When we emerged out of the train station at Shanhaiguan, thankful for the opportunity to stretch after our seatless ride to the coast, we knew we were about to confront two problems. One, we needed to walk around town, luggage in tow, to find a place to call home for the weekend. Two, we needed to run the gauntlet of drivers who would invariably want to help us find this new home, at great personal expense to ourselves. And, of course, the second problem would only be compounded by the first, in that the only thing better than a group of newly arrived waiguoren is a newly arrived group of waiguoren who don't actually know where they want to go.
As we rolled down the street, away from the station, this driver rolled his car slowly along side of us, getting more and more desperate in his quest for our business. "Listen," he said in Chinese, "I'm about to head home for lunch. I will take you wherever you need to go for free. It is my gift to you." Now, this line, of course, only served to make us more suspicious of his motives in following us away from the tracks and the crowds of fellow drivers.
We crossed over the street, hoping to ditch him by going down the opposite lane of traffic. No problem. He just crossed the road himself, and tailed us in the pedestrian/motorcycle/bicycle lane.
We kept walking. We stopped at a roadside stand, and bought some bingtanghulu, figuring he might get bored as we bantered with the other locals. No such luck.
So we killed two birds with one stone. We finally had Shanhaiguan to ourselves and we found ourselves in the middle of this awesome little street market, where there were good breads to eat and cheap products to buy. Desi, in fact, scored by picking up, at long last, a peasant's bowl, a small metal pot that ordinary people on the go often use to carry their food.
We then resorted to more desperate measures. We started asking people on the street if there were any hotels nearby. This actually didn't get us very far. Well, actually, by this time, we had walked so far that we decided that Desi and the kids should hang out with all of our stuff in this nearby public plaza, and I would jet around the neighborhood at high speed in a last ditch effort to find a room.
Somehow, after all of this nonsense, I ended up back near the train station, where it had all started. And sure enough, there it was. A high-rise building. A hotel...that actually takes waiguoren.