After spending a week in Beijing, we are back home again in Shanghai. We did not drive back after our experience of driving to Beijing, but instead took the plane. We arranged a driver to fly in from Shanghai to drive back our car from Beijing. It costs some money, but it saved me lots of time and I don’t have the risk of being involved in an accident. After we had arranged this I met up with an old friend working at a car multinational, who told me he could have arranged shipping of our car for free on one of their car trucks. Maybe for next time?
The time we spent in Beijing was great. Meeting up with old friends (mainly Chinese, most of the foreigners I knew there have left China over the past years), going to my favourite restaurants (when they still existed) and just strolling around the city. Having my own car with a big advantage, so I could all around the city and go to places that I had not been to in years.
Beijing has changed a lot, and that’s a pity. Many of the places outside the fourth ring road where I went for a run or mountain biking in the past are now new residential areas. The city has become a lot bigger. We went back to the place where I lived when I started my entrepreneurial career in 2002, Guang Da Hua Yuan in Haidian district. That was at the very edge of town at the time. From the building we could see the mountains around Xiang Shan and I could run along the canal to the Summer Palace. The place is hardly recognizable anymore. It is one big urban jungle full of cars, restaurants, shops and apartment buildings. There is now a big road along the canal, and there is no place to run anymore. Too bad, the quality of living does not necessarily increase with more roads and shopping centers.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the prices for parking in Beijing had not changed. In Shanghai you pay a minimum of RMB 15, even if you just park 10 minutes along a quiet street in the French Concession. But parking along the street in Beijing is just 1 or 2 RMB per hour, and the most expensive place I parked was in the parking garage below the Grand Hyatt (Oriental Plaza) where it only cost me RMB 5 per hour. A huge difference with Shanghai!
Today we flew back, and although it is one of the busiest days of the year we managed to get a 30% discount on our ticket. Beijing airport was very crowded, but has become much more efficient in handling the crowds. We were checked in and through customs within 10 minutes. Shanghai airport can still learn a lot from this. The plane was completely full as expected, and due to turbulence it was a bumpy ride. But much better than driving the 1300 kilometer myself!