Long layover in Beijing, Part One

September 04, 2011 0 Comments A+ a-

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks!  My sweet baby-girl, Casey, married her long-time love, Matt last week in a beautifully personalized ceremony overlooking the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, VA.   Then, a dear family friend, Jeanie-a neighbor of my Dad's in San Antonio, TX, passed away and I went there to visit with her husband for just a bit. And, we are still on BabyWatch 2011 as we await the arrival of The little Prince's younger brother, any day now.

So, my apologies for posting that lame Harlequin post--now deleted--it made me laugh when I read it, but was more suited to a forwarded e-mail, I think!

Just before Wedding Week, I was on Reserve for 5 days.  I went to bed the night before knowing there was a strong chance I would get the Beijing (PEK) trip with its' 51 hour layover.  It has a 10 am check-in and when The Voice called me at 4 in the morning, I was very happy to get this trip, having never been there before.

Of course, I couldn't go back to sleep!

We flew a re-configured 777 from Washington, DC (IAD) to PEK for the 14.5 hour flight. (That link of the 777, by the way, is one of the ones not re-configured with "lie-flat" seats on Business.  We took one of the newer interiors to PEK.)

Briefing in the domicile was quick and easy--I was working Economy Aisle.  The Purser was smart enough to call the Crew Desk and ask for an extra person, and they gave us the Standby Reserve Flight Attendant.  We went over with 11 stews, 5 of us in the back.  It was awesome--David was the Galley person (and Mandarin speaker) and he rocked that galley!  We take a beverage cart out and schlep serve a drink; then a food cart out with the chicken or tofu dish; followed by another beverage cart;  finally, meal pick-up and more beverages.  Now, this all doesn't sound like much, but, there is a lot of choreography that goes with getting all this out, with the supplies we need, in a timely fashion for 197 people in "the Village"and David was a master at it.

Video monitors have the option of showing the flight map


The flight was uneventful and, we all know that is good.  As we were getting close to the capital city, the Captain called and said we would be flying over the Great Wall of China, and it would be on aircraft left.   So, I looked and looked.  No Great Wall.

As we got closer, I realized I wasn't going to be able to see anything--this is what is on top of Beijing from 30,000 feet:  smog.  Seriously.  That isn't haze or fog surrounding the clouds...it is smog.  This was my first time ever being in the stuff.  And, seriously:  ewww!

Smog over PEK
Airport train--it's 86 ยบ inside the train.  But, it's a clean train...
My room was beautiful!
The bathroom had electronic blinds to raise and lower for privacy.
View from the room....ehhh!
We arrived at the hotel around 3:30 and I took a much needed shower.  Bonnie was outside when I got downstairs, and we shared a cab to the Silk Market.  Jewelry, pashminas, table runners, knock-off purses, clothing and golf clubs--it's all there at the Silk Market.  

If you've ever been to the Straw Market in Nassau in the Bahamas, or on the beach in Jamaica, with the pushy vendors, you'll have an idea of what it is like in the Silk Market.  Only worse.  The aggressive solicitations as you walk down the alley of booths and past the stalls feels almost like an assault.  "Hey, ladeeeeeee...you need a beautiful table runnerrrrr..." a young woman demands and quickly steps in front of me and stops--so I either bump into her, or turn on a dime and change direction.  As soon as I avoid that vendor, the deafening demands of the next one are in my face. And, this continues aisle after aisle, floor after floor.  Really, it was too much.

I made my way to the 5th floor, where it is mostly pearls and jewelry--and much quieter.  I didn't buy anything at this market at all--and what a shame! I would have been happy to part with a few RMBs for some Chinese tchotchkes, but I couldn't stand the verbal blitzkrieg!  (After just working for the last 16+ hours, maybe I was just too tired to deal with any of it.)

Gold clubs or maybe a pink golf bag?

The traffic in Beijing made Washington, DC's traffic look like a cakewalk.  It was crowded, barely moved at times, pedestrians and bicycles and scooters and cars all trying to do the same thing at the same time.  The city is very crowded, its' arteries severely clogged.

These are pictures taken from the cab on the way back to the hotel--just a small slice of the city:

Astro turf clock with silk flowers-looks prettier in the photo than it actually is.

I love the juxtaposition of this photo--Dolce and Gabbana in the background with the
man on the bicycle cart dragging on his cigarette with a lady in tow.

I like the way she is holding onto his shirt.

David made arrangements for me to hire "Jack" as an English speaking tour guide/driver.  I had him for all of the next day, starting early, for 600 RMB, about $100.  He would take me wherever I wanted to go.

For the next day's touring, I packed my little day bag with sneakers, in case my sandals started hurting my feet, water, and toilet paper from the hotel.  I've been told that I'd want to bring toilet paper with me on my tour the next day--that it isn't readily available in the bathrooms there--and that I'd need to dispose of it in the container next to the toilet, not in the toilet, because of the "delicate" plumbing.  I've decided that may have something to do with the picture of the lav I posted a couple of weeks ago.

Breakfast at the hotel was incredibly good and abundant.  There were 4 buffets-one with American bacon and Eggs Benedict and such; one with Chinese stuff--I can identify the noodles and veggies (it was loaded with choices, and I thought I'd try a little of everything); then a cereal bar and a pastry bar.  So much to choose from...I loaded up my plate and everything was tasty--I especially liked the dark berries (at about 7 o'clock on the plate).  They were warm, savory, slightly tart and squishy...I have no idea what they were, but they were delicious!

Freshly fed,  I met "Jack" in the hotel lobby at the appointed hour of 7 am.  He asked me where I wanted to go, and I told him the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Olympic Park.

For 20 RMB extra, we took the toll road out to "the country", as Jack called it.  (The longer way took twice as long.) He explained that traffic would be fine for us, but if we left any later, it would be very crowded, as people fled the city for a relaxed weekend in the country.

No traffic for us!

We drove for about an hour...exited off the highway and through small villages on a two lane road.  Jack pointed out a "donkey restaurant" and told me that donkey was tastier than beef.   (Just in case you were wondering...) 

And, then we were there.  I couldn't see it, but the signage told me we were at the Great Wall of China.

Noooo, this is not the Great Wall...just the sign for it!

The ticket booth is to the left-it costs 110 RMB-about $17-to take the sky ride up, and the toboggan down.
So worth it!

The sky ride going up- I was the only one there.


My first view of the wall.

Is this a cell phone tower on the Great Wall of China?

You are here. 

With the exception of two ladies selling water when I got to the Wall,
I was the only one up there, as far as I could see.
That was so cool!

One of the water ladies offered to take my picture.

Others began to arrive.

Toboggan to come down!

This was such a fun way to get down!

As I was was leaving, all the other tourists were arriving.

That's all for now.  Next post: fishing in the country, a farmer's market, shopping and potato chips!