Day 1: Arrive in Beijing
We have spent the last fourteen and a half hours sitting upright, with our seatbelts securely fastened, in our Delta economy chairs. Since we left Detroit Metropolitan Airport, I slowly inch up the window shade every hour as light floods in through the small crack. We are elated as the captain announces our descend into Beijing Capital International Airport.
We lethargically shuffle out of the plane terminal into an empty airport. Our eight day G Adventures China Express tour from Beijing to Shanghai has commenced. It’s 2:30pm in Beijing and 2:30am home in Pittsburgh. Grateful signs are in both Chinese and English, we sleep walk in the direction of the arrows for baggage claim. Spotting a currency exchange, we convert two hundred USD to Yuan. After collecting our bag, we exit the airport, and get a taxi driver’s attention outside. Realizing the driver can’t understand English, we hand him a card with the address to the Chongwenmen Hotel. He nods his head yes, places our bags in the trunk, and takes off like a bat out of hell.
Driving up the right hand shoulder of the road many miles per hour above the speed limit, we are making great time avoiding the eight lane traffic jam. I see ahead a ramp to our right merging onto the highway. Still driving on the right shoulder of the road, I squeeze my eyes shut as we continue to speed towards the merge point. I open them just in time to see our driver slide in between two cars without breaking pace. After only a short moment of driving in a proper lane, back to our VIP lane on the right shoulder of the road we go. Never decelerating, he abruptly cuts across four lanes of traffic into the left turning lane. I hold my breath as we speed toward the red light ahead, making a left hand turn, then swerving right into the Chongwenmen Hotel drop off area. I let out a deep breath and I release my death grip on the door handle. The driver points to the meter and we pay our fee.
The Traveling Gingerbread Note: We learn later it is legal to make a left hand turn at a red light, however, it is not legal to drive along the shoulder of the road.
We check in at the front desk with an English speaking employee and take the elevator to our spacious room with two western beds. Opening the mini fridge, we find warm bottles of water, beer, and soda. Celebrating our safe arrival, we crack open two room temperature Yanjing, and toast to China. After multiple unsuccessful attempts of turning on the lights, we realize a room card must be placed inside a small pocket on the wall to turn on the electricity. Avoiding the inviting, comfortable looking bed, we take a much needed shower, then leave our room to explore Beijing. Outside the hotel, modern, plain, gray and tan sky scrapers tower around us as we walk past shopping malls, office buildings, and perfectly manicured hedges.
Famished and half asleep, we aren’t sure if the closet size steamed buns restaurant in front of us is a mirage. We can’t read any of the signs, but know exactly what a stack of round wooden steamers holds. Hesitantly, we get in line. A smile lights up our faces when we hear, “vegetable, pork, beef?” I order two vegetable for me and two beef for Mitch. She holds up a calculator with our total. After paying, we receive a plastic bag holding four steamed buns. I take my first bite. Broth and spinach explode from the fluffy, pancake like bun. We plan to eat here as many times as possible. Powered by steamed buns we walk back to the hotel.
Once inside the lobby, we see a small convenience store. Having some time before we meet our G Adventures group, we purchase two Yanjing and ask a hotel employee if we can sit in the lounge across the lobby. Receiving a blank stare, we point to our beers and then to the tables and chairs. He nods and we sit down at a small, round table.
As we calculate how many more hours we must stay awake, a friendly, English speaking Chinese man approaches us. Paul, our G Adventures CEO, confirms our information and directs us to a room upstairs where we will discuss trip details with the rest of our group.
Introducing ourselves, Paul hands out itineraries, and reviews in detail each day of our trip. There are three other Americans, two from New Jersey and one from Hawaii. The remaining group members are from Canada and the United Kingdom. After our meeting, we follow Paul to a nearby Chinese restaurant for dinner. We separate into two tables and have an opportunity to get to know some of the people we will spend the next seven days with. Paul orders some popular dishes for us to try and takes our drink orders. As the endless plates of food are brought to our tables, Paul announces each dish: Kung pow chicken, chicken teriyaki, Peking duck, steamed broccoli, white rice, sweet and sour pork, and fried rice. We are shocked to see the same dishes available from our local Chinese restaurants. Paul explains, Chinese order these dishes from restaurants because this kind of food is not prepared at home. After we cannot eat another bite, we walk back to our hotel, and collapse on the bed.
*For more information on our tour check out: G Adventures China Express.
- Day 1: Fly into Beijing
- Day 2: Beijing: Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square
- Day 3: Great Wall Mutianyu and travel to Xi’an
- Day 4: Xian: Terracotta Warriors Guided Tour and travel to Suzhou
- Day 5: Suzhou: Master of the Nets Garden Tour and overnight train to Shanghai
- Day 6: Shanghai: Orientation Walk of the Bund
- Day 7: Shanghai: Carte Blanche
- Day 8: Fly out of Shanghai