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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:
Beijing Youth Hostel 1



        We easily entered the a bus, paid our fare, and were once again going East on  Chang'an Jie, albeit much more slowly this time as the bus made constant stops, discharging and picking up passengers. The buildings were not much different from most large cities, until we passed Tian'anmen Gate and Square. These renowned features looked almost out of place, the gate looking as if a skyscraper was laying sideways with Chairman Mao's picture over the entrance on the North side, and the square on the South side is a huge ballfield centered around his memorial hall. As the bus continued its stop-and-go, the cityscape resumed until we came to an obvious train station. We couldn't see any trains, but a huge throng of people scurrying about a large square in front of a squat two-story structure with taxis and bicycles in front showed it was an important transit terminal of some kind. At this point, we got off the bus and went into Jian Guo Men Station to board a subway train on the line to our hostel.

       After paying 9¥($1.09USD) for the three of us and we showed our tickets to the attendant at a gated entrance to the station below. Following the crowd was easy enough, and once on the platform, the trains regularly pulled in for a minute, then out, with great predictability. We would not have a long wait. The subway system was a simple two-line setup, as shown in LP, a blue circle line (#2) that looped around along the second ring road,  and an East-West Line red line (#1) parallel to Chang'an Jie. We had been told that a third line was under construction, but we left from a this station (Jian Guo Men), close to the ancient observatory that served as a transfer point between the two lines. Even more pleasing was that we could easily understand our route—the large route map on the wall was plotted by stations whose names were written in both Chinese and English. It was quite easy to find the Northbound train that would take us three stations before disembarking. It was, though, crowded, but that didn't stop an old woman from selling tourist maps throughout the car. For some reason, she knew to approach me first out of all the other passengers. I admit, I  felt better giving her some money and receiving an item that is normally free at upper-end hotels. Better to have me picking my own pocket than her!

       Keeping our eye on the route map over the doors, the train seemed to move along at an extremely fast clip for what seemed too long. By the time we stopped at the third station, Dongzhimen Qiao (we easily recognized the station sign on the wall, written in English), and pushed out onto the platform. Again, it was an easy walk up and out into the air, where we remembered the motorway junction that our express bus had been on when it came into Beijing. The midday chaos of the streets was phenomenal, only increasing from what I'd observed an hour before.

        With our new tourist map in hand, we began walking toward the Great Dragon Hotel. We walked for a long time, and finally had to ask another woman, who showed us that  we were  too far North, and directed us to walk South. I didn't figure it was such a distance, but we came to another major thoroughfare, Giongrentiyuchang Bei Road (Worker's Stadium Road), and, turning East on it, we passed the Worker's Stadium, an Outback Steakhouse, several other assorted business and apartments, the Pacific Center Shopping Complex, and, adjacent to that, the Great Dragon Hotel, as evidenced by the large marquee just below the roof.




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