This past week we went to Beijing. My mom and dad came over for a visit so we decided to pick them up in the Capital and give them a little looksy at the sights and sounds. In all, we spent about 4 days in Beijing. As always with life, I learned a few things. Or, did I learnt them? If I find out the correct spelling of that word then it will just be one more interesting thing that I learnt this week.
1. When a 20 hour train ride turns into an 18 hour train ride, it is still a long haul and tough to do with 2 little boys. Plus, if they are going to ban smoking in this country, then the little waiting areas by the bathrooms on the train are "ground zero". Bring in the tear gas!
2. Just because there are short urinals for kids in some places does not mean that you should encourage your kid to use them. If you are in the habit of bending down to help your kid pull his pants down to pee, then you must remember to stand up before he starts peeing. I learned the hard way when I had to wash "splash back" out of my eye.
3. If you go to Beijing on a budget, then get used to eating McDonald's and walking everywhere.
4. The inside of the Forbidden City is pretty cool, but not really "40 RMB cool".
5. Normal looking citizens can still try to steal things from you. I was standing in line at Ikea and a normal, self-respect-looking dude tried to swipe my ipod from my camera bag. I noticed the sudden shift in the strap movement and put a stop to that nonsense.
6. Do not expect any taxis to want to take you anywhere. In fact, avoid taxis any way you can. Ride the Subway. It is great.
7. In China, no one tips. In Beijing, everyone expects you to tip them. So, since there is no foundational rule, yet there are thousands of ignorant over-tippers filing through the city every week, I think that the best thing to do is not tip. Of course, this causes great outcry. We were at TGI Friday's and the waiter waited for my dad to tip him. My dad, not sure of the custom, did nothing. The waiter walked away, and I caught a glimpse of him as he looked back in disgust.
"What? You want a tip? Well, maybe if you knew that the custom for tipping is to put the tip on the table you wouldn't have gotten so angry when we didn't hand you a tip. You're not a bellboy. You are a waiter. Google "how to give and receive a tip" and learn something. Then, when I ask you what the custom is, don't say "If I do a good job give me a good tip" because millions of your fellow Chinese in all different parts of the country never expect a tip, so your definition of 'tip', though correct and relevant in other countries, mainly means nothing to 99% of the population and people in your country. Also, refill our waters a little more often, will yeah?!"
8. Then, we settle on a 40 RMB per person price for a rickshaw ride. The kids ride free. At the end, I give the boss 160 RMB and he says that that is the "boss's fee" and that I still need to pay the drivers. Well, you can pay the drivers out of the fee we agreed on. Or, next time, drive the friggin' rickshaw yourself and I'll pay the driver!
To summarize, don't ruin a perfectly nice situation by demanding all kinds of money that you have no right to demand. Do a good job and ask a reasonable price and you will have a happy career. Heck, I might even take your phone number and recommend you to my friends. My friends might even grossly over tip you. There, everyone is happy.
9. If you have 2 kids, bring a stroller.
10. Hai Nan airline is much, much nicer than any other Chinese airline I have flown with.
Seriously, Beijing is cool and I feel like if I had a ton of money I could get a small sliver of a glimpse of what some of the cool stuff is like. In Xining, we pay a couple bucks at the most to take a taxi somewhere. In Beijing, you wait for 45 minutes, get a pissed off driver, and pay 6 or 7 dollars. Living in the city I live now, I cannot justify spending so much money and time on just getting somewhere where things cost more than I can afford to spend.
The best deals in Beijing, I have found, are the subway and the McDonald's cheeseburger. Sure, you could probably eat some cool/cheap local food, but you'll need to get into a taxi to find it.
Want affordable food, friendly people, culture, beauty, hilarity? Ladies and gentlemen... Xining.