Day 6: Slow Plane to China

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My final day in Korea, we get up and Heejin takes me to the airport which is about an hour away. She also helped me buy the tickets, cementing the fact that if I had no Heejin I’d be lying dead in a Korean gutter now. Because of her, I perhaps only spent a brief time passed out in one.

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I bid farewell to Seoul. I may have been staying in a sketchy area, but it was convenient, cheap, and I never felt in any danger wandering the back alleys at night. Seoul might not be the prettiest city in Asia (definitely prettier than Osaka) but it was fun and things were cheap. Especially meat and beer. I’ll be back.IMG_0459Upon arriving at the airport, we had to locate the guy who had my tickets. It seemed sort of sketchy to me, but the tickets were cheap, and Heejin always bought her tickets to Japan from him. I was on China Air, and for whatever reason, the line for China Air snaked through the snakity parts of the turnstyle, then out and around the entire Section-H and down about 30 meters like at Disneyland. After an hour of wondering if we actually were in the right line, we finally got me checked in. Next I had to phone the hostel I’d reserved in China to let them know what time to come pick me up, so we headed to the payphones. Of course in this modern age, who uses payphones anymore? There was probably a phone card or something I could have bought to make things easier, but I figured the handfulls of 100 won coins in my pocket would be plenty. Whenever I am confronted with a new monetary system, it takes me weeks to adjust. I either end up with mountains of coins or stacks of low denomination bills. Of course 100 won is like 10 cents, so each coin only gave me a few seconds of international talk time. I soon realized this and the conversation became very brief, with me trying to relay the time my flight would arrive while simultaneously popping in 100 won coins like mad. I barely got a confirmation when I ran out of coins and the phone died. It worked out perfectly. The last thing was to share one last meal in Korea, and it was to be the most Korean meal yet. Heejin had a Whopper and I had some garlic onion burger, sure to earn me friends on the plane. On board the plane, I met a Korean girl named Jyeon, who of course spoke fluent Japanese. She was going to China to study Chinese for 3 months. At this point I started to get that, “wait, what the fuck am I going to do in China?” feeling again. Then they served lunch and I forgot all about it. For the record, serving kimchi on an airplane isn’t the best idea. It wasn’t bad, but the plane sure stunk all the way to Beijing.

IMG_0666Then I arrived in China and really began to question what I was doing here. I’d caught some cold on the plane or while drunk in a Korean gutter or something, and the Beijing air wasn’t helping. After running the gauntlet out of customs with “taxi drivers” screaming at you to get in their car, I found a guy with a piece of paper with something that sort of looked like my name, so I figured, why not, and hopped in his car. The air conditioner was out and it was hot, so the windows went down. Thats when the putrid brownish-grey Beijing “air” consumed me. It’s about an hour to/from the airport to central Beijing. The expressway is lined with tall trees with greyish-green leaves, perhaps an attempt to hide the skyline. It was 3pm and the sun was nowhere to be seen. Driving in Beijing is not the safest way to get around. Pedestrians most definitely do not have the right of way, and if you manage to even find a cross-walk, just because you have the green doesn’t mean 10 cars won’t honk at you to move and then run the light.

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You won’t have to worry about this too much though, as there are very few cross walks. The proper way to cross the street is to wait until the adjacent lane is clear, and run to the side of the next one until it’s clear. You’ll certainly be stuck in the middle of the street while cars zip by you, but it’s the way things are done. I am a pansy, and could never get used to this, and would walk for miles to find a cross walk when I was alone. IMG_0675Once I’d finally arrived at my hostel, I was about ready to pass out. I had chose my hostel based on its location in the hutongs. The hutongs are ancient streets and alleys that run through Beijing around the Forbidden City. They are very uniquely Chinese, and something everyone should see before they are gone. They’ve disappeared over the years, replaced by high-rises. With the 2008 Olympics coming to Beijing, the hutongs are being torn down faster than ever. I have to say, they were really interesting, except I had a cold and the air was killing me and I wanted to sleep. My hostel was built in the hutongs, in a building built in the 1700s. Now this seemed like a great way to experience Beijing when I booked it online while sitting in my underwear with a beer and my sinuses clear. Arriving in China sweating, tired, and with some sort of bronchitis, the thought of trying to sleep in a room from the 18th century somehow seemed less than ideal.

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Especially when I wanted to crash at about 8pm and had to deal with german backpackers in the courtyard until 2am. The courtyard that my window opened to directly. My window that didn’t close at all. Granted the hostel had a lot of charm, and would be great for a night if I wasn’t on my deathbed. But I made a plan right there to find something else the next morning. I bought a Minute Maid orange drink for some vitamin C. The nutrition info said 4-43mg of vitamin C. I bought another just so I could double my odds. With 8 to 86 mg of vitamin C in me, I laid down and slowly died, listening to germans play chinese checkers.

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I hate German.

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~ by foomfoom on August 24, 2006.

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