After almost eight months in Beijing, I'm becoming more comfortable taking the bus.
Before I was really worried about not knowing the bus's route, if I would get lost, or I had no clue which bus to take, and ended up hailing a taxi instead.
I still take taxis when I'm in a hurry, but when time is on my side, like this past weekend, I'm a bit more adventurous.
Most of it is because I can read some Chinese characters and can make out some of the subway stops I'm familiar with.
It also takes a lot of memorization, remembering which buses to take from which stops, and more importantly, having a good sense of direction.
On Saturday I had lunch with a friend in Panjiayuan -- actually across the street from the antique market. And after our big Sichuan feast, she told me to take #802 to Wangfujing or if I wanted to go home, to take #827. It was handy information to file in my brain.
After church on Sunday, there were several cars outside waiting for their masters. Many of the expats took taxis. I opted for the bus stop and took one that went to Andingmen, north of the city. From there I took another streetcar south. Then I got off at Di'anmen Dongdajie and walked west, and managed to find Nanluoguxiang Hutong again, near the old Drum and Bell Tower. I was very pleased with myself.
I wandered around the area again and grabbed a bite to eat at a Korean restaurant called Saveurs de Coree. It's a quaint, narrow place, with a small rectangular pond in the middle with running water and funky jazz background music. I had a dish of stir-fried vegetables with noodles made from potatoes, and green tea cake for dessert.
Then I headed north to Goulou Dongdajie and took a streetcar to Dongzhimen. From there I took the #614 back home.
Granted it took me over an hour to get to Nanluoguxiang and an hour to get back. But since it was late afternoon, the buses weren't too crowded and it was a pleasant ride both ways. The total cost of the bus fare was less than 5RMB (US$0.67).
I'm going to try taking the bus more often. For me it's the best way to get to know the city at a leisurely pace -- without breaking the bank.