We had a little trouble when we first arrived in Beijing.
Everything started off swimmingly, the rucksacks trundled off the conveyor in express time. I’m never sure whether this is traveller serendipity or baggage handlers stacking the big cases towards the bottom of the pile. Either way it generally seems to work out for us.
We piled aboard a bus city bound headed vaguely in the direction of a hostel we had plucked from the lonely planet with the intention of jumping into a cab once we got closer.
It was a grim misty grey day, the sort of day London specialises in at this time of year. My first impressions of Beijing were uninspiring, the roads were huge and clogged with traffic. We dived off the bus at our appointed stop, it was akin to being dropped off somewhere on the M1 as it enters central London. Not exactly an ideal first impression.
Scratching our heads at the Chinese road signs we got a vague idea of our location and decided to hail a cab to get us the last few miles to our guest house.
Now Beijing is a big city, unfortunately I hadn’t grasped quite how big it is. We showed the name and address of our place to a few drivers who scratched their respective heads before zooming off to pick up someone who actually knew where the hell they were going. Finally we found a driver who was in less of a rush. Whipping out his mobile phone he called our guest house to find out where it was located. Bless him and bless modern technology. We’d still be stood there now otherwise.
Later, reading the Lonely Planet I began to realise the lunacy of what we were asking. Beijing is actually the size of Belgium. Yes, I mean the country Belgium. What we were asking was akin to arriving at Euston station and asking if the taxi driver knew of a little B&B somewhere in Brighton. No wonder they all looked non-plused.
Once you get into the back streets of the city you realise what a great city it is. There’s a myriad of great places to eat and drink and Beijing is as flat as a pancake so tootling around on a bicycle is ideal.
Our first port of call after checking into our hotel? An Indian restaurant for a Lamb Rogan Josh. Well, why the hell not?