Monday, March 02, 2009

Traveling By The Seat Of Our Pants

For some time now, we've had the idea of traveling to the place where the Great Wall meets the sea. Given that Z loves running up and down the wall, it seemed to be an especially good choice for his birthday weekend. What better place for a boy to turn twelve?

The only problem was that we were extremely busy on all fronts in the days leading up to our planned travel day. And so, there we were, early Saturday morning, waking up without either a train ticket or a hotel room. This would be an interesting first...Would we actually get to Shanhaiguan? Would we actually get a hotel room?

After a cab ride over to the Beijing rail station, we got on line with the ticket-buying crowds. Thankfully, we discovered that there was a high-speed train leaving for Shanhaiguan in less than an hour and a half. The bad news? There were no seats available on the train.

Now, here's the part where we really revealed how little we still know about Chinese travel. When we arrived at our assigned car, there were plenty of seats open. I reasoned that, perhaps, it was just that there are no assigned seats and it is actually first come, first served. Desi and the kids all kind of liked that idea, and so decided to take a chance. We all plopped down in vacant seats. Things went well for a little while, with people stowing their luggage and paying no attention us.

But then came the inevitable "excuse me, this is my seat" moment. From there, we took our medicine, and staked out places for ourselves to hang out in, in that hallway/doorway/bathroom area in between train cars. We alternated between standing, leaning, squatting, sitting...standing, leaning, squatting, sitting...standing, leaning, squatting, sitting. Hey, at least the fast train only took two hours!

Now, what about the hotel part of the equation...



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