China, May 27, 2000
I wish the Beijing Metro went everywhere the map says it does.
Yesterday, tired of bicycling around Beijing on the days that I ride in
with Jingmei, I decided to take the Metro across town instead. As you can
imagine, it's not as grand as the Moscow
Metropolitan, or as Byzantine as the London
Underground, and compared to the sterile DC Metro, its actually kinda
bland. I guess I should've expected it after seeing one too many post-Mao
glass and steel box building aboveground.
Unlike the other metros, its not that great of a people-watching (my favorite past-time) venue either, for at three quai a pop, it's a relatively expensive way to traverse the city. Especially expensive when you realize, too late in my case, that it only has a circle line and one small branch line, neither that cover the city all that well. They do have a new addition that was even operational last October for National Day, which now, is mysteriously closed. The rumor is, since it passes in front of Tiananmen Square, the government is scared dissidents will use it as a fast entry/exit method when protesting.
There are nice differences from the Moscow metro though, with the absence of the dreaded sneak-attack turnstiles my favorite. See, in Moscow, and similar to the entire law enforcement system, the turnstiles had arms that were normally retracted. Only when you didn't pay did they shoot out and slam shut in front, or as I found out on my first day, on you when you fail to pay. Unfortunately, they also slam shut when they (very often) malfunction, and the slamming is at, um, family jewels level.
Also, thankfully for us non-Mandarin speakers, the next station is announced in English. Okay, actually barely understandable Chinglish, but still helpful to a foreigner in the Middle Kingdom.