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Notes on tech

Notes on technology, business, enterpreneurship, economy, markets along with interesting general tidbits.


From airport to hotel

11/30/2005 07:41:00 PM, posted by anand

The baggage claim was smooth. I tried a wan an (good evening) with the immigration officer and he gave me a blank stare. The customs was smooth as well. No questions. Just gave him the form and he signaled me to keep moving.

The Beijing airport is spiffy and shiny. Pretty much like the Singapore airport. There were Mastercard advertisements plastered all over the place. The airport signs were in english and chinese. There were 3-4 China mobile booths selling local SIM cards.

The Citibank ATM was out of order, so I had to get the currency exchange done at the TravelEx (or something like that) counter. He gave me 290 RMB for 40 USD. Now, I didnt know whether 290 RMB is too much or too less, but getting local currency worth $40 seemed reasonable. I had been told that cab rides are pretty cheap here. The currency has General Mao's photograph in pretty much all the paper notes.

Got out of the airport and there were taxi touts (like the ones you see in Mumbai/Delhi) asking me which hotel I wanted to go to. I had been instructed by the office admin, to avoid all the touts and go straight to the "taxi line" and get a Green/Yellow cab.

At the taxi line, I showed the cab driver the chinese address of the hotel and he asked me to get inside the cab. He loaded my luggage in the trunk. The cabbies here dont speak english. I tried to break ice by asking him "whether he understood english" in mandarin and he replied "bu dong" - dont understand. Thats it. End of conversation.

Here are some of the observations I made enroute to the hotel:
  • The outside temperature was 3 degree centrigrade.
  • Road signs are in English and Chinese. Thats pretty surprising for a county where not too many speak/understand english. Maybe it signifies the government's push towards making its citizens learn english. Maybe.
  • The cars are left hand side driven and people drive on the right side of the road.
  • Atleast at 11.50 PM, everyone on the road was following the lane system. People signaled when changing lanes.
  • No honking. Though, I heard some when traffic was stalled.
  • Buckle-up signs on the road.
  • Mostly cars on the road (atleast at 11.50 pm). This morning I saw some two-wheelers on the road as well. I was expecting to see some straw hat guys on bicycles. No, seriously. Pretty much the same way, I guess, as foreigners in India expect to see snake charmers and elephants.
  • Pretty much all the billboards were in Mandarin, with phone numbers in English.
  • Cabbies dont understand English. If you plan to come here, get the "chinese" name and address of the place you intend to go to.
  • Taxi touts at the airport claiming to provide cheaper fares. Dont fall for them.
  • I saw the following cars on the road: Hyundai's (many), Toyotas', Honda's, Audi's, VW's. Most of the cabs are Hyundai's.
  • US like road signs. Exit based roads.
I had butterflies the size of elephants in my stomach on my way to the hotel. The cab guy drove and drove and drove. I imagined him taking me to a dingy lane and beating me up. I would given him everything except for my laptop. Hehe.

But, luckily the scary scenario didnt happen. He took me straight to the hotel. Nice hotel. Big hotel. He gave me the receipt, I gave him some General Mao's and he gave me back the change. No tips. He said "Thank you", I said "xiexie" - thanks in Mandarin.

At the hotel, I signed the papers and got the usual stuff done. I asked them about broadband connection, a map of the area, how do I reach my office, did I overpay the cab, whats the room rate, how do I make a call to India, how do I make local calls, is the room smoking/non-smoking etc etc etc... The lady at the check-in counter patiently answered all my questions.

My room has complimentary broadband Internet. The speeds are decent. The room had almost the same amenities as one would expect in a decent US hotel. I had cornflakes, wheat bread toast and coffee for breakfast in the morning.

Coming from a country with a billion country to another country with a billion people is an experience in itself. There are as many similarities as there are differences.

Its been quite an experience so far, and this is just my first day here. I guess, when you are in a new country, where most people dont understand your language, the road signs and billboards are in a different language (Chinese, in this case), its okay to feel a bit nervous. But that is part of the fun and learning. I am trying to observe and absorb as much as possible.
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