My Mandarin Stretched to the Limit

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
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Trip End Mar 15, 2007


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Flag of China  ,
Thursday, May 4, 2006

The crowds from yesterday had convinced me to cancel my hard seat ticket to Pingyao. Hard seat, especially during the May holiday week, effectively means no seat, and with a 12 hour journey I did not wish to stand the whole way or share the floor with the no doubt piles of discarded chicken feet, sunflower seeds and a layer of hocked up phlegm.

If trying to book a train ticket in China can cause an anxiety attack I would advise not trying the reverse, getting a refund.

I knew it was possible and even with the small charge I also knew they would take I was determined to get but that made it no less straight forward and so I set off on my perhaps Mission Impossible minus the fancy gadgets and the slow motion effects sadly (though I was sure the long queues would make up for that).

Back at Beijing West Train Station and with the crowds no less dense I ventured forth to find where I get some Mao's back for my ticket. My first attempt at a counter labelled 'Sell Platform Ticket' led to a quick ushering away by the less than cheery looking women on the other side so I next tried the information desk. It always leads you into a false sense of hope when seeing a sign in English but on closer inspection you find the person working there probably does not even understand the English sign they are standing under.

After failing to explain as best as I could with gestures (how do you mime refund anyway?) I left with a little hope that their pointing to go downstairs meant they had at least an idea what I wanted, either that or they were just trying to get rid of me which was probably more likely.

Again finding no where to sell the ticket on the ground floor I stepped outside and noticed a sign saying to go to the transfer counter for refunds in the underground level, maybe I was finally getting somewhere. So there appeared to be no transfer counter in the underground level, typical.

A little more wandering and I finally spotted a sign way out of sight almost indicating ticket counters 11 & 12 dealt with refunds. On joining the queue/mass of people I was immediately offered 50 CNY for the ticket by a guy who was soon halted my a near by policeman, guessing they are doing something to clamp down on the black market ticket sales.

Getting my refund minus 20% charge I headed to Wangfujing Snack Street but thankfully I had already eaten as the range of scorpions, sea horses, crickets, squid skewers, grasshoppers and starfish did not really take my fancy.

Walking towards the subway I met a Chinese guy who like so many wanted to practice his English but since he was going to London next week on an exchange program I gave him a little time and he let my check my email on his school's computer which we were just outside after one of the other students stopped playing games on it as they all seem to do.

Just before reaching the subway I stopped to watch some people playing table tennis in a nearby park and after a quick invitation I was soon representing Scotland in quite a few games I'm sure were just as skillfully played as those that will be played here in two years time.
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