Corn, corn, and more corn. That's my summary of the scenery on the 24-hr train ride from Hong Kong to Beijing. They must feed it all to pigs and chickens, because I don't see much human food made of corn here. And all the harvesting we saw was by hand. People were cutting the stalks off, breaking off the ears, shucking them, and then throwing the shucked ears into rows. A lot of ears were piled up on asphalt paving standing in water, because it was raining. I wonder how much they lose to molds and rodents?
Benjie would have starved if we had gone much longer. The dining card personnel could not speak any English other than Coca-Cola. They pointed to photos of their dishes, were were incomprehensible to me other than fried egg and rice. One customer who spoke some English told me one dish was chicken, but when I got it it seemed to be mostly bones, so I passed on that myself.
The compartments were nice, and we had one 4-bed compartment to ourselves. In the less expensive cars they had six beds per compartment, three stacked on each side of the car. Some of the toilets had seats, thank goodness, while others were just holes in the floor.
When we got to the Beijing train station, our experience was much like those of contestants on "The Amazing Race". We decided to take a taxi to our hotel, but when I got to the taxi stand, I realized no one was going to understand me. So I dug out two maps of Beijing and found the hotel on them so I could point out the location to the driver. He only paid attention to one map. I finally figured out that was because that map had Chinese characters for the streets as well as the English words. He was good, though, and got us where we wanted to go. And the entire cab ride was just $ 3.00 for a 20 minute drive through heavy traffic.
China is amazingly cheap, and they don't expect tips. No Chinese person tips for service. We tipped the cab driver anyway because he had been so helpful. We're staying in a Days Inn which has a lot of English-speaking tourists. Tomorrow we're scheduled for a tour of the Forbidden City and other nearby sites. We'll head for the Great Wall later in the week. The TV in our motel room has HBO in English, as well as an English-language news channel.