Amsterdam 23/10/2005 at 15:30
Day 22: Beijing – Xi’an: Chinese Bureaucracy
***** 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY *****
– Although we didn’t realize that ourselves until on the train to Xi’an. Instead we got the day going with in-the-room “home made” breakfast and got busy packing, making final arrangements with the Vlieg & Fiets agent in Beijing, and eventually checking out of the Hademem Hotel.
We still had a few things that we wanted to shop for, so we went to a few chopstick shops in the center to get chopsticks, and to the silk market to shop for silk and a fake Rolex for Jakob.
In the early afternoon we passed by the hotel to get our bikes and luggage. With everything packed we made our way towards the Beijing West railway station. At the same time Beijing – and we – got rained on.
At the station first thing to do was to check in our luggage – the bikes. We arrived in the basement of the station and the railway employees down there were unable to help us. Only a single person managed to understand the Chinese note we were carrying with us, which was supposed to say that we wanted to check in our bikes. He guided us to a small shed-like house in a dirty back alley across the street from the station where we wouldn’t have liked at all to leave our bikes! He then took us to a more official looking parcel and luggage office at the station (a bit east of the main station building). Here we would have been absolutely lost had it not been for two guys who helped us with everything – every single procedure. In addition a girl came along to sort out a few translation problems. The staff was helpfully flexible as well although unable to speak any English. Basically the procedure went as follows:
1) We went to counter 1 for a form to fill out. The form was only available in Chinese.
2) We got the two guys mentioned above to help us fill out the form.
3) We taped the cardboard pieces to Jakob’s bike.
4) We went to counter 2 and got a piece of paper as for checking in the bikes.
5) Then we went back to counter 1 with the bikes which were now suddenly not allowed to be checked in.
6) Back at counter 2 (again) we got a woman to help convince the railroad man at counter 1 that it was OK to get the bikes on the same train as us to Xi’an.
7) At counter 1 the bikes were now let through, but only after all the cardboard was taken off again.
8) Discussion about whether the bikes can or can’t go on the same train as us. Eventually they’re cleared for the train.
9) Final visit to counter 2 for payment and to get the ticket for the bikes.
10) At counter 1 the bikes are now taken back out through the gates and we take them – still helped by the two guys – about half a kilometer to the right platform.
After this the guys said goodbye and left without making any claims for any reward or compensation whatsoever for their invaluable help.