Day 1: Beijing

11/07/2009 //


The flight went smoothly, though the inflight entertainment was pretty obsolete. No matter, I had a thick volume of writing, aka a book, to peruse during the 9 hours or so. I sat next to a Portugese couple who were friendly, if somewhat unfathomable. The husband would every now and then get his camera out and very assideously record the flight tracker. I hope he was putting some time-lapse thing together, otherwise it was just very sad.

Anyway, arriving at the Beijing airport, my luggage was markedly absent. First things first. Entering the plane, a man with a face mask pointed a gun-like thing at our foreheads. I had no idea what that was about. At debarkation, we found out; it was a swine-flu measure. What they were doing was checking our temperatures. At the airport, what we initially thought was customs was in fact a flu checkpoint. Everyone wore face masks and behind the counters, a group of white-clad people were operating something that looked like a Star Wars prop.

OK, my luggage was gone, but our guide was there. So he toook us to the Temple of Heaven. On the way, he explained how a toll road and toll booths work. Now we know…and knowing is half the battle.

Safely ensconced at the hotel, we took a walk around the block, then immediately got lost.

Dinner was had at the hotel, as we both wanted to be able to retire as the jetlag was making itself felt. At dinner, we tried ordering two meat dishes, but was rebuked for our ignorance by the waitress, and ended up with a meat dish and a chicken dish instead.

The Beijing Opera, by the way, is located in the hotel itself. Unbeknownst to us, that night saw the stage graced with the presence of one Shaquille O’Neal. (And Byron Davis and one other guy), which was a bit ridiculous, but there you go.

The day ended a few hours later, when a fourth (and final) round of beers was ordered. “I think you’ve had enough,” we thought the waitress said, though we couldn’t be sure, as her English was rather poor. We had no intentions of getting hammered and meant to retire after that either way, but it was bit disconcerting.