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Trip Report China, The Kindest Of Strangers

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With a bit of firmness our flight touches down in Beijing around 9:30pm. After what was almost a lengthy Immigration and Customs process, we are on the Beijing Airport Express headed to our hostel accommodations for the next four nights.

Our route to Chinese Box Hostel should have been a relatively easy one except we are told that due to the recent flooding some of the subway stations are closed and we must exit the system early. On the train, a conversation is struck up with a local passenger and he offers his help. It is very cool as we watch him write portions of our instructions to the hotel in Chinese. What an art form!

Unfortunately, his stop approaches but before he leaves the train he gives us a smile of confidence and then waves us goodbye as the train departs the station. At Jishuitan, all passengers exit the train and our plan to catch a taxi begins. As we surface from the subway into the poorly lit streets of Beijing, we are engulfed by what for now I will say is fog. From our earlier conversation, I am aware that our destination is not that far away.

I begin to inquire about a taxi and sense that a passenger off the train is listening in on my conversation with the taxi driver. This gives me a bit of an uneasy feeling and my guard goes up. A fare of $100 yuan is offered but I know it is too expensive and we walk away down a poorly lit but busy street.

I know from experience that in this situation better taxi fares will be found away from the subway station. Walking towards a more well lit area of the street, I can hear a phone conversation going on behind me. My son and I are thinking alike as we formulate a defensive plan if this situation turns out to be what we both are thinking it might be.

At a bus stop we are approached by the gentlemen still talking on the phone who has been following us since we left the subway station. He gestures towards the paper I am holding and I give it to him. He continues talking on his cellphone as he studies a posted bus schedule. A few minutes later, although I speak no Chinese, he points us back in the direction we just came from. I gather from him we should pay no more than $30 yuan to get to our destination. We offer our appreciation and walk away thankful that we did not have to execute our Red-26 defensive plan.

We are about 50 yards away from the bus stop when Red-26 is again activated as the gentleman that earlier helped comes running towards us trying to get our attention. This time he points to a car that is stopped at the bus stop and is showing me about $35 in yuan notes.

I quickly gather what is going on. He has found us a cab that will take us to Chinese Box for $35 yuan. There is only one slight problem, this is not a cab, it is a regular car.

Back on alert, a portion of Red-26 is activate. Kai is going to sit in the front passenger seat and I will sit behind the driver. Then a surprising thing happens as we climb into the car, the gentleman that had followed us from the subway station hands the driver the $35 yuan he had earlier showed me. Although we are still on guard, I cannot believe a total stranger has just paid for our taxi cab fare.

With the driver navigating the dim foggy streets, I soon have a sense of my bearing although I have never been here before. We pass a recognizable sign from our earlier written instructions. It is the sign to XiSi Station which is where we were suppose to initially exit the subway system but were unable to because we could not make a transfer to Line 4.

At almost midnight the car comes to a stop and we are pointed in the direction of an alley before exiting. Red-26 is taken down a notch as going down an alley was a part of our instructions had we been able to use the subway all the way to XiSi Station.

Headed down the alley a car passes us and then stops. In a recognizable accent a passenger in the car sticks his head out of the window and shouts, “Hey, are you guys going to the hostel?, we'll get out here and join you.”

With that Red-26 is canceled as we meet a couple from Texas who have been teaching English in China and are also staying at Chinese Box Hostel.

Pulling on a free and cold welcome Yanjing beer, I reflect on our journey in getting here and I think “Oh, What a night”.

Not for the ordinary traveler or those who might use a guidebook or seek sage advice and do careful research before traveling. No, this type of experience is for those that as some would put it, “Have no common sense and are crazy because they can be robbed or beaten”.

Yes, not for some but for those that have a sense of adventure with guarded fear.

Y.O.L.O

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