Saturday, May 09, 2009
Chotu, Motu, BM in Beijing: Olympic Glory
Still Day 2. This time we are on a taxi (Day One was all about public transport; Day 2 we had just discovered that taxi drivers understand maps, so we were taking full advantage of this discovery) to the Olympic stadias. Our driver proudly pointed out the Bird's Nest to us as we got off the highway. We were all suitably impressed. Little did we know about the Kafkaesque adventure that was awaiting us here.
BM: "Bill, you know the drill. Here's the camera"
BM poses and Bill plays cameraman while I walk ahead to what looks like the entrance.
"I am so hungry. You think we will get food inside?"
"I am hungry too. I can see some food stalls already"
"Cool. You think we should go in and get a tour?"
"Okay, there are people inside. Let me see where the entrance is"
"There are no directions anywhere but it says Entrance E"
"Yeah, but I see no open gate"
"There are security guards there. That must be the entrance"
"No, nothing open here. I think we have to go to the next gate. Maybe this is the VIP entrance"
So we start walking. This Bird's Nest thingy might look like a small thing on TV but trust me, it is not. It takes a while to get from one gate to another. The weather and the wind wasn't helping either.
"Man, I am so hungry"
"Hey, there's the Water Cube"
"Oh cool, we should go there also"
"Of course, of course, Phelps ki jai" (BM)
"Alright. Lets do this then - lets go inside the Bird's Nest first and come out and get food and then head to the Water Cube"
Bill: "This gate isn't open either"
"You've got to be kidding me"
"Serious. Look for yourself"
"Shoot. Next gate then"
"I guess so"
Ten minutes later we were in front of the third gate. By this time we have gone halfway around the building. Closed.
"Maybe there is no way in"
"There are people inside"
"Maybe they get there on a chopper. Sure there's a pad inside"
"What's the plan people? I am so hungry"
"Why don't we go to the food stalls and get some food and then come back?"
"I am not coming back. I am happy just seeing the Water Cube"
"Actually so am I. I got some good shots, good enough"
So our tired and thirsty travellers headed to the broad avenue between the two stadiums which seem to have a few booths. BM takes her time as she is shooting Water Cube in every angle possible and every lamp post in sight.
"These are selling phones"
"Why can't they have food here? This is like the middle of nowhere"
"That seems to have some food, lets go see"
The one food stall has instant noodle boxes and what looks like baguettes with cholocate sauce inside.
"You think that's chocolate?"
"What else can it be?"
"Do you really want to know?"
"No, but lets get it anyway. I am going to faint if I don't have something soon"
We eat. It is chocolate sauce but as to be expected, not good chocolate sauce but were too hungry to complain. BM notices a mermaid sculpture and runs to take picture. She poses and asks Bill to do his thing. As is usual, a few locals want picture of mermaid + BM + themselves. BM obliges. Once this is over, we walk to the Water Cube.
"Yes, the entrance is open! yippee!"
"Yeah there's even security check and stuff. This place is more guarded than Tiannamen dude"
"Looks like it only"
We get closer to the Cube. Visitors (all local) are queueing up to get through the security check. I suddenly notice two young men on my right, they seem to have come from nowhere. I look closely. It might be more than ten years since I have gone to a movie theatre in India, but I have spent enough time at KG and Central and Karpagam (all Coimbatore establishments) to recognise black ticket vendors. I turn to one.
"Tickets lady, how many?" One whispers.
"They are actually selling black"
"In front of these scary looking guards, yes"
"Yeah man. Lets just go get proper tickets. Who knows these might not even be real"
"True" (Huge mistake, needless to say)
We turned left and walked towards the direction where people with tickets were coming from.
"You cannot buy tickets here. Far away" One of the black ticket men said. We said No thanks and continued walking. After about ten minutes, we realised what was going on. It is like the queues at amusement parks. You think you are there but no, once you make a turn you realise you have another turn to go. So we walked for another twenty minutes.
"We should have bought tickets from those chaps"
"Yeah. What's the point now?"
"Hmm. I don't even want to go inside anymore. If we don't see a ticket booth in the next five minutes, I am out of here"
"Yeah? Which way will you go? Do you see any taxis or buses here?"
I look around. No. Nothing. Just these buildings. Which look nice and all but we were trapped.
BM: "You can check out any time you please..."
"There's a reason why everyone here looks so pained"
"Hey, hey there. I see it"
BM ran. Bill followed. I stayed put. They can go get tickets. Since we have to walk back this way I wasn't going anywhere. Two minutes. Five. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty. Where the hell were these people? I started walking towards the booths. More scary secuity guards with huge rifles. Something is wrong. No. They are on their way back.
"What happened? Long queue?"
"No ya. There were more secutiry guards than people"
"What took so long?"
"They didn't let us go buy tickets without checking us thoroughly"
"Dude, by now nothing about this place surprises me"
We walked back. Half hour later we were at the entrance to the Cube. We showed our tickets and went through the security check. Yes, again. Five cartoon men in front of the Cube.
"Hey look at these cartoon things" BM started shooting. "Bill here take picture of me with one no?" She handed Bill her camera.
Moi: "You want pictures with these things? Where do you think you are Disneyland?"
"30 RMB. We have to make it pay" She went towards the charaters. The cartoons were just saying good bye to the people in front of us and were turning our way. They all walked towards us, excitedly. What we (in our determination to get value for 30 RMB + plus all the pain we had to endure) hadn't thought of was that we were more of an attraction for them than they were to us. One of then came and shook and hand. Another one shook Bill's hand and said "Hello". Mine hugged me. Bill's hugged him. He smiled and tried to take picture of BM.
"Hey, where is she?"
"There, behind that one. Its dancing with her" Orange cartoon was twirling BM around.
Bill took picture.
"Guys, this guy is not letting me go"
"I am serious. I am trying to get out of its grip"
"Turn around this way. This angle is good"
"Bill, enough of picture. Come save me!"
Bill to the rescue. Knight-in-Slacknerny-tshirt walks over to BM and the cartoon (in the process of molesting her). Cartoon sees Bill and lets her go. However, wait, twist in plot. Cartoon next to me has caught hold of me by now. It tries to twirl me around.
"People....." Knight turns around. Laughs. I break free and run into the Water Cube. BM had already taken this course a few seconds ago. Bill joins us a minute later.
"What the hell was that?"
"I hope we aren't going that way on our way back"
"You forget, we aren't going back. This is it. We can't leave"
Oh, there was nothing much inside. You are better off seeing the pool on your TV. Our ticket also promised us a restaurant and a bar which was a popcorn stall and well, vendor selling water. Also, in the restrooms, the stall I went to had no toilet paper and BM had to pass some under the stall from the adjacent booth. That's when realisation struck. We were in real China. This place wasn't ready for foreign tourism yet; by the summer it would be but for now, our experience is all very authentic. We are one among the billion.
BM: Good time to put up 798 Art post / pictures. Together, they will make so much sense. Really.
Oh, before I go, bonus picture: You should be able to see more than one nest if you enlarge.