Today was another early start for the cast and crew of Travel Warning (just the two of us).
We woke up around 5am and quickly showered in our dank smelling bathroom slash toilet. We had gathered all our belongings and moved from the hotel and into the streets of the hutong.
It is here where we reshot the scenes from the previous night, just to make sure we got everything.
Fortunately, the hutong was pretty empty at this hour of the morning, as we managed to quickly shoot our scenes. As both of us were in the shots, we had to set up the camera across the road for a wide shot. For individual shots, we took turns as camera operator.
Then it was onto the Taoyuanxiangu Natural Scenic Spot about a 3 hour bus ride from Beijing, taking a connecting bus from Miyun. After a quick dash to the toilets (and only just making it) we tried to find a way of buying tickets for the bus.
An older gentleman who was dressed in a official looking uniform informed us that the tickets could be purchased at 8:30am at the ticket office. Fortunately, it was only 30 minutes till that time and we were right next to a western safe house, McDonalds (and we were hungry).
After plowing through our egg bacon wraps, we headed to the ticket office and waiting patiently. The doors swing open and we are the first to the counter. ‘We buy tickets here?’, we asked, knowing it was a mere formality. ‘No’. Our eyes widened. ‘Tickets are purchased on the bus’ (argghh). Well, at least we had breakfast.
We made our way to the bus terminal and waited in line. We were greeted by a older woman who offered her services as a tour operator, mainly Great Wall and other side trips. We told her where we were going and she promptly showed us the bus to get on, she helped us pay for the tickets and we all sat down.
The journey allowed us to take a few random shots of traffic but nothing significant.
After 2.5 hours, the lady motioned for us to get off. We knew we were in Miyun, so we must be here.
We walked off the bus and followed her for a few meters, only to realise we had been conned. She had coaxed us to get off the bus early, so she could drive us to the park. The offer was 150 yuan (about $30 aud). After our bargaining proved fruitless, and we had no idea where we were, she got her way and off we went.
After driving through the winding roads, we both came to the conclusion we were kind of lucky in a way, we would never had found our farm stay travelling on our own. The con was on her really. $30 was actually a bargain.
Finally we found the hotel, but the good luck wasn’t to last for long.
10 out of 10 times it’s very sensible to trust Google Maps, unless that map is of rural China. After a series of conversations and translations (thanks to Richards wife Jacqui) we were given a bit of direction, involving taking another bus north.
The next two hours was spent walking around lost, waiting at bus stops, finding closed information booths and did I mention walking?
Finally we gave up, by this time it was after midday and we had not had any lunch and wasted half a day with no footage shot.
We went back to the farm stay, defeated. Maybe there’s something in the area we could the outdoor shots? After more translations, she had an idea of where we could go to hike and showed us an image on the phone.
The image was of the place we wanted to go. It was here all along, in fact just 10 minutes from the farm stay. Joy, frustration, relief, annoyed, all those emotions and more.
Side note: so that means Google was right. Always trust Google Maps (yes, even in rural China).
Our hotel manager escorted us to the park and we paid our 40 yuan entry fee. The park was isolated, perfect for the film.
We quickly shot as many scenes as we physically could, desperately trying to make up for lost time. Fours hours of filming later and we were lumbering out of the park, exhausted.
That night we had dinner at the farm stay, which was decent. Some sort of meat, rice and scrambled eggs. We were just hoping not to get sick from any meals, so it was mission accomplished.
After dinner, we managed to film a few more scenes, with our character waking up in a small rural community.
By this time, we both needed bed. A day which was both physically and mentally draining had left out head screaming for a pillow. Although it was only 8pm, we weren’t about to fight it.
18 flights of stairs climbed