The flight to Beijing was incredible. I had been disappointed thinking I was going to be on the 787 again, but the JAL 767 plane took the cake! I had my own amazing compartment like seat complete with a huge screen, lie flat seat that had a massage, hidden cubbies, a place for my shoes, the works. It made the 787 business class seats look like a joke.
Resting nicely aboard this beautiful plane made me wish the flight was a little longer :)
After landing into Beijing, I was one of the first off the planes, and we were corralled into the area to show our passports. The overhead building looked like a big striped canopy so far above my head, it was almost surreal looking. The waves moved back and forth with the curvatures of the ceiling, and it was pretty incredibly huge. It reminded me of Madrid’s airport.
I found my way out of the airport and ATM, armed myself with a bus ticket and was on my way to Jinbao Road, where my Airbnb apartment awaited. The host had texted earlier saying he left the keys for me at the door, so after a ride from the airport, I found my way to a typical Beijing alleyway homestead, a Hutong. Voilà, the keys were right there. I just love when that happens. I found my way in, and the place was perrrfect. A cute little downstairs with a table and bathroom, with a staircase that brings you to a bed loft area. It’s great!
After unpacking and knowing I’ll be here for a nice little punctuation of my trip, I oriented myself and saw that I was just a couple of blocks away from the Forbidden City, so I was out the door and on my way.
After almost 25 minutes, I still had not arrived at the forbidden city, and with my trusty iPhone maps, I now see that a ‘block’ on the map is really a humongous quadrant of a good stretch of about 8 minutes across. By this point, I had been asked by several people where I was from, and if I would like to go to coffee or have tea with them. How sweet! At least, the innocent side of me thinks so. The independent traveler who knows it would take a while for anyone to come a lookin’ says, No, I do not talk to strangers. Much less have coffee and tea with them in an undisclosed location.
I found myself at the Eastern Gate of the Forbidden City, and people were everywhere. So I walked along the moat and headed South, because I wanted to see the famous gate with Mao’s picture in the middle. After another good 15 minutes, I found the gate. I was excited, but a little saddened because I figured I’d be coming out of it, and would have to turn around. I like those ‘a ha’ moments like when you’re walking up Red Square unsuspectingly, and then BAM, St. Basil’s Cathedral. Or driving in Paris, and BAM, there’s the Eiffel Tower.
The Chinese saved me however. They have that as an incoming gate only, and the only way to get back there, is to rewalk all the way around back to where I started, then back down again. Too much, so I headed back.
Along my way home ‘2 blocks’, I happened across a street market that had been setting up on my way to the Forbidden City. It had transformed from a row of stalls empty, to a bustling food market with anything you could imagine on skewers.
Let’s name the items:
- Cow Liver
- Sheep Leg
- Sheep Testicles
- Sheep Penis
- Meal Worm
- Grub Worms
- Oh, and fruit.
It was incredible. Sounds, smells, lights, action. This was the travel that I’d forgotten still existed. The sense of seeing and experiencing something with total wonderment, and curiosity. It was a blast. But no, I didn’t try anything this go around, as Colombia has left such a scary flavor in my mouth, I’m being extremely careful.