Saturday, April 10, 2010

Japan v China - A Study in Opposites (Part 1)

We spent one more night in Tokyo before our flight to Beijing. We managed to get a room at K's House in Asakusa, which is the same place that we stayed at for our first few days in Japan. 

The next morning we re-visited the markets so that we could both get another one of those yummy fish-shaped pancakes filled with chocolate (they are called taiyaki - definitely try the custard or chocolate unless you are a fan of the bean paste filling, which I am not). Then it was straight to the airport for our flight.

We flew with Air China, which was similar to QANTAS except with better service, better food and better blankets. We were very impressed with the airport at Beijing, which was very modern and fancy, however this description ended as soon as you get outside.

As soon as we stepped off the bus that took us from the airport to Beijing Train Station we were accosted by a crowd of people trying to take us to their hotel/taxi/rickshaw, with people actually grabbing our arms and shouting in our faces. After having spent the previous 3 weeks in Japan, where the entire culture and even the language is dominated by politeness, it was an enormous shock. Our hostel was just across the road, and as soon as we got to our room we realised that the real backpacking was just beginning. We stayed at hostels in Japan which were old and slightly run-down, however they were all spotlessly clean, whereas this hostel (which is one of the more up-market ones, and our room is the best they have) is not so.

After suffering the first bout of culture shock, we craved some normality and found it at the McDonalds which is just downstairs (a cheeseburger seems to taste exactly the same no matter where you go). I was expecting it to have all crazy different things like rice, but the only thing I found was that the apple pie is replaced by sweet yam (still yummy though, and with exactly the same flaky pastry).

The next day we made use of the breakfast buffet at the hostel (less than $3 all you can eat - kaching!$!) and went in search of a shopping centre so that we could find some SIM cards and replenish some supplies. It didn't take long, there are shopping centres everywhere here! We managed to get some SIM cards, I have no idea how since I couldn't understand a word that the girl was saying. However, after giving her our phones and my credit card she managed to sort it out for us. I didn't realise how much I had missed having a mobile phone - it's so good!

That was pretty much the extent of our adventures on that day, but we resolved to kick off the sightseeing the next day with Tian'anmen Square and the Forbidden City.

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