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Bejing in 1985

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Saturday 23rd March.
Arrive in majestic Beijing railway station at 6.30 am. Say good bye to Her who wanted me to go to Tanjin with him. Go to the Beijing Hotel with Lesley and Inge for breakfast. This monstrous massive structure has three big fronts along a wide tree lined main street leading off the big square. 20 minutes walk from the train station. Several restaurants in the hotel. Have a small omelette with toast, pear juice and a piece of cake for 4 Y. One can have a big dinner for half this price in the peoples restaurants. Several Asian and Eastern European businessmen, also some Europeans I think. Best of all superb lavatories, sit down type with paper, flush, hot water. soap and hot air dryer that works but makes the lights dim. Shit and shave both much needed. I have lost a set of keys, left behind on the train, but spare set in body belt.
 Find China International travel service in East end of Chongwenman Hotel. All sorts of stories are told about these agencies. If you get what you want its okay, if not, don’t believe a word and try to make your own way. The agency would rather make any arrangement than admit your request is not possible or even understood. Meet some other people here and we decide to go for the Qaou Yuan hotel near Taoranting Park in the south of the city. Hire a bicycle from near the CITS office it costs 2.20 Y for the first day and 1.70 Y each successive day. Pay on return, an official looking personal document is required as deposit, wish I still had my AA driving licence. Cycle to the hotel in about half an hour with hundreds of fellow cyclists in blue jackets and an occasional rumbling articulated bus. Wide tree lined streets, huge empty squares, massive grey buildings, dust.
 Hotel want “letter of introduction” which we had asked for from the CITS office but they said was not necessary. Much discussion. I find a registration form, take charge, and fill it in, which ends the discussion. Take a dormitory bed for 8 Y, but they want FEC, agree to pay 10 Reminbi. Warm dormitory with communal showers and promises of hot water, usual tea facilities (bring your own leaves), and a restaurant. Feel full of energy despite the long train journey and cycle all over town in the afternoon. Visit the friendship store which is packed with American and Japanese tour groups. Explore side streets near Dazhalan . Thriving private economy here, but rather drab. Eat an okay doughnut and a foul slab of slimy something tasting of seaweed.
 With blackmarket money things are much cheaper in China than Hong Kong. Five Fen to park my bicycle in large street cycle park. Good laugh with lady attendant.
 The friendship store consists of 3 floors of chinese products and foreign luxury goods, you can get almost any thing here. I buy nail clippers and small penknife 2.10 Reminbi. Also get chinese birthday cards for Rick and Mike.
 Cycle for 40 minutes back to the hotel, Lesley and Inge are not around, go back out to Chinese acrobatics in Dazalan alley near Quainman. 60 Fen for two hours of great entertainment. Costumes rather grubby but otherwise all very impressive. The few foreigners in the audience applaud, the Chinese remain silent but cough and spit with gusto. Afterwards obtain a meal just over the road with some difficulty, a bowl of hot noodles with spicy duck kneecaps. Have to wait for the huge noodle cauldron to boil. They used huge two foot long chopsticks to dish up the noodles, 2Y.

Posted by 1985 trip 13:15 Archived in China

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