3:07am, the train I’m on arrives at Beijing Station. I didnt have a good rest despite having a reclining chair in second class because I was in the aisle seat again. I couldnt sleep in peace because I was worried that the people on the inside might wanna get out to go to the loo or off the train.
The amount of people at the train station is insaneeee. Even at 3am there’s so much moving about. My picture does even not justify the kind of crowd that was existent at that point. Accordingly to locals, Chinese New Year period is where the whole of China is on the move and both human & vehicle traffic is ridiculously.
My plan was to spend a few hours at Macdonalds and then take the first subway to Qianmen to get to my hostel. Thank God on the first day when I arrived in Beijing I already got my bearings right. Makes things much easier. But I guess I wasnt the only one with this plan. It seemed like everyone had this plan!
Around the station, there are four macdonalds and three KFCs that run 24 hours to accommodate to the huge amount of passengers at the station. But its not enough I guess. Every fucking restaurant I entered was full to the max, filled even with people who werent eating. They were just standing between the aisle hiding from the cold outside. I gave up after seeing that every place was packed to the brim and headed to the loo instead to relieve myself due to the cold.
Holy hell I thought. The queue was really long at the public toilet. From the outside I could see it was packed. But I headed in and realise it wasnt a queue at all. People were hiding out in the toilet for warmth. Omgggg survival skills 101. It was mad. I wish I could take pictures of the mad and ridiculously situation but taking out my Apple labeled phone at a busy railway station filled with scammers & phoneys would be a dumb idea.
I saw some more 24 hour fast food chains on the opposite side of the station and headed towards them. No surprise. All full. Fuck I had no where to go. After wandering around for another next 15 minutes, I gave up. I’m just gonna sit out in the cold and wait for time to pass. I located a spot outside a closed restaurant just in front of the square of the station and marked my home for the night. I was like these homeless people. I wrapped myself with as much clothing as I could and seriously I looked like an undercover/spy from an action movie with the backpack and all black clothing and hood.
Plenty of people walking to and fro in front of me but I didnt give it much thought. A while later, a young guy with a bowl of hot instant noodles came up to me and asked if the spot next to me was available. It was. It wasnt that cold when I first arrived but after sitting out there for forty five minutes, my toes were numbed and I was shivering. He asked if I was waiting for the first subway because he is too and then we started conversing because my accent made it too obvious I was from elsewhere. This time, some random guy who had been walking to and fro in front of me that I did notice staring at me a lot (I suspect its the septum) joined in the conversation.
This guy with the bowl of noodles was a final year university student who took the train here for a job interview. He was 23 and super outgoing and cheerful. His name was baiyang. A while later, a random stranger joined in the conversation too. They offered me cigarettes but I said no even though it could help curb the cold. They started to talk about cars and travel and stuff in a slightly deeper band of Mandarin that I couldnt understand. During this time the guy who had been staring at me started asking me weird questions like my surname, how much I earn a month, whether or not its easy to find a job in Singapore. It became even weirder when he asked if I liked making friends and requested for my number. Unfortunately & thankfully, I didnt have a China number for him.
He walked away and the student quickly turned over and told me not to leak any personal information. I got what he meant and I think my gut instincts were also right. They continuing talking while I sat there shivering wishing time would pass by faster. The guy continues to walk to and fro, staring at me occasionally but I just pretended I was part of the other conversation and avoided his gaze. 5am. Five more minutes and the first train would arrive. Five minutes felt like five hours.
Looking at the crazy amount of people lining up outside the subway station waiting to board the first train, we decided to wait out till the crowd lessen. But it didnt seemed to work. The crowd did not lessen. Baiyang suggested that we cross over to the station entrance on the opposite side of the road because it was empty as hell. The downside to that was having to lug all your luggages and baggages onto an overhead bridge further away. But I didnt mind since I only had a backpack and if I could avoid the crowd, why not!
While walking over to the bridge, it was just us left, the two of us. The weird guy who kept staring stayed put at where we were previously at while the other guy who talked a great deal headed elsewhere. During this time, Baiyang told me that the weird guy was targeting me the whole time and he didnt want to embarrass him by shooing him off hence the advice of not leaking my personal information. He was super duper kind and even offered to pay for my metro ticket because I didnt have any loose change and forced me to let him carry my backpack. How kind is he! I mean I dont do the “ohhh men must always help a lady carry stuff/bags/whatever” because seriously we’ve got hands but the fact that he offered showed the kind of sophistication he had. We got on the subway and parted at the next station as he headed towards where he was headed and I headed towards a shelter & a bed.
6:12am. The sky is still dark and winds are blowing. The streets are beginning to fill with life as it fills with early wakers and food stalls are starting their day. I headed to LEO Hostel with ease having located it on my first day but only to find its interior dark and it seemed closed. I pushed opened the door and in the dark a lying figure sat up on a bench.
And he heads back to sleep while I sadly leave the doorway trying to crack my head on how I am gonna spend the next six hours lugging my backpack around while being so bloody exhausted. I should have asked if I could leave my backpack in their storage. But being slightly ashamed of waking him up at such an early hour, I didnt ask.
I wandered around the dark but awakening streets aimlessly. Found some sheltered bench and sat there for a while but I was getting cold. Damn. After spending two hours in the cold outside a shady spot at the railway station now I gotta do just that again. I headed to macdonalds but damn it, it was not yet opened. Nothing was opened except for a few small breakfast dim sum places that were only doing take aways. The streets were starting to fill up with people rushing somewhere.
Its been two hours since I wandered around aimlessly without shelter or warmth. Finally getting some at Macdonalds with some congee and fried asian buns. Its the best!
Another four hours to go so I am going take a long nap in the corner of this freezing Macdonalds. 待會兒再見。