I like to have all the details printed out and filed in order in a little folder in my hand luggage, including details of how and where to get public transport once I arrive. I don’t always work to a firm plan, but do like to know in advance what I should be looking for and where I’m going. But, things don’t always work out like that.
I was in Beijing for the Olympics, way back in 2008, and had been lucky enough to get a couple of days off. The odds of me coming back to Beijing soon were slim, so I figured a trip to the Great Wall was in order.
The information desk at my hotel offered a fully guided tour although it was a bit expensive for one person and better suited to a small group. I preferred the cheap option doing it myself, so they gave me step by step instructions in Chinese and English.
The first step was getting to Beijing North railway station from where there was a train to Badaling, the Great Wall stop. The taxi, however, took me to Beijing station, which is not the same thing, although I didn’t realise this straight away. The Metro joins the two stations though, so it’s not difficult to transfer between them
The Metro stop for Beijing North was not near the station, nor was the station itself very well signposted, for it was tucked away down a back alley and access involved walking along the edge of a busy dual carriageway.
At the ticket office I asked for Badaling; the clerk asked me a question in Chinese which I didn’t understand so she held up 1 finger and then 2. I assumed she was asking how many tickets I required, so I held up one finger. She actually meant first or second-class travel, but I didn’t know this until I got on the train.