Monday, July 11, 2016

From Beijing to Taiyuan

One early and dreary morning not long ago in Beijing I raced out of my hotel, in part due to an unexpected delay. I considered taking a taxi but given rush hour traffic I suspected the subway was a better option. So I headed to the nearest station.

After my bags went through a X-ray machine at the subway station, I heard security request a check. The security worker near me said there was no need since I was a foreigner. This was met with a less-than-approving expression. I figured the issue would be best discussed without me, so I gathered my belongings and headed off while recalling a similar experience I had four years ago in Shenzhen.

I raced down to the platform level where a packed metro train waited, though not for long. I headed toward a semi-random door and fortunately there was enough space to barely squeeze in. A number of stops later, I changed lines and caught another train just as it arrived. A number of more stops later, I was at the Beijing West Railway Station. I boarded my train minutes before departure sweaty but successful.

Hours later the train slowly passed through Taiyuan Railway Station without stopping. It would have been a far more convenient place for me to disembark, but high-speed trains from Beijing don't stop there. Instead, I disembarked at the less-conveniently located Taiyuan South Railway Station. None of the lines for Taiyuan's under-construction metro system are finished. And a bus adventure would include multiple buses and a lot of walking. So I headed to the taxi pickup area where there were two different lines which functioned almost completely like lines.

When I opened the door to my taxi, the driver shouted to a man assisting people boarding the taxis. The assistant asked me in English where I was going. I told him the address in Chinese. He shouted back to the taxi driver "He speaks Chinese!". This brought amusement to many people still waiting in line.

As we left the station the driver used his mobile phone to send a voice message in Chinese — "I have a foreigner with me!" Soon there was as apparent reply. After I heard "Foreigners have a lot of money!" I made a sound somewhat between a sigh and grunt.

The taxi driver soon sent another message, this one rather brief — "He's speaks Chinese." He didn't listen to later voice messages.

After passing the main railway station, it wasn't long before the quiet ride was over. The route and price were all within expectations, so all was good.

As the photo in the previous post hinted, I am now in Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi province. More from Beijing is still on the way though. And of course Taiyuan . . .

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