Beijing Rain

Sunday morning and it’s raining. I figure I’ll give it an hour to stop or calm down before I give up and head out anyway. I neglected to pack an umbrella. However I bought one easily enough at a little convenience store down the street. It was 26 Yuan (about $4) which struck me as a trifle expensive, but when I opened it I discovered it was actually a really large, solid umbrella, of the sort that sells for $20 or more in the states, not one of the cheap $3 umbrellas that magically on every street corner in Manhattan as soon as the rain starts.

Prices here are quite cheap. A couple of days ago lunch was an amazing duck sandwich from a little hole in the wall bakery in Shicha Hai for 4 Yuan (about 65 cents). A couple of times I’ve known I was getting a bad deal (a 10 Yuan Diet Coke, a $100 Yuan one hour cab ride), but I haven’t bothered to haggle because the price was at worst in line with New York prices, and usually cheaper still. If you bother to haggle at all, the price drops fast. If you don’t like haggling, just look for stores that use scanners on major streets. Then the price is whatever’s been entered in the computer, not whatever the clerk thinks he/she can get away with.

I was hoping to do a little touring by subway today, and take in some of the museums, larger shops, and other indoor sights. Beijing has been building out its subway lines in a major way in preparation for the Olympics. Unfortunately the one that comes closest to my hotel isn’t finished yet. The next nearest one may be a cab ride away. I the rain stops I may try to walk it if I can get reasonable directions. Unfortunately English language maps of areas outside the Second Ring Road are a little hard to come by; and the one Chinese map I have doesn’t show subway stops.

I hope the rain will at least wash away some of the dust. Numerous citizens wear face masks, and every taxi driver I’ve met has had a chronic cough. I’m starting to develop one too, but I’ll be home soon enough. It’s routine here for men to make loud, throat clearing noises; and then hock a tremendous loogie onto the street in a way that would be considered very rude in New York. I don’t know if that’s cultural, or just a necessary adaptation to the pollution.

One Response to “Beijing Rain”

  1. John Cowan Says:

    It seems to be cultural: Paul Theroux describes it in Riding the Iron Rooster, which is about third-class train travel in China. He remarks on the contrast between the ferocious hock and the very wimpy spit.

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