Stopover Freedom in Beijing

After booking the cheapest flight possible from the U.K. to South Korea it took me a few days to realise that the 20hour stopover in Beijing airport would probably result in me eating my own hand in a sleep-deprived, L.D. lit frenzy.  Hearing tenuous yet promising rumours about free 24hours stopover permits allowing access into the city on just such occasions, I ignored the contrary information given to me by the Chinese/U.K. embassy and pursued the idea on arrival.  After a few confused conversations (in which my lack of Mandarin became dauntingly apparent) I was waved along the row of immigration exits to a ‘special desk’ at the end of the row where a nice man stamped my passport and departure card and let me free to the other side.  Paying 25 rual (£2.50) for the airport express took me to D— and from there 2 rual for a single ticket on the generously staffed and well-swept subway system took me to Quianman Square in about an hour. This left me, in theory, close to my destination of the lovely Quianman hostel, such an old and interesting building so central to such sights: at 50 rual (£5) for a clean, warm dorm room I’d say was well worth it.  Wherever you go, for those with a tight time schedule a printed map or the hostel name in Mandarin is recommended – armed only with the Romanised version of the hostel address left me wandering the curious mixture of big roads and motorbike filled alleyways with a mute and simple smile.