational and uplifting. With the support and advice provided from you I feel I learnt to observe my environment more accurately and this greater enriched my expereinces. For that, I will be enternally grateful.
Don't forget to tune in from September 28th for 'Into Africa'! Until then, I hope to see you in real life.
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