Our last full day in China was mostly spent on a train. We finally used a DiDi (Chinese Uber but way better) to take us from our Airbnb to Shanghai Huangpu Train Station. It took us about 30 min to figure out that at this station you need to go through passport and bag security before you pick up your tickets. (Oi, it’s tough navigating a place when you can’t read the signs or ask anyone for help!) But once we were in it took all of 3 minutes for Addam to get our tickets thanks to multiple pickup points. (Best experience yet!) We went to McDonalds where we got some breakfast.
Our last bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing was about 5 hours and 20 minutes. The most interesting part for me on each of these train rides was to see the mini city collection of high rise apartment buildings appear, then disappear from view, at regular intervals. The space between each high rise building seemed odd. Why not connect the buildings together like in Europe? If I ever have the opportunity to visit China again I would forgo the cities in favour of visiting the smaller towns and villages. It is mind boggling to think of how many people live in China.
We got a cab to The Prime Hotel, and after a short break, took another cab to Liqun Roast Duck (thanks again, Anthony Bourdain). Beijing is famous for its Peking Duck, and it was the last “must do” on Addam’s list. This place is extremely popular and somewhat of a tourist destination, even for the locals. We had to wait close to an hour for our table. Meanwhile we took some videos and photos of the cooks and sat outside.
I’ve had duck before at Tusk & Trotter in Bentonville but it was just a pâtè. They roasted a whole duck for us and sliced it up. If we wanted the grizzly parts we had to order extra but after all the sides we couldn’t possibly fit it into our overfilled bellies.
The flavour was like chicken, but richer. G and I got full pretty quickly. Addam tried his best to eat as much as he could but in the end we had some breast left over. It was a really lovely meal, and completely worth the long wait.
Our trip back to the hotel was eventful. We had a hard time hailing cabs in China without the help of taxi lines at train stations and airports. I guess they didn’t want to deal with foreign speaking white people.
The DiDi app in Beijing was severely lacking in drivers. I wondered if it was because it records the full audio of your ride from the drivers phone, and being in the capital, maybe drivers were too worried about picking up government employees? In any case we were walking back in the direction of our hotel when a man on a bike started calling out to us. I ignored him but Addam was curious so he showed the guy where we wanted to go and all the sudden there were two bikes and we were on the back of them. It was a rather thrilling ride, with the semi-cool wind whipping our faces. They were clearly motorised bikes because they had a fair few miles to get to our hotel. It cost quite a bit too but I think that’s just because Addam didn’t haggle. (Seriously, we are the worst at haggling.)
Finally, we were back at our hotel and the next morning we took a plane back to the good ole USA.
This was one of the hardest, most tiring trips we have ever taken, but I am so glad we did it. I never in my life thought I would climb the Great Wall of China or see the Terracotta Warriors. China was not on my bucket list, but that seems to be a running theme for the places I have visited lately (ie, Iceland, Spain, Andorra). It wasn’t what I expected and it was so much better than I could have imagined. (It was also worth the huge hassle of driving 20 hours to get visas!) I felt honoured to visit an ancient country, learn first hand about their culture and customs, and above all feel the alienation that visitors to our own countries feel when they can’t speak our language. I wish that everybody had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be the “other”.