beijing night of nights

china flag waving girlNational Day on October 1st is one of China’s seven official public holidays. It’s a fabulous time to take part in the cultural celebrations and dramatic displays of national pride, but as Intrepid traveller Laura Carroll discovered, it can also be a time when getting around Beijing can be a bit tricky…

“Sometimes the best nights out are the ones that are completely unplanned. One fateful night in Beijing, a friend and I went out for dinner and a few drinks, then decided to head back to our hotel for a relatively early night. We knew, of course, that rehearsals for China’s National Day celebration were underway and that a few streets would be closed, but we didn’t think that it would affect us that much. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

Our taxi dropped us off three blocks from the hotel, and told us he wasn’t permitted to go any farther. No problem, we would just walk the rest of the way. We approached the guard and told him our hotel was beyond his barricade.
“Sorry, you can’t cross.”
“Why not?”
“It’s not allowed.”
“How will we get to our hotel?”
He shrugged. “Come back at five.”

With that, he dismissed us and turned back to guard the empty street, that for some inconceivable reason we were not allowed to cross. A few minutes later we met a young Frenchman in the same predicament. It was nearly one o’clock in the morning, and we couldn’t cross the police line until 5 am. What to do? We walked for a while, trying to find an alternate way to get into our hotel area, but were unsuccessful. We were tired, the night was chilly, and we clearly needed to get inside. But where could we go at 1am in Beijing besides a bar?

The solution appeared in the form of golden arches: the 24-hour McDonalds at Wangfujing. Normally I abhor McDonalds. But any port in a storm, as they say, and soon we were sharing a table with locals and other travellers, drinking hot chocolate and swapping stories. We kept up the banter for the rest of the night, mainly by telling our most outlandish travel tales. We were eventually joined by a young Chinese man who spoke very little English but who told us all about his undying love for Celine Dion and Chairman Mao. He was staying up all night to be able to watch the sunrise flag raising ceremony in Tiananmen Square.

So the night passed with our unlikely crew of new friends, and five o’clock rolled around almost before we knew it. As we parted ways at dawn we agreed: it was one of the most pleasant all-night outings that any of us had ever experienced!”

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About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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