We are sitting in the Cathay Pacific Pier Lounge in Hong Kong waiting for our flight to Dubai, which is a 9 hour jaunt. So I thought I would do the recap on Beijing before we take off. As noted in previous posts, there is a lot of censorship in mainland China, so I was not able to get on my blog at all or update anything. On top of the Internet costing $20/day at the hotel, it was that much more prohibitive to do anything online there, except talk on Skype with some family members. By the way, Skype has been the best invention that we’ve used on this trip for more than one reason. I suggest you get a free account and use it with anyone you know that lives abroad.

Anyway, we hit Beijing on March 13th. The airport they built for the Olympics is massive, and quite an engineering achievement. I felt like we walked for days before we reached immigration, but I’m used to that with O’hare. Naturally, we got held up at immigration. I’m not sure if it was because we had US passports, or the fact that Annemarie’s hair is completely different that her picture, as the agent checked her out about 15 times before letting her through. We hopped a cab to downtown Beijing, which is about 30 minutes from the airport. Let me tell you, Beijing is not a pretty city by any means in the daylight. It’s very run down, and none of the landscape is very spectacular. We get dropped off at our hotel, and my memories of China from 3 years ago are sparked immediately as soon as the cab driver takes off without giving us all of our change, awesome.

I really didn’t care at that point, because I just wanted to check in to our hotel, the Novotel Peace. The lobby was quite nice, but that all ended once we got to our hotel room, and realized that we’d be given a room with two twin beds!! It was an end room, which was nice, but extremely tight, and kind of run down. I think we were put on the wrong side of the hotel honestly, but again, didn’t really care. We dropped our bags and headed out since we were in a good area (only highlight of the hotel was location) and wanted to get some sights in. The first sight was the outdoor food market, where Annemarie finally got to see, and taste, the fruit on a stick in which I’ve told her about for 3 years! I think it lived up to it’s billing as we probably both ate about 15 sticks worth over our 3 days in Beijing. We then were eager to leave the area because all the merchants do is haggle you, scream at you, and if they can, pull at you to buy something. After about 15 minutes, it’s beyond annoying, so we got out of there.

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Little did we realize at the time that about every 100 feet in Beijing you are haggled for something, whether it be food, money, gifts, fake copies of something, rickshaw rides, tours, etc. It immediately turned us off of Beijing, and we’d only be there for about 2 hours. We tried to go walk through the Forbidden City, but it was closed, and we were reminded it was closed by about 25 rickshaw drivers, yet they still wanted us to pay them to give us a tour…of a place that was closed? Yeeeeeeeeeeeeah, OK.

We ended up finding Tianamen Square and seeing the front of the Forbidden City where the large picture of Mao Zedong hangs. You wouldn’t believe how many locals flock to this area daily to see the Communist Flag that stands in the square drop everyday, it’s incredible. You also wouldn’t believe how big the square is itself. That along with everything else in Beijing is large in scale, but also worlds apart. It’s not a walkable city, as every monument or tourist stop you would want to see is miles apart. Tourist maps make it look like they are a block or so away, when they are actually 1-2 miles away. We really didn’t want to take any taxi’s on this trip, but after realizing things were not close together, and taxi’s cost about $2 max to go anywhere in the city, we figured it would be easier just to swallow our words and hop taxi’s everywhere. It saved us tons of time, and tons of agony on our feet.

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So that pretty much summed up our arrival into Beijing. I’m going to try to separate this into a couple posts since Day 2 & 3 were much more enjoyable in Beijing.

Cheers

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