Day 11: Because of jetlag and different time zones (8 hours difference) I ended up wasting one and a half days in Beijing, not very important for me when I’ll have a lot of time to explore, but mildly concerning for those who want to fit a lot of activities on a tight schedule.
So what to do when I only had half a day left to enjoy? Visit the Beijing Zoo and finally see Pandas for the very first time. The Giant Panda Bear is my absolute favourite animal since as far as I can remember so it was a very important mark in the history of my life to finally see them upfront. And an opportunity to cross something off of my bucket list. I expected them to be bigger, but wasn’t disappointed.
Going there was quite easy, the subway system is similar to London’s and the stations have the Pinyin translation underneath. But when I went back to the hostel things turned out mildly sour.
Most tube stations in Beijing have four exits, something I didn’t know so I didn’t pay attention to which exit I got in. So after getting out at a random exit and walking a little, I realised I didn’t recognise the place I was in and turned back to enter the subway again and exit through another.
I was still lost!
Finally, I started asking people that didn’t know where my street was, or didn’t speak English, or simply didn’t want to help, because everyone just shook their heads and repeatedly told me “bu”! A nice gentleman agreed to help me and put the address on maps. The map indicated I was very close but none of us knew which direction it head towards. He ended up telling me “it must be that way”.
Ahead I asked another man and this one seemed more certain but didn’t speak a word of English, I only understood from his crossed fingers that he meant to say a crossroad and turn right.
I kept walking and when the crossroad arrived I still didn’t recognise the street and asked again. A guy from a hairdresser gave me some directions, that ended up being wrong and caused me to get lost again. So when I got to the end of the road, saw there were no more alleys and still no sign of my hostel, I tried again.
"It's backwards," pointed a lady at a pharmacy. "Backwards," pointed another boy.
HOW CAN IT BE BACKWARDS? I JUST DID THAT STREET AND SAW NOTHING! I was starting to get really furious!!! And for those of you who know me, you know it's not pretty when I start getting furious over being lost (maps get torned and thrown into the garbage).
The maps on the streets of China don’t have the Pinyin translation, so that feeling that you might be saved by those beautiful murals full of roads that tell "you are here", are rendered completely useless…
I started getting desperate and stopping the taxi drivers and showing my address that I had saved on the iPad, both in English and Chinese, but the taxi drivers refused to take me for some reason I didn’t understand because they only spoke Chinese...
The fourth taxi driver I stopped seemed to recognise it but didn’t want to take me, he kept gesturing number 2 and pointing backwards. Still, I sat on the front seat, closed the door and pointed at the road. "Let's go!" He started yelling at me in Mandarin what I can only assume that meant he didn't want to take me cause he continued to gesture backwards and signaling 2. "Some say forward, other say backwards, I am tired of being lost!" I yelled in English. He must have understood I was stubborn cause he put down the taximeter and drove.
After driving the same road I had walked on foot twice, turning and stopping in an alley he pointed forward. I still couldn’t see my hostel and there was no chance I was going to pay and keep on being lost. So I pointed forward too and told him to keep going. He started arguing with me again in Mandarin and I argued back with him in English that I was tired of being lost. I ended up winning the argument again cause the car, which he was afraid was not going to fit in the tight space, did fit, and I found my hostel.
The point is: had I payed attention to the exit I entered at the subway, the way to my hostel would have taken me 2 minutes instead of 2 hours... And, I finally saw Pandas!!