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May 30th, 2013

Two Trips to Beijing

I headed up to Beijing twice during the month of May. Both trips were very short. The first trip I stayed two nights before returning. The second trip I didn't even stay the night and was only in the city for about seven hours. Both trips revolved around my passport. The first was for the application. The second was for picking it up. Most people have asked me why I didn't just have them mail the passport to me. The reason is that they simply no longer offer this service.

During the first trip I hadn't planned to do anything while in Beijing because I hadn't thought that I'd have time. So I just walked around for a while. What struck me as odd about the area of Beijing that I was in is that it doesn't look Chinese. It looks like a city in America. The style and layout of the buildings reminded me of Dallas. In Wuhan and most other cities I've been in there are rows in which the buildings form a long stretch. All the shops are pushed up against each other like the oldest buildings in downtown Shreveport. Everything is brick, concrete and ceramic tiles and it all looks very old even if it has been recently built. Yet in area of Beijing I explored the buildings were much taller with a lot of space in between them. They did not appear to be cheap and hastily thrown together like the buildings that I've become accustomed to in Wuhan.

The shape of the buildings was not the only difference that I noticed. The people don't look like normal Chinese people either. Well, obviously they look Chinese. More of the people in Beijing look fat. In Wuhan almost everyone is very thin. You do see fat people in Wuhan but they are by no means common. I see maybe one person in 500 who is a little heavy. In Beijing it was closer to one out of every ten or twenty.

After walking around for a few hours I hit the subway and headed to the train station. This is where I made my mistake. There are subway maps everywhere. I studied one of these just long enough to find the words Beijing Railway Station and then set off in that direction. Thirty minutes later I was in a train station that did not look at all familiar and the display showing the train schedules did not have my train listed. There are several train stations in Beijing. I was in Beijing South when I needed to be in Beijing West. My train departed while I was on the subway about two thirds of the way between the wrong station and the right station.

So one (planned) night in Beijing became two nights. Getting a new ticket didn't cost me anything. The lady at the train station simply took the old one and gave me a new one for the next day. My only extra cost was the hotel room for the second night. The second trip went much more smoothly.  

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