Asia | China | Beijing – Last Days in China
We arrived in Beijing fresh and ready to sort out the important stuff Russian visas and train tickets to Mongolia. Once wed completed the palaver of haggling for a hotel room (no easy feat for a foreigner in China!) we set about the seemingly easy job of getting some money. Eight cash points later: no cash, so we started the bank round again, this time trying our luck with the travellers cheques. Banks sent us to hotels, hotels sent us to banks and I was nearing the end of my tether when I decided to turn on the waterworks. A few tears later, I had a pocketful of yuan and we were on our way to the Russian Consulate.
Our spirits fell when we finally found it, seemingly with a protest in progress outside. In the event, this throng of people pushing and shouting turned out to be the queue. An American couple explained that the system involved scribbling your name on an illegible waiting list and hanging around until it was your turn. Their turn had not arrived in three days of waiting. Things were not looking good and I was all ready to get a taxi to the airport and fly home. Hector persevered though and after 20 minutes of smiling and waving his passport we were inside the building filling in the visa forms, much to the annoyance of the American couple!
Things looking up, we headed off to sort out job number three: train tickets. Wed forked out a fortune to get our visas processed in two days so we could get on the train and be in Mongolia in time for the Naadam Festival. We hadnt realised though, how popular Mongolia is at this time of year and discovered that there werent any train tickets left. Distraught at having spent all of our dollars on express visas, we headed to the CITS head office to beg. No joy there, though they did send us to a Mongolian travel agency who had the last two tickets for the Tuesday train (though at a price!)
Id been feeling that the whole day had been awful and everything had gone horribly wrong but Hector pointed that we had really been incredibly lucky; managing to get into the embassy almost instantly while others had been waiting days and getting tickets for a bi-weekly train only a few days before Mongolias biggest celebration. So we went for a few beers to celebrate!