Yesterday after a good lunch I attempted to exchange some Korean Won to Chinese Yuan. That turned out to be a four hour mission. There is only one place, “Bank of China” Beijing branch where you can do it. I somehow expected Korean currency to have some sort of significance here. Apparently not.
I had several annoying experiences with Taxi drivers who would just take me to any “Bank of China” branch and not the right one. The main branch is actually hidden away in a Russian area. It’s lucky I am a little familiar with Russians, otherwise I would have been quite nervous. Every Russian either looks like a porn star or a hardy pimp. There were many stores catering just for Russians. For example, stores selling fur for the ladies. Only Russians buy that stuff.
That evening I met a friend-of-a-friend and enjoyed Peking Duck in that famous restaurant out the Lonely Planet. Though I felt at times I was in a scripted tourist trap, the whole experience wasn’t too bad and it wasn’t too expensive either. The way you eat Peking duck is quite sophisticated. Several little ingredients go inside with the duck meat in a delicate pancake. With chopsticks, this was quite a feat.
So yesterday wasn’t such a bad day, especially after such a feast. My sleep was interrupted by a “sleep talker” on the next bunk in my dormitory. Yes, I’ve moved out the hotel to join my backpacker kindred. In the morning I talked to him and he turned out to be my backpacker nightmare character. An old fellow who has stayed in the hostel for months. Additionally a Christian. I dared to ask if he believed in Evolution. Oh damn, a rambling non-debate ensued. I don’t want to move hostels, so I’ll just have to cope with this guy.
Today’s mission was to visit the “Forbidden city”. Christ almighty. That was certainly a mission. Once again I felt like a complete tourist walking a well trodden path. The trouble is the complex is stupidly large. I was soon exhausted and not really enjoying viewing throne after throne after “heavenly” courtyard. There are quite a few scams running, such as the “art students”, “rickshaws” and “tour guides” nagging you. Not nearly as bad as India, but really, when you are tired you really don’t want that.
The weather since the first day has got worse. A dusty fog permanently shrouds this city, giving everything quite a dull dark appearance. Since visiting the palaces and gardens, I’ve returned to the hostel and now I’m starting to enjoy the cheap beer (3 Juan!). I have not quite determined yet what spirit will really make this day special.