I started the day at 5am, determined to be as cost effective as possible and make it to the airport shuttle with time to spare instead of shelling out 5x as much for a taxi. It never fails to amaze me how persistent cab drivers can be in this town. One followed me in to the ticket counter and tried to convince me he’d take me to the airport for the same price, (RMB 20, roughly USD 3). Since I couldn’t ask him which body parts he planned on farming to make up for the price difference I declined.
I got to the airport with plenty of time (ticketing counters close half an hour before departure time here), which was lucky as I’d forgotten to write down any information about my flight. After five minutes of thinking to myself, “how hard could it be to guess which airline I’m taking?” I remembered that the booking site had sent me a text message with the flight number. Crisis averted. Until I landed in Beijing, when I realized that I only had the address of my hostel written down in English, which no taxi driver could read. I’d not written down the phone number and I’d mistakenly brought along my map of Hong Kong. I tried to find a taxi driver who was familiar with the street name, assuming I was pronouncing it correctly, but the only guy who claimed to be familiar with it wanted to charge me RMB 150. I laughed and walked away. When faced with such situations my biological response is to pace around chanting “f*** f*** f***” until my head is about to explode. It’s surprisingly ineffective. Eventually I figured out what street I was looking for, thanks to a sign, and a taxi driver who knew what I was talking about. The ride cost RMB 17.
Unlike my first trip to Beijing and my trip to Hong Kong, this excursion was made with a strict budget in mind. I stayed at 161 Hostel, which I found on Booking.com, a cute enough place with a nice airy atrium that serves as a decidedly empty café-cum-restaurant. I ate breakfast there completely alone three mornings in a row, but have to say they make a decent cup of Americano and have delicious chocolate danishes. The hostel set me back a grand total of just under RMB 500 for three nights, about USD 20. I got a single room with a private bath. The best part of the stay, or what came to be my favorite, was the bike rental. For RMB 30, Jack Chen will lend you a bike for a day and I cannot recommend biking Beijing enough. It helped that the weather that first afternoon was amazing, but biking the city is a cost-effective and enjoyable way to explore even if it’s overcast, assuming you’re decent with a map and aren’t afraid of dying, either from exhaustion or the erratic behavior of, well, everyone on the road.
Oh no, I have to run, but more about the trip to come soon! I haven’t even told you what I really did yet, have I? I’ll be sure to fill in the blanks tomorrow at the latest! I’m having some blogging trouble thanks to the great firewall of China, but I’ll try to make updates (with photos) happen!