Sunday, 25 September 2011

Arriving in Beijing

It is obvious you are in China, as a general traveller I had no problem, although brown uniformed soldiers & officials swarmed onto the train & along the platform. A pleasant lady solider took my passport, looked under the beds & for any consealed ceiling spaces then later brought itafter an hour.

Poor old Julio the cameraman has had no end of customs hassle with signing in his camera equipment. If you don't get it signed into a country they may tax you or not allow you to exit with it. Our guide reminded us that, ' you're in China now, so you must do whatever an official tells you, otherwise there will be trouble.' The customs bureaucracy is crazy with dozens of pages of forms itemings every last gadget & battery - except none of the customs officials understand what the equipment names mean, so are always reluctant to sign the official forms. Without interpreters it would be impossible, regardless of the fact that all the forms are duplicated in Russian & Chinese.

The train leaves the Chinese border town of Erling at 18.45. We are instructed over the Tannoy system, in a 1984 or Butlin's holiday camp style, that 'the beige group (me) will attend the second sitting for dinner from 8.00 to 8.40 in restaurant car B. I ask if there is coffee & the answer is NO! Someone else asked if there is Coke, the answer is NO!

Nevertheless the very Chinese meal was exellent, although the one bottle of beer between four seemed a bit mingy. The beds were a harder than the Russian train but they are also wider & I slept well until the multilingual wakeup all. I had turned off the Russian Tannoy system but that's not possible in China & I thought someone was weirdly scratching at my door & talking to me at 6.20am so I twice shouted - OK & the said 'Oh for Fxxx's sake I'm awake' & threw the open the door - to an empty corridor! I had been inanely having a conversation with the Tannoy system.

The Gobi desert had disappointingly been replaced by the Beijing mountains that had been sliced & burrowed through before crossing a wide river into an industralised plain that ran all the way into the city of Bejing with its 20 million inhabitants. On every side there were huge tower blocks, factories, elevated motorways & the occasional beleagured bit of greenery.

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