Taking the subway in Beijing is a total cinch.
I took the subway yesterday from the university district in Wudaokou to the downtown core of the city. Specifically, I got off at the Yonghugong stop. For only 3 kuai, the equivalent of about $0.45 Canadian, you can hop the train from Wudaokou down to the transfer station for the underground subway loop. You have to pay again to take this underground route, however, which is the only drawback. Still, coming from Toronto where it’s nearly $3 to take the subway, I am hardly complaining!
The aboveground train is amazing because it allows you to see into courtyards and past billboards to where people actually live in this city. A bit voyeuristic, perhaps, but informative nonetheless. I am amazed at the divide between rich and poor here, modern and traditional, dilapidated and sparkling new. All shoulder to shoulder.
All of the subway signs are in both Chinese and English and all of the stops are numbered as well as named. This makes it possible for anyone to use the transit system here, regardless of native language. Numbers are much more universal than any written script, of course.
I also was touched by some random assistance given to me. I was staring at my map then staring at the subway grid on the wall and then staring back at my map when a man with a New Zealand accent asked me if I was lost. I answered that I wasn’t lost yet, thanks, and then told him how nice it was of him to ask. In the end, I’m proud to say that I didn’t get lost at all.