Monday, January 26, 2009

The Marco Polo Adventure

Coming back to China to visit the Ballas worked out to be an opportunity to make right a previous mishap. While researching landmarks to see in Beijing two years ago, I came upon the Marco Polo Bridge. Sounded interesting, historic, and significant...but it turned out to be hysterically elusive.

My friend Kellie and I hopped in a cab, and I tried to communicate to the driver what we were looking for. Not having much luck, I held up the map to discuss the possibilities of where the bridge might be. We just happened to be driving on the freeway at the time, and just so happened to get sideswiped by another driver. The deal here in China is that if you have an accident where there are no serious injuries, you both just pull over and haggle out a price for repairs. Money is exchanged on the spot and everyone is on their way. In advance of the accident, my other friend who comes here all the time as a flight attendant had told me that, if you ever get in an accident, to just get out and walk away if, of course, there are no injuries. Otherwise you can get hauled off to jail as a witness and could spend days or months winding your way back out of endless bureaucratic red tape. But when I said to my friend to get out of the car before we get mixed up in this, she refused. We went round and round and, finally, the cab drivers' negotiations were settled and we got back on our way. At Tiananmen Square, though, he wanted us out. OK, fine...he must have thought we were trouble or just bad luck.

So we started walking to find our Marco Polo Bridge. We walked and walked and walked...for two or three hours. Then we finally arrived...at the Marco Polo Hotel...not the bridge....oops! Apparently, I had read the map wrong. So this time around while doing China in Balla style, Steven did the research for the bus lines to locate this timidly advertised landmark. So several buses and many miles from where I thought the bridge was located last time I was here, we arrived. A beautiful, ancient bridge loaded with history and life. We stayed until a spectacular cold winter sun set over the Marco Polo Bridge's 501 uniquely carved lions. The locals still commute home over this beautiful old thoroughfare on their bicycles with fresh produce. Worth the trip. Worth the adventure. Great company and way more impressive than originally anticipated. Marco...Polo...

~Marina

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