My flight on Air China took off half an hour later than scheduled. Everything went well and my seat wasn't on a wing as the online plane diagram had shown. Instead I had window seat just ahead of the propeller, so it was much better and more scenic than where I thought i'd be sitting. Maybe it was a different plane than originally planned, it was a 777 and I forget what the original plane had been.
We were barely off the ground and settling in for the 11 hour flight when they came around with drinks so I had a coffee and some coconut snacks I had brought with me. The attendants picked up all cups and cans and whatever and a few minutes later lunch was served. I chose chicken and rice and it was served with veggies, a very good Chinese bun, nice crisp salad, yogurt and a fruit salad as well. At some point I noticed land through the cloud breaks and saw snippets of the coastline of beautiful B.C. and the Yukon Territory. This is the usual route to China from Vancouver. Eventually the pilot asked that all window shades be pulled because it would soon be blindingly bright with the sun and snow of the frozen north. So that was the end of my sightseeing and the start of my IPad game.
It's now 12 midnight at home according to my watch and the outside temperature is -51ºCelcius and we've just passed over Manchuria Our speed is 938 kms per hour. More game time and then it was just an hour or so to destination. It's about 1:30a.m. at home now on May 6 and about 12:30p.m. in Beijing. It was awesome flying over Beijing as it was even more beautiful than I remembered. I love this city so much and so happy to be seeing it once again. It was much, much bigger than I remembered! It is HUGE now with a population of 22 million people. We were over the city for quite a long time and then experienced the roughest scariest landing I've ever had but yayyyy, i made it and so glad to be here. The temperature in Beijing was a beautiful 29º C. The terminal that I landed at was the newest and it's massive and modern and beautiful with gleaming marble floors, sparkling glass and people galore. It was a very different scenario than the last visits i'd had here in 1989 and 1994. It was a very long way to the luggage pick up carousels but part of the route was by train and then it was just a short distance outside where lots of tour companies and guides and drivers waited with placards with passengers names on them. I spotted mine right away and it was even spelled correctly and so I met Mr. Hong, my driver who didn't speak English so he checked my passport to make sure I was the right person to pick up. I was and so we were out of there quickly and enroute to my hotel the Sunworld Dynasty in beautiful downtown Beijing. (see map) It was so busy I thought it was rush hour except it was like Vancouvers rush hour X 100!!! Except Vancouvers lasts for 4 to 5 hours on weekdays and the Beijing rush never stops. I will never complain about ours again!
I could hardly believe the difference from 23 years ago when there were very few cars, just a few tourist buses, some city buses and millions and millions of bicyclists. I remember the streets were very wide and people riding bikes at least 20 abreast were like a solid and continuous river flowing to the sea. Obviously the fact that 8 and 10 and maybe even 12 lanes for cars would take over those wide streets and had been forseen and planned for all those years ago. Back then most cars were limos driving high government officials to and from their duties and they were of utmost importance and got the right of way by blasting their horns all the way as they drove and cyclists and walkers made way for them. Even seeing all those bikes parked at places like Tiananmen Square just blew the mind and we marvelled at it as they all looked so similar one had to wonder how anyone ever found their bike after work.
It's very different now and everyone seems to own a car and some I saw enroute to the hotel were Honda and something Chinese made called a Hinda or Hondi and their logo was like Honda but with a slanted H, Chery, Outlander, Porsch, Audi, BMW, Range Rover, Volkswagon and surprize surprize, Ford. There were many more makes of cars but by then I lost interest. It was more interesting looking at all their huge beautiful buildings and some were really spectacular in design. I did see some bike riders, many peddling while reading or texting on their phones and some were pulling carts as well. There were other little weird modes of transportation that looked like boxes and tiny little flimsy type vehicles, some with no window glass and some had plastic. They had only a front seat and were very low to the ground and sometimes there were 3 people squashed into them. Holy shades of Flintstones; they looked totally out of place in this modern city. Probably no seat belt law there either, although my driver never took off until he heard the sound of me clicking in. Their roads also impressed me big time as they were very black and clean and beautiful and there were no potholes and I don't think there were drains on the roads, at least not placed exactly where the tires would go bumpity bump over them like ours do. There's also rickshaws in the hutongs but not on the same streets as the cars anymore. Getting on the freeway seemed easy for Mr. Hong as the merge lanes were quite long before you had to actually merge and drivers learn to blend in easily and safely but it must take a lot of practice because you'd often be within an inch or so of other cars all around you. I couldn't drive there! Cars and trucks travel on different streets unlike here and what a good idea that is! The roads in beautiful downtown Beijing are called Ring roads and they encircle a large area of the downtown. Ring road 1 is only for small cars up to a certain weight, number 2 for heavier larger cars, number 3 for small trucks and maybe buses and other heavier weight vehicles drove on the number 4 road and so on getting farther and farther out of the downtown core. I never saw any of the big trucks that we have here slowly lumbering up the slopes to get onto the bridges slowing everyone else down while using up a lot of space and damaging the road. I've often thought that it would be cool if they were only allowed on the streets from say, midnight to 5 a.m. or whatever and I bet it's something that will have to be utilized in the future. In Beijing the really big trucks and equipment have to do their jobs during the wee hours and everything runs efficiently with this idea.
I'm entering 2 addys to see a map of the ring roads because I can't tell if either is going to work or is even clickable.
Twenty-three years doesn't seem like all that long ago to me but the advancements made here are mind boggling. Back then it seemed like the majority of the Chinese people were poor and now they're not. Their economy has made remarkable leaps and bounds and now that old China is long gone and a prosperous new China has taken it's place.
It's been a very long day getting to Beijing so I skipped dinner and went to sleep before 8p.m. I think the last time I did that was when I was 5. I am pleased with my hotel and the great security system it has. You have to put your key card into a slot on the elevators to go higher than the third floor. My room was on the 6th floor and it had everything I needed in a hotel room including free WiFi. There's a king sized bed, both a deep tub and a separate glassed in shower, fridge, electric kettle to boil water along with a couple cups and tea bags, iron and board, English tv channels, a little sewing kit and a box that held pencils, erasers, ruler and scissors which proved very handy for me and I used them a lot. My window view is of the third floor atrium overlooking an awesome buffet which serves 3 meals a day. The ceiling soars up ten stories to a glass roof so it's nice and bright all the time. As well there's other restaurants which I won't see because I prefer buffets. There's a pool that I might use and a gym and acupuncturist that I won't. Also on site are several stores, a furniture store I think it is, an expensive perfume shop that doesn't interest me, clothes, jewelry and other expensive misc. but no convenience store for water, candy, chips, or the like but there's a 7/11 just across the street and a couple minutes walk away. Tap water is not safe to drink so they keep the room stocked with expensive mineral water from France which i'll never drink as it's about $12. per bottle and i'd drink at least 4 a day so i'll just go to 7/11 where bottled water is a fraction of that price. Alternately I can boil tap water and the kettle is very efficient and quick.