I Like China. I like Beijing. I like the people I meet here. I love the food.
I’m not too found of the bureaucracy. However, whatever country you visit, there’s always some red tape that’s a pain in the backside. You just have to live with it.
So, the journey here. It was a pain. It started off with the M1 closed down to 1 lane for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Then my flight from Heathrow to Zürich was delayed by an hour, due to some ‘technical’ issue in Zürich – no idea what. However, the Swiss Air A320 was comfy enough for the 1 hour 30 minutes flight time, even in economy. The on-board snack was fine (croissant).
There was supposed to be a 2 – 3 hour stopover before the transfer at Zürich, but this disappeared so the transfer happened quite quickly. Never travelled Swiss Air before but it was okay; although in Zürich after queuing to board, everyone in the queue (except those already in the know) was sent to a different queue to get our boarding cards stamped, then had to queue up again to complete the boarding.
Previously, my visits to Beijing were via large, 747-type long-haul aircraft. In the newer planes there is a little more room in economy seating. However, this time I was on an Airbus 330-300, and the economy seating was well below expectations, and only 3 toilets available. For a journey of 9.5 hours covering around 8000 km, this was not a great place to be. On the other hand, one of the stewardesses was very pretty. :)
I got very little sleep, it was so cramped – not to mention smelly with everyone around me farting every 10 mins! Main meal was okay – honey chicken with garlic, rice and brocoli, but the caesar salad was not good. The sweet was apparently carrot cake, though I couldn’t taste any carrot; and it came with a sprinkling of almonds, which everyone knows I can’t stand, that had to be scraped off.
However, arriving while it was still dark provided the reward of beautiful Beijing-by-night views from the plane:
Eventually we arrived at the airport around 5:30 AM to be greeted by Chinese immigration control:
It took the best part of 90 minutes to clear through here, though I must say the young lady wielding the stamp was actually very efficient and officiously pleasant.
Next, of course, my luggage didn’t arrive on the carousel. I spent an age trying to find it. There was no official to even speak with until well past 8 AM. Eventually I went to the Star Alliance baggage reclaim, joining a queue of irate Chinese-speaking complainers. (If every you come to Beijing, the one thing you will notice is that western-style politeness isn’t a strong factor when there’s queuing to be done.) By 9 AM I’d recovered my bag and been out-queued for several taxis before finally landing one.
You will love Beijing taxis. You never see any accidents, I have to say, but the way they drive here is maniacal! Any road-space is taken by whoever gets there first: car, bus, truck, bicycle, pedestrian, whatever. Best thing is to focus on anything else but the traffic. But Beijing at night is as exciting as any othr world city, with the added bonus that you don’t feel threatened, as can happen in some places.
Arrived at my hotel, the Park Plaza, one of the best in town, only to find they had no reservation for me.
I don’t know how that happened but, fortunately, I knew the name of a Chinese colleague who is (a) well-known to a lot of people in Beijing and (b) well-respected/liked by same. As soon as I said his name a room was made available at company-negotiated rates and, finally, at 10AM I was flat-out on the bed, snoring my head off until mid-afternoon. I was, to use the vernacular, knackered.
Saturday night was a very enjoyable alcoholic iced beveage in the hotel lobby lounge (above photo) and then more sleep.
Sunday (overslept so missed breakfast) I was still feeling quite exhausted, despite a decent bit of kip. I’d had plans for a little more sight-seeing but I just didn’t have that much energy left, and my hips were killing me, so I resigned myself to a day of recuperation so I’d be ready for the week’s work ahead.
To round-up, let me say if you get the opportunity to come to Beijing, take it. China is a super place to visit. I’ve done several of the Beijing ‘sites’ and they are well-worth visiting (Olympic Park, Forbidden Palace, etc.). The country’s history is great and the people (apart from men clearing their noses and throats whenever they feel like it, and everyone barging and shoving all the time) are generally warm and friendly. Watch some of the TV. It gives you a very good insight into the psychology of the people. Take the time to learn a few words (ni how = hello; shi-shi = thanks) and people are usually happy to give you a little of their time. But be warned – when I was here in February this year I was virtually asked to marry a young lady (I was saved by my colleague at the time) so you never know how things will pan out!
Best wishes to all.