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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:
Airport Transfer


        There was no mistaking our location: we were still in an airport. Cars were  rushing in to stop, pick up people waiting with their luggage, while other people hailed cabs or walked across to a parking garage. Most people, though, including us, moved toward several buses that were clogging a parking area adjacent to the road. After paying ¥16 ($1.94USD) for all three tickets, we found number 12, and went aboard this rapidly filling, swanky coach. Shortly, the bus pulled out onto the Capitol Airport Expressway, going toward the Capital, Beijing ( Again, I saw roadsigns in both Chinese and English.

       We couldn't get enough of seeing this country, knowing that we were in the land of the world's single greatest population. We didn't see too many people, but an attractive green rolling landscape of vegetation pocked by new construction which seemed quite manual-labor intensive, much like what I've seen in less-developed countries—bricks drying in the Sun; long, deep trenches being hand-dug, and people carrying large bundles upon their backs. At the same time, we were in a first-class motorcoach on a divided roadway that easily equaled and even exceeded interstates back home.

       Indeed, as we neared Beijing, the amount of traffic was also remarkably similar, with lots of motor vehicles belching black exhaust. Passing one of the few gas stations we'd seen, Enrique made a quick calculation and stated, “They're paying about one twenty-five per gallon here.” Katarena chimed in with “That is so cheap!”

      “China is an up-and-coming nation,” I told them, “and they have nearly a fifth of the world's population living here. They are no different from anybody else on the face of the Earth, they want the good life, too, which means progress. That means they want a high standard of living, which includes a car. Think of all the places we've been so far; only the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Venice didn't have motor vehicles all over.”

       As our bus slowly moved through the heavy traffic Southwest into the city on this superb roadway, the green lushness was replaced with a cityscape of rampant growth. Gone were the scenes of pastoral construction from earlier, and now heavy machinery, cranes, along with properly uniformed hordes of workers scrambled around worksites. Our bus began to lurch, as if the driver was just learning how to drive with a clutch, while we crossed the fourth and third ring roads of Dongsihuan and Dongsanhuan, merging into the broad avenue of Dongzhimenwai Xie Jie.

       It was absolutely chaotic: cars darting while trucks and buses lumbered in generally the same direction on the road, a sidewalk separating a smaller lane which appeared to be reserved for bicycles, pedicabs, taxis, plus a few other vehicles wishing to avoid the often snail-pace on the adjacent motor route. It made Rome look almost peaceful! At Dongzhimenwai Street, our bus entered upon  another the second ring road for a few miles before leaving it to move along a slightly less chaotic Chang'an Jie. It was actually orderly, and it became apparent that this was the street, as we passed between Tian'anmen Square and Tian'anmen Gate, with the huge portrait of Chairman Mao, ironically dividing the road between “East” and “West”. Our bus finally stopped at the telecommunications center, where we disembarked in a light rain.



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