Planning my Birthday. Beijing, China

2 Nov

This is how I imagine I’ll be talking about my birthday….

“So, Amanda…what did you do to celebrate your birthday?”

“Oh, nothing much…Jumped on a bus in China. Drove 4 hours. Hiked the Great Wall without tourists. Captured a glimpse of the REAL China..”

It will be a remarkable birthday for I only have three goals – Be outside. Be alone. Be silent. Sounds dull? You’ve GOT to be kidding. Try traveling a country the week where 1.3 billion are on holiday.

Government reported Chinese traveling was up 24% from last year.

Over 900,000 tourists were on Tienanmen Square on October 2nd. Just a tad less than the population of Orange County, Florida. And, 25 million+ were on a train during the first two days of Oct.Now, we’re talking about the population of Texas.

China was booked. Guess where I was during the first week of October – trains, planes, buses, boats to all the prime Chinese tourist attractions. Yes, birthday was about embracing my inner dullness.

One thing I noticed about the Chinese is they travel in groups. Travel with

Tour Guide. With microphone and flag...

guides. The difference between their guide and our guide – peppy, positive Olive – besides smiling and enjoying their jobs, is their tour guides ALL carry their very own karaoke machine. You don’t know noise until you have five Chinese tour guides competing for air space. It’s one big, fat, staticky run on sentence lasting for hours. I asked Olive if this annoys her. She said, “I don’t even hear it…When you share space with millions. With constant noise – or constant karaoke – you tune it out…or invest in ear plugs.” Olive carries ear plugs.

So, you get why my Happy B-Day present to me was peace and quiet. This meant locating a Chinese travel agency who specializing in Great Wall treks. This also meant finding time to jump on the Beijing metro to sign up for the tour. The agency I wanted was located near the main train station. Easy enough, or so I thought, for I entered this great country on the train. Know the station well.

Beijing metro is simple – just like walking through an open door. It’s when the escalator throws me outside – into the light – is when I become dazed and confused. The map indicated main train station was right in front of me. Don’t see it. When I’m map confused, I take to walking the streets. Always leading in the wrong direction. On this day, my legs and lungs put in a good 10 minutes. Nothing. No train station. I turned around to head back to the metro, seething with annoyance. I just want to go to the Great Wall on my birthday. Is that hard to ask?

After wondering for another good 20 mins, I stumbled upon the ginormous train station. It was on the OTHER side of the metro stop. Whatever. Found the Chinese travel agency. Booked the Great Wall trip on my B-day, scheduled to pick me up at 6 AM. Easy. Breezy.

At Forbidden City with the rest of China

Now, I have two hours to get back to my hotel. Think I’ll have time for a nap. I’m so tired. We spent the day at the Summer Palace, Forbidden City and Tienanmen Square. Great day to inhale pollution, make friends and witness Chinese history.

Learned a lot. Not going to blog about it for anyone can go to Lonely Planet for tour details. Or, check out my pictures in the album in this blog. It’s big.

You can imagine what happen. I got lost. I mean real lost. I walked to an industrial district in Beijing. An hour and forty-five mins later, still walking. As each minute passed, my pride inflated. I refused to ask for help. I refused to hail a taxi. I was going to find my hotel, no matter what. Each step, the more angry I became – AT me. Was I really this directionally challenged? Why is it the more I travel, the more my map skills shrink. I later found out if I would have made a right instead of left, my hotel was 20 mins from the main train station…not 2 hours. Travel angels got me back to the hotel. I spied some tall men and followed them to a main cross road. Tall people know best. Right.

We had our final farewell group dinner on October 8th – day before my birthday. The Travel Posse surprised me with a B-day cake. Talk about surprise! I was surprised the cake tasted so good. I was very sad to leave them. Great travel group. It’s always about the people when you travel. Olive was a super star.

The next day, I will wake early and hike the Great Wall. I will be on a bus for 4 hours heading North. Heading to the area that the government has not rebuilt for tourists. Actually, very few tourist go to this part of the wall. Can’t wait. Pray for peace…no noise. No people. Yes stillness.

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