National 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.”
“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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