a Foolish thing I did for Fabulous Food

When I was studying abroad in China I had my first taste of Peking Duck (aka Beijing duck, because Peking = Beijing, and no the city didn't change its name, westerners just really sucked when it came to Romanizing Chinese words, I will never forgive Mr. Wade and Mr. Giles for that). Anyway, oh man is it delicious. They make it all over the world, but I happened to eat it for the first time in Beijing, its birthplace! I felt pretty damn special.

Anyway, so I was studying in Tianjin, and one evening 3 other girls and I decided we really wanted Beijing duck. But we wanted it IN Beijing, damnit. For some reason the idea stuck with us, and we took off to the train station and got on the last train to Beijing.

Beijing and Tianjin aren't actually that far away from each other. So somehow we weren't at all concerned about this being the *last* train of the day. Also we hadn't considered the idea that the duck place might not be open. We just got on a train.
Beijing at dusk.

Once we got to Beijing we got a taxi. The driver had to drive us to 3 restaurants before we found a place that was open. (he also apparently had to give us a long lecture on the history of Beijing duck, this is something a lot of taxi drivers in China will do. I suspect they are all secretly disaffected college professors who got sick of teaching little emperors and instead choose to empose their mighty wisdom on unsuspecting cab-goers. But it's just a theory.)

We were feeling very triumphant as we ate our duck with the little pancakes and duck sauce. Yumm. You can't beat it. We were feeling so encouraged, in fact, that we decided to extend our night time outing by going in search of ice cream after our meal of duck. This time the taxi had no trouble and we were soon deposited at a Baskin Robins. Have I mentioned that were quite pleased with ourselves? I didn't have much confidence in my Chinese, so to navigate this far without any help from a native speaker felt pretty awesome. That feeling did not last.

After the ice cream we got in yet another taxi. The conversation went somewhat like this (but it was really in Chinese, so use your imagination)

Us: We want to go to the train station.
Driver: Why? There's no more trains.
Us: We want to get a bus to Tianjin
Driver: (a bunch of stuff that we didn't understand but basically amounted to "no you're dumb")
Us: ???
Driver: *something something* 150 kuai (kuai is the common word for the Chinese dollar, aka the Renminbi, RMB, or yuan)
He repeated the thing about 150 kuai a few times and we still weren't getting it...
Us: How much would it cost for you to take us to Tianjin?
Driver: 300 kuai.
Us: (in English) what the fuck is he talking about 150 kuai???

That's when we noticed he was driving us to a dark street corner where another 5 guys were standing around smoking. This is when we started freaking out. We were convinced we were going to get raped or killed or sold into slavery or something even more unthinkable. We were freaking out, but sort of in a shocked, sit-perfectly-still-and-do-nothing sort of way.

Our driver pulled up and started talking to his buddies. Again it basically sounded like "blah, blah, blah 150 kaui." If I hadn't been pissing my pants in fear I might ave gotten indignant over some guy selling all 4 of us for only 150 flippin' RMB, which at the time was about $18 US. But I was too convinced I was going to die and my parents were going to be so sad and they'd never let my sister leave the house again.

So whatever he said, the driver's buddy agreed to it, then the driver told us to get out of the car. If we had been smart maybe we would have screamed and ran. But we just did what he said. Well, it turned out his buddy was a taxi driver from Tianjin and was going to give us a ride back for only $150 RMB because he was going back to visit his mom anyway. We were so relieved. We jumped in the car and the Tianjin driver ended up being really nice and we all fell asleep in the car, which was also kind of dumb, but we all ended up at the door to our dormitory, safe and sound.

I really hope I get brain damage and forget this whole thing before my daughters ask me if they can study abroad. Because they totally should, it's awesome.


  1. My girlfriends and I were just talking about all the stupid stuff we did in our teenage / 20's that we would never do now. Either because we are smarter or just too old to run for our lives. Visiting for A to Z.

    1. "just too old to run for our lives" heh. yup.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. This is hilarious and reminds me of all the silly things I did in my early 20s when living in Japan. Oh to be young and careless again!!!

    Found you on the A to Z challenge--I'm blogging about my overseas travels too.


    1. Thanks, I'll be sure to head over to your blog, I love to read about people's experiences abroad.

  3. Wow, I never studied abroad. I did think about it a bit - and I probably would have gone to Europe if I hadn't been so worried to exposure to people smoking. (Asthma not under control anyway until I was 21!) Visiting for A to Z.

    1. That's to bad. I hope you can travel now, although if you still have asthma problems you might want to skip China.

      Thanks for the comment.