Trouble 2.So much trouble in so little time: who would have thought? Turns out, trouble is more than a rack of 24 shots appearing at around midnight. It can also pop up on the way to a perfectly innocent picnic when, for example, you get off the highway at the Summer Palace exit and instead of proceeding relatively quickly to the palace itself, possibly weaving through a couple of tourist buses, you get off the highway and come to a complete stop. Total gridlock.
Turns out, we weren't the only people in Beijing who thought, "Hey, it's a nice day, let's go to the Summer Palace!" Not by a long shot. I figure there are thirteen million or so people in the city, and probably around half of them were at the Summer Palace this afternoon. Well, maybe not half, but it felt like it. Here's one of the less-crowded areas:
Why so many people? Two words: tour and groups. Yes, in the grand tradition of all Chinese and Japanese tourists, they come by the busload; they all wear the exact same hat (white in this case) with the bill as straight as possible; and the tour guide has a portable PA system strapped around their body and a flag (blue, top right corner) so that everyone in the tour can see where they are. (I'm not saying tour groups are restricted to various Asian nations, they just that they seem to be the only ones who go in for the hats and flags.)
While this might seem to make sense--the flags, not the straight-billed hats, which are just weird--when there's hundred of tour groups at once, it's not quite so clever. I mean, there's only so many colors, so you end up with hundreds of tour guides marching around with blue or yellow or red flags, followed by thousands of tourists milling around and trying to figure out which flag they should be following. Needless to say, chaos ensues.
Of course, with so many people, someone was bound to want a picture--foreigners are so funny looking, after all! In this case, a little kid with Holly, although you can't actually see the kid ...
There was, however, a plus side to it being so crowded. Well, two plus sides, actually. First, I got to practice my Chinese line skillz. (Yes, it should have a Z.) I think the aforementioned skillz have reached peak efficiency, thank you: we got to the ticket office; I immediately found the space between the nebulously defined "lines" and pushed right up to the front; I cut off a Chinese guy with his son; and I reached around the person buying tickets in front of me so I could shove my money into the slot and give it to the ticket seller before the girl who was next in line could. All in all, the entire operation took about 20 seconds. Well done, I say.
Second, I knew that with so many people, there would be split-pants everywhere. In that, at least, I was not disappointed ...
Thankfully, despite all this split-pants action, I didn't actually have to seem in action. Unlike a few days ago, which I won't get into here. You should be thankful for that. Trust me.
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