OR GETTING OUT OF MY NIGHTMARE CITY AND HOW NOT TO BOOK A SHITHOLE EVER AGAIN
Chinese Proverb; “A fall into a ditch makes you wiser“
This proverb is very pertinent to me. While driving down a dark country lane years ago, I asked my mate to stop our van so I could have one of my infamous outdoor wees. Jumping out from an already high van step I plummeted down into a deep ditch not visible in the night. It was not my finest hour but my friend thought it hilarious shouting “Look! A bitch in a ditch!”
Anyhoo a Chinese takeaway for you now read my survival hints which are: Top Tips below in pink!
The lead up to my getting out of Beijing
My first “proper” meal after three days in Beijing…on the flight to Xi’an!
I remember very little of my day after the trip to the Great Wall of China. (To be posted ) My weird guide who had approached me on the street the day after my emotional visit to Tiananmen Square. I don’t know how normal it is in Beijing for a new guide to approach a foreigner on the street asking if they wanted a guide to the Great Wall of China, but it didn’t seem right.
She had marched up to me and said she had just got her official government guide certificate and she had seen me alone. She was very pushy but I was very exhausted with the whole fucking system by then and finally bartered a price wearily. I felt very dubious but caught between a rock and a hard place. My efforts to book a guide to to the Great Wall via Tripadvisor had been thwarted but I very much resented, and was suspicious, of this random woman approaching me on the street.
Let’s face it my ‘guide’ in Beijing (the one who had approached me on the street in a very dodgy way) wanted rid of me and had been keen to drive me to the airport the next day after my paid tour with her to the Great Wall of China. She arrived early, at my foul hotel, with a tense taut face. The weather had changed from sparkling blue skies to snow and sleet and ominous dark heavy clouds. Gone was her robotic smiley tour mode of the previous day. Obviously, some fucking person had said I was a person of interest being female and alone and showing rather too obvious disdain for the place. She now was silent and determined I wouldn’t miss my flight. Grim faced she left me without even a goodbye
My reactions around Beijing.
TOP TIP: REGROUPING There will be some bad decisions and venues when travelling solo. You have to ride the rough with the smooth, but it’s important to regroup when you get to a safe harbour. I did this here. I was exhausted and had lost weight. My clothes were dirty as was I and my brain was all over the place with paranoia and confusion. I had planned 3 weeks doing a trip down China then Hong Kong. Now I had to think on my feet and change it all. This is where quiet time comes in or you get more and more shambolic and confused. You turn into a mad old bird with a crazy look in her eye and could easily be confused as a tramp with your dirty clothes and cursing under your breath as you walk the streets. Clean orderly hotels help create a clean orderly mindset. And as for anywhere a couple of decent nights sleep can turn everything around.
My Haven the Intercontinental Xi’an
The arrival at my hotel in Xi’an was the biggest relief ever. I had booked the Intercontinental at a bargain price of about £45 a night. It was palatial with doormen rushing up to my taxi, smiles and all.a Suddenly I wanted to weep. I wanted to throw myself to the ground shouting “Thank you. Thank you so much. They wanted to kill me in Beijing!”. I didn’t but at the check-in desk, I nearly did. It was a proper place with less of a threatening Communist aura. It was a haven in what I now considered a fascist hell with people being ‘disappeared’ all the time. (more of this later.)
My stay there was great and the Terracotta Army a place of awe but I couldn’t get the bad taste of Beijing from my mouth. I just hung out at the hotel and went to a mall opposite. I bought some new walking shoes and had a manicure. I sulked and fretted about my hideously tight connection in Hong Kong that Expedia had sneakily sold me, and that I couldn’t change because of the fucking Chinese firewalls. I just couldn’t get the boarding pass for my ongoing journey to Hanoi and my flight was in a different Terminal in huge Hong Kong Airport. It would seem that they are pricks about anything. (The concierge spent two days trying to get round the problem but even he couldn’t so it was more stress and anxiety because even he was perplexed.) I ate spaghetti carbonara defiantly at the mall just not to eat Chinese food, and hamburgers in room, had luxurious baths and wrote. Laundry was done nails were painted and I was ready to get the hell out of China!
My romantic plans of travelling through China alone and happy were just by now a joke. Impossible and very scary China had given me a good beating, kicked me in the teeth, and now was spitting me out.
I decided to get a flight to Hanoi after a good old ponder and get a hotel with character but not one that was a filthy hovel like in Beijing but not as opulent as the Inter. I was feeling like I was cheating a bit not to stay in more authentic places but I didn’t want authentic authentic either. So I found an in-betweener and it turned out to be perfect just for my taking care of the research.
TOP TIP: My habit of always putting “old town or historic centre” had bitten me in the arse a few times. This terminology, “Historic centre”, includes and means a place where you will be raped and murdered in an alley and have everything stolen off your still warm corpse, but it also has a lovely church. “Vibrant nightlife” can mean you will never sleep even a wink and you’ll be pickpocketed as you walk to your hotel doors as you’re too tired to notice, but the bars and clubs are great and right below you. Be very selective and not rash. Yes you want walking distance to the best bits but you also want a place that you’ll be happy in and feel safe, in and around the vicinity. Read some reviews they are there for a reason. Jump between Booking.com and Expedia or any other favourite booking sites you prefer and you will find different places and different prices for the same hotel. Go to Trivago if you will, I just don’t usually have time to quibble about a couple of quid after you,ve spent hours deciding on a place. After all that’s the fun bit. Also PLEASE CHECK DISTANCE FROM AIRPORT!
My transfer in Hong Kong turned out to be doable after all the stress, but the charter airline Jet Star that flew us to Hanoi nearly killed us, a story for another day my now terrified old birds. I don’t want to ruffle your feathers any more than I’ve already done. So see below:
OVER AND OLD FROM OLD DUCK REBECCA X
Dedicated to the lovely person who helped save my post “Beside the Seaside” yesterday!