China welcomed us stressfully. We flew there with the China Southern airlines, initially we were satisfied with the flight. We even got a warm meal. But then… In general, I’m not afraid to fly, but when the greatest turbulences that I’ve ever had the “pleasure” to experience started I didn’t feel nice. I felt the familiar adrenaline rush and started analyzing the situation with a sense of fear. First of all, I thought with horror how much would a transport of our corpses cost and how sad our parents would be. That drama ended with landing at Beijing airport.
We went out to catch a bus and it all started. Great chaos, a crowd of people and the language we don’t understand. I must mention here that I was on the language course of Chinese with a Chinese teacher and in addition I was studying Chinese with the Chinese girl (and I taught her some Polish) tandem programme. But it was two years ago, and unused language is forgotten (we knew it already because we were studying French for three years and now we can only present ourselves).
We were able to get into the crowded bus and got off at the main railway station, because it was our hostel. We had no problem finding it because we I already saw it through the window of the bus. In the hostel the first thing we did was we asked for cable for internet, but met difficulties. Lady who brought us a cable spoke to us in Chinese. Finally, we somehow went understood that we have to pay 100 yuan deposit (50 PLN) and write the numbers of our passports. There we had our first attempt to overreach Chinese censorship and we did it. Goal achieved – we logged in to facebook 😉
Soon after we left the hostel we went to the railway station to pick up tickets that Ying bought for us on the Internet Ying – a friend mentioned earlier colleague, with whom I studied Chinese . In addition, we had an appointment at the station with another friend who also studied in Poland. Chen asked us what we want to see in Beijing and it was a very good question . We had less than 24 hours for Beijing, because the next day we were going to visit Ying who was going to stay in China for two more days ( then she was going back to Korea, where she studies . It happened that when we flew to South Korea, she was already in China). We wanted to see Chinese great wall ( about 70 km from Beijing ), but we came to the conclusion that we can’t because we don’t have enough time . Yes, we could try the next morning (train toYing’s hometown – Zibo we had about 5 pm) but it would very stressful. So we decided to see as much as possible in Beijing. Chen and his colleague Liu, who also studied in Sopot , but we met for the first time in Beijing took us on Tian’anmen Square . There were a lot of people , but it wasn’t surprising . In Beijing live 20 millions people , almost half population of Poland.
Then we went for the first Chinese meal. We ate a variety of food (including lotus roots with mushrooms , pieces of pork in a sweet sauce and spinach with peanuts ) but the main dish was the Peking Duck ! We got it on three plates – on one there was skin, on the other meat with the skin, on the third the meat only. During the meal we drank Chinese vodka (Baijiu). It has a strong aroma, maybe even too strong and it consists 53 % alcohol. It tastes somehow similar to plum brandy (śliwowica) . Our hosts were very chatty , we asked so many questions about China that we don’t remember most of it. They confirmed that we had some cause for concern since our room was on the 4th floor (the most unlucky number for the Chinese , often they resign from 4th floor and there is just 3rd and after that 5th). The second thing a Chinese New Year just started- the year of the horse. Because we were both born in 1990 – the year of the horse we thought that this means that the new year would bring us luck. Meanwhile, we learned that the year of the horse for people born in the year of the horse means that they must be careful.
We don’t believe in superstitions , but actually in Beijing the fortune didn’t favor us too much. The first day was stressful. We couldn’t find a place where we had to meet with our colleagues – Jakub after a brief glance at the plan of the railway station, was deeply convinced that the station exit which is our meeting place is situated on the opposite side of the railroad tracks. To enter the station building it was necessary to had a train ticket.
So, we were desperately looking for some passage to the other side of the station – trying to get some information from the Chinese people on this. Speaking with the Chinese not in Chinese language was difficult. Finally, the nice man lent us his phone and we contacted with friends . It turned out that all exits are on the same side of the tracks. On the second day, sadly already given up the Wall of China , but in return we decided to see the famous Forbidden City. It seemed to us that to see only the Forbidden City would not be enough, so we decided to advance quickly and visit the Temple of Heaven before . Everywhere there was a lot of Chinese tourists – probably they enjoyed the free time due to the Chinese new year ( celebrated for two weeks ! ). It turned out that to visit the Temple of Heaven you have to buy two tickets one after another – and the first one is just to walk around . As to the second ticket office there was a line , and we felt short on time, we ran away from there to make it to the Forbidden City . There, the queue surpassed our ideas and gnashing our teeth , we found that the Forbidden City remains FORBIDDEN for us.
We had an appointment with Chen and Liu and we didn’t want to tell them to wait for us. Wonderful Chinese again saved our day – they took us to the Tibetan Lamaist temple (Yonghegong)- it was very interesting. The most interesting impression was seeing the Chinese burning the incenses while in a very close distance we could hear the sounds of fireworks. Liu drove us to the station, which looked more like an airport than railway station . Ying already booked for us a ticket to her hometown – Zibo . That’s where we went.