Beijing and I do not have a healthy relationship.
This is my second time to the high seat of Chinese power and it is also the second time I’ve found myself stuck in, and spending money in Beijing. Unlike the travel disaster of last January, I have more options and I don’t necessarily have to be stuck in Beijing.
I purposesly bought a ticket from Nanjing leaving at 10pm at night and arriving in the Big B at 830am, thus allowing enought time to check in at my hotel and getting my ass to the Mongolian embassy before they closed at 11am. I feel that the greatest impediment to independent travel is completely awful operating hours of visa offices in any and every country. Of course, my train was late, arriving in Beijing at around 9am. Getting out of the trainstation and mavigation to my hostel required another 30-40minutes (my fault, as I opted for public transport). Upon arriving at my hotel, I was promply informed that I had no reservation (despite the fact that I had reserved several nights and placed a down payment via internet). Pissed off about this, as well as the apparent price increase (an internet quote of 30RMB/night was now being offered at 60RMB/night. I had to spend about 10 =15 minutes figthing and bargaining with the boss to get my reservation and original price. By the time I was through the registration bs and pulled out my visa documents, I had about 40 minutes to get to the embassy. Of course, despite giving the driver an address, he didn’t know where it was other than the surrounding area. I told him to drop me off and I’d find it on my own. After asking several guards, I finally found the embassy, being 15 minutes late.
Given that the Mongolian Visa Section of their embassy does not offer a same-day service, I would have to wait until Tuesday to get my visa. Unfortunately, the ticket I had purchased for Mongolia departed 7:40am Tuesday morning. Changing my ticket would result in a 30% loss, therefore I spent a considerable portion of the morning standing out in front of the CITIS International Ticket office attempting to scalp it to an interested party. I managed to sell it to a Chinese lady at no loss to myself except for the 50RMB fee required to change the passport number.
The next train to Mongolia leaves tomorrow, but ticket purchases for this particular train are not permitted a day in advance…there is a however a slim chance that by showing up at 8am tomorrow morning, I may be able to squeeze in on a last minute cancellation. Other than that, I have to wait until SATURDAY to get to Mongolia! Three more days in Beijng. I’ve considered taking a day trip somewhere, but options are limited as I will have a very important deadline on Saturday, if I’m not lucky and score a sweet spot tomorrow morning. Maybe somewhere close…Tianjin, Dalian…
…I also almost knocked myself out when I slammed face first into a sign post…I was looking at something more important that the space in front of me. I’ve got a welt the size of a baseball on my forehead.