And some much needed rest.
20.08.2013 - 20.08.2013 88 °F
Our train arrived at 9:55, two hours late, and it was certain to be another mob scene complete with trying to get our several pieces of luggage off and across barriers, and the crowd. Jack met us coming off the train (I think two white-haired Caucasian men and two little Chinese girls are easy to spot in a crowd here) and we headed through the mob to our van. This time, I was determined to get some pictures cataloging the kind of conditions that I described back in Xi'an.
While it was not nearly as chaotic as the former Imperial City, I did get a few shots showing how it's part refugee-part lining up for tickets to the U2 concert. Jack got us to our van, got our stuff loaded in, and then took one look at us and made a quick command decision. He decided we needed naps, some down time, and a light day to recover from the "soft sleeper." You can tell Jack has been doing this for six years. Good call, Jack.
We had missed breakfast so we got settled in, took some time to nap, and then headed downstairs for a quick lunch. The lunch of the main lobby was fine, and we kind of scouted the place out because that is where our breakfast buffet was going to be. We then went back up to our rooms and did some more "relaxing" until dinner time and then decided to head out and see what was within walking distance from the Jianguo Garden Hotel.
I like the way downtown Beijing has underground walking passageways under many of the streets. This allowed us to skip many of the life-threatening experiences of crossing the streets in Beijing. In China, there is no such thing as "pedestrians have the right-of-way." Pedestrians feel like targets in a shooting gallery. Many would say this is wrong, but with the number of people in the cities, if you had to yield to pedestrians, traffic would never move. Thus, you learn to watch the Chinese cross the street; if they go, haul buns after them, otherwise, you will end up on someone's windshield or handlebars.
A few blocks from our hotel was a major indoor shopping area. Some of the same US chains we have been seeing for a while were there. We did the Marcel Marceau ordering system at McDonalds. The staff is used to dealing with foreigners; They have a laminated menu that you point to, grunt, and hold up a number of fingers. It generally gets you close to what you intended to order.
We actually liked the meal. You begin to realize how much you miss beef when your other choices are things like duck's tongue and frog. Not frog legs, the actual frog. McDonalds has it's usual menu items plus some specialties. I really wanted to try the bubble tea, but thirsty and took a Coke instead.
We are used to being stared at a lot when in public, I just am curious as to what they are most astonished at: two little Chinese girls that speak english, or two white-haired men that they worry are the gay parents of the two little girls. Jack came right out and asked Bruce, at one point, "What is your relationship to Keith?" "He's my brother." "Oh!" Bruce said he sensed relief in Jack's response. Interesting.
We did some minor shopping (batteries, water/drinks) and decided we might come back another night. The smart move was to head back to the hotel, hit the swimming pool with the kids, and crash. Tomorrow would be a big day: Tian'anmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven.