Monday, May 15, 2017

Arriving in Beijing

**Note: Google does not work in China, whether for economic or censorship reasons depends on whom you talk to. Blogger is a Google site, so I had no access while I was in China. The following blogs were posted after I returned to South Korea.

Here we are in Beijing. We walked to the station from Erika’s and took the subway, changing once for the train to Gimpo Airport. Piece of cake. Except the stairway to the platform at the local station where Steve took my suitcase as well as his. After that there were always escalators.

The flight included a meal. Steve took the chicken. I took the one where we weren’t sure what she was saying. Turned out to be beef—a least a tablespoon of it, maybe two if they were level—with mushrooms and julienned vegetables on a bed of rice. But hey! That’s more than they serve you on US flights.

The views coming in showed large expanses of fields dotted with clusters of high rises. The transition from country to city lacked the family farms and suburbs we would see at home.

I have had this last minute panic that maybe the tour company Steve found on-line is a hoax. They have taken our money, sent all this exciting tour information, but when we got here the names and phone numbers would turn out to be fake. The plane arrived a little early, and when we came out of immigration, there was no one with a sign with our name. But then, there was no one with any sign with any name. Steve walked around a bit to see if there was a different meeting place, but didn’t come up with anything. About 10 minutes later our guide showed up, a normal looking twenty-something in jeans with passable English.

Beijing is a beautiful city. At least, the parts we saw on our way into town, with flower lined boulevards and high modern buildings much like Seoul. It was hard to think that everyone here is Chinese, with much different upbringings than the citizens of Seoul.

Regent Hotel is quite classy. There is a major international conference going on so security is high. We had to go through metal detectors like the airport to get in. They weren’t sure about my tea mug even though it was empty. Later coming back from our walk, the street out front was lined with police and no cars. We realized some dignitary was going to pass. We were across the street watching when the motorcade turned into our hotel.

It is a pretty elegant place.

The room is classy too. This is a tea culture. There is an electric kettle and box with a variety of tea bags, but it is a good thing I brought my own because none is decaf. Coffee is Nescafe. Like I said, it’s a tea culture.

The weird part of the room is the bathroom

Yes, that’s it on the other side of the floor-to-ceiling window. It does have Venetian blinds whose controls we eventually found by the sink.

We arrived mid afternoon with nothing scheduled until tomorrow so after getting settled, we went out for a walk. There seems to be a grid of very busy streets, with smaller ones in between. Lots of cars, but also lots of bicycles.

These little boys were as excited by the fountain timed to music as Simeon would have been.

We passed several restaurants on our walk. Later we went out and tried one. Truth to tell, that was my other concern: Not all our meals are included. Would we succeed in getting food on our own or have to ration the granola bars I brought? We succeeded!

This was the Chinese version of fast food—a counter like Burger King or Taco Bell with pictures of the deals so we could point to what we wanted. Of course, we weren’t sure what it was we were pointing to. Steve’s sandwich had some kind of mystery meat in it. He decided not to ask. The noodles that were part of the Meal Deal were a bit spicy for him. My bowl looked like lentils, but there was some meat in it was well, and the gravy was more meat-flavored than I expected. The greens were refrigerator-cold, but when I mixed them in with the warm rice, they weren’t bad. The entire bill for the two of us was under $5 so we thought we got our money’s worth.

According to CNN, the One Belt, One Road Forum (which includes Putin and a delegation from North Korea) would be better called The New Silk Road Forum. The topic is trade routes by rail and sea, expanding the Chinese economic community back along the routes that originally made contact with Europe. The US is not involved. Makes me wonder if the isolationist policies of “America First” could end up making America last.

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