Beijing -- We Made It! Hi Everyone! We are in BEIJING!! It's currently about 3:30 am on Saturday morning (which is about 2:30 pm Friday Afternoon Central Standard Time in the US). Our flight arrived on time yesterday at about 3 pm local time. It took about an hour to get off the plane (we were in the VERY back row), get through the passport check, find the luggage and then find our guide, Rui. Her name is pronounced just like the American name "Ray" and she is a very sweet young woman that I know we will enjoy having as a guide for our short stay in Beijing. She took us to the Poly Plaza hotel and got us checked in at around 5 pm. We were one of the last families to arrive so Rui had already scheduled a quick trip to a small grocery store nearby for 5:30 pm so we just had time to bring the luggage up to the room and exchange a bit of currency before heading out. When we met in the lobby for the grocery run, we were able to meet four of the other families from our group and while we were all very weary from the long trip it was a nice little spark to meet others who just can't wait to get to their babies and children! Rui lead us to the grocery store which is just about 3 minutes away from the hotel. A whole group of Americans walking along like baby ducklings to the grocery store was enough to make a few heads turn!
We bought some bottled water, sunscreen (which I had forgotten to pack) and a few little cups of something that looks like pudding but is a fruit gel (we haven't tried them yet). Finding sunscreen was quite interesting as most of the products are actually "whitening screens" which means they have an SPF factor to keep the sun from burning/browning your skin, but they also have an added agent that actually lightens the skin as well -- it reminds me of American whitening toothpaste. Since I have problems with whitening toothpaste in the US, there was no way I wanted a whitening sunscreen! But we were able to find one bottle that is just an SPF so we bought that to use on our tour trip today.
The Poly Plaza is very nice -- probably the quietest hotel we've stayed at in years. The hotel is VERY clean and has some luxury items in the room which we don't find in the US -- very nice fluffy bath robes, slippers, living sprigs of Bamboo, a ceramic tea set with choice of teas, a hot pot to boil water (you can't drink any water from the tap in China, even in the 5 star hotels), a small refrigerator and a safe. Also, they provide a toothbrush and small toothpaste for each guest besides the traditional shampoo, soap and shower cap. We just looked briefly at the lower level of the hotel and there is a nice little lobby store for snacks/water and a tea room which seems to serves noodles and desserts. The hotel includes a breakfast buffet which we'll be at shortly. The hotel has what we understand to be the traditional twin sized Chinese beds which are solid like concrete! I actually have to sleep only on my back as my arms fall asleep and my shoulders and hips hurt when I lay on my sides as it feels to me just like laying on the floor. Kevin says it is actually a tiny bit more comfortable than his hiking mat simply because the bed is a bit wider and longer. The other thing we are not used to here is that even when you are in air conditioning, it's hot by our standards. Now, having said that, we keep our house COLD so what we consider warm others may think is just normal. But, this is our blog and so I'm telling our story - Ha! The hotel room is the coolest right now it's been since our arrival probably due to the fact that it's night time outside so the outside temp is cooler as well, but right now the room is about 78 to 79 degrees F. And the A/C is cranked to the coolest setting.
A few little FUN FACTS so far:
1. Sitting in the very back row on a 14 hour overseas flights is interesting to say the least. There was a small open area right behind our seats which gave a bit of space before the bathrooms and galley. This area was used as a place to stretch one's legs or for children to play in. Some of those stretching there legs liked to hang over the back of our seats and watch what we were watching on our Ipods!
2. Our flight took us up over the North Pole and then down into Beijing. We passed over Siberia and on the overhead screen it said that the current temp outside the plane was -79 degrees F.
3. The first American store I recognized on the bus ride to the hotel was Lenscrafters and the second was Subway. We actually picked up a quick sandwich from Subway with another couple from our group and we not only able to order by number for the sandwiches we wanted but both of the girls working there spoke some English -- actually quite a bit of English. We picked up cans of pop which have the metal pull-tab tops which I haven't seen in years. All the cans were completely in Chinese except for the word "Coke." After eating we realized we already broken one of the "rules" we had told ourselves we wouldn't -- we ate uncooked veggies in the form of the lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, etc that came on the sandwiches. But, no ill effects so far! And the sandwiches were very tasty!
4. Take to heart when people tell you not the try to cross the street unless you right along side a Chinese person -- they know what they are doing and you do not! It really is like the old game "Frogger" here -- can't even begin to describe the traffic with all the cars, bicycles, pedestrians, etc.
5. One of the families in our travel group has a blond haired toddler. In the lobby while we waited to go on our grocery run, you would have thought the little girl was a ROCK STAR! Hotel employees and others in the lobby was so taken by her that they came over to see her and then went and brought other people over to see her! Should be an interesting trip today for the Beijing tour! I'll close for now and try to get another hour of sleep before the big tour day.
Sorry, no photos yet but we promise to take LOTS today! We are able to get our email and love to hear from you all! And we can access most of the websites we enjoy in the US, but we the blog site is blocked so I'm emailing this to Hayley for her to post for us --- THANKS Hayley!!!