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Friday, August 2, 2002, CST

Day 9, Arrival in Beijing


We had a 5:30am wake up call, as we had to head to the airport at 6:15am, for our 8:30 flight.  It was another China Northern A320, which took a little over an hour to fly from Xian to Beijing.  As we descended into Beijing, the smog looked so thick, that it appeared you could land on it, and when we touched down, the visibility was less than 2Km. The Beijing airport has a new terminal, and was the largest and most modern since Hong Kong. We met our new guide, Victoria, and boarded the bus to the city. It turns out that Victoria is a personal friend of Edy, who was so helpful in Guangzhou.


The highway into the Beijing, was a 4 to 6 lane freeway, that could just as easily have been in the states, but it would have to be back east, as it was not free, and we made several stops to pay tolls. Once we got to the city, it was stop and go for close to an hour, as we inched our way across town, on the second ring road. The whole time, you could see nothing more than a thick haze, until the visibility disappeared completely, after a few blocks. Combine this with 37 degree weather, and recent rains, this was truly a sauna.  We survived the tropical monsoons of Guangzhou, but this, we could not bear, and we changed our plans to visit the sights, this afternoon, and retreated to our hotel. The weather was bad enough to make headlines, in the local papers, and wasn’t scheduled to improve, until our last day in town.


We checked into our hotel, the Jianguo Hotel, which was rated at 4 stars, and while not as outwardly elegant as Xian, it was equally nice. This was a good thing, as we will be spending more time here than anywhere else on the trip, and since we could not stand to venture outside, we would be huddled up here for the remainder of the day.  It was a pleasant surprise to find broadband internet access right in our room, and also a bank of several computers in the business center. I should have good access for the remainder of the trip, as there will not be any new hotels, or cities. After settling in, the kids got manicures, haircuts, and I settled in on the internet. Before dinner, I took a walk around the hotel, and found an old part of town, where they were in the process of demolishing the buildings to make way for the new.  The remnants of these old buildings, looked just like our villages, in Guandong.  Most of the blocks were level, but there were a few buildings left standing, and people were still living in them, even as they were marked with the white circle, indicating they were to be demolished, and some walls were already missing. Dinner was in the hotel, and very good. 17 years ago, I lost 10 pounds on this trip, but the food is too good, this time, and I will be lucky not to gain weight. After dinner, it was off to the Peking opera, in a theater right in the hotel. Sounded like cats dying.


Tomorrow, we start touring the city, as much as we can stand the weather.



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