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A Tale of Backpackers

in Beijing

by Juanito Hayburg

Printed with permission by Juanito Hayburg, USA.


Beijing Travel Guide for Backpacker:
McDonald in Beijing



       We jogged to a McDonald's restaurant next door, and, thinking of lunch, entered through the door. Getting inside was a challenge. People were seemed to be stalled on the stairway, and, once we had made it to the second floor, humanity was tucked virtually everywhere. We pushed, as politely as possible, to what appeared to be an empty table far back on the streetside, and plopped our bags underneath. While Katarena and Enrique returned to the swollen crowd in front of the cashiers to order food, I thought I might be able to round-up a few chairs to go with our vacant table. I should not have been surprised to see the chairs appear, along with occupants, who apparently made excellent use of them--not only did it make the table useless for us, but also made it easier for  them to sit and wait for their food. I didn't squabble about the table; they had the chairs, and had sat down, shifting our bags to a vertical stack and then leisurely enjoying their long awaited meal.

       They knew to whom the bags belonged, and I think it was a repeat of our Swift(less) Ferryboat from Dublin to Holyhead: “Sorry, mate, but satchels don't mean the same as bodies.” It was  obvious to me that they knew the only other two well-traveled gringos belonged to me, who had just started to wait to order food. They knew they had ample time to finish their own meal before relinquishing the table to us. They knew, all right, and as soon as my children arrived with lunch, they vacated, giving us the table and both chairs. I still stood, half-sitting on the window sill as rain  slowly moved down the glass.

       We ate our small sandwiches and, as soon as we rose with our packs, another pair descended upon our table with the same eagerness as we had. We slowly pushed our way through the crowd and down the stairs, out into the light rain. There, we were analyzing our my transcribed hostel information, comparing it to our Lonely Planet China guide, and not making much sense out of either. I figured they may be too much out of date, but a woman approached us and, in fluent English, explained that we had come in on an “express” bus that didn't stop anywhere close to where we wanted to go.

“However,” she explained, “this map (in LP China) is accurate. You need to go back along Chang'an Jie to the subway, then go to Dongsishitiao stop. From there you can take another bus to the Great Dragon Hotel, and find your hostel. I can take you, no problem.”

       There was a problem. I did not want to pay for this specialized escort service, particularly after I had read in the LP book about students who attached themselves to foreigners for a variety of reasons, then expect reimbursement.

       “No, thank you, you've given us all the direction we need.” I replied, and we were off, walking across the busy street filled with buses, cars, trucks, and bicycles. Lots of bicycles, but not as many as I had thought, certainly less than in Amsterdam. All the same, it was still a full street.



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