First Day in Beijing

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We had a good trip, quite uneventful and the plane ride was not even that painfully long. I thought it was brutal, but I napped a little, watched a move, knitted a little, and ate. We had 2 meals (the flight was 11 hrs) and we were pretty tired when we got here, but it was all good. The airport terminal buildings are amazing — from the outisde, they look like prehistoric shelled creatures, and inside they are big, airy and just wow. Before we saw the first custons/immigration person, we had to fill in a short questionnaire on our health, which we gave to a person who quickly looked it over and then stamped it. Then we walked past the “fever cameras” which are infrared and will show if someone has a fever and lied about their health. Pretty neat — I looked back at the display screen and the people were all orange (no fevers). In fact, I was kinda hoping there would be any really bad coughers on the plane, and there weren’t any near us, anyway!
Going through customs was completely uneventful, except for waiting for the luggage which took a long time. We actually went from the international terminal building to the other terminal using a VERY fast subway, so I suspected we might wait a while for the bags. We got there very fast, especially with no fussing at customs.

Then, the ride to the friend we’re staying with. Our friend picked us up at the airport, but had decided it was just simpler to take a cab. So, we did. What fun! The guy would have been right at home in Montreal — fast, no signaling, crazy lane changes, scooting around people, just a hoot. But he was very alert, and I have no problem with fast driving when everyone’s paying attention. This was all on freeways, almost right to where we are staying. Whereas today, when we took a cab back “home,” the driver was nuts! And there were bicycles, cargo-bicycles, pedestrians everywhere, and its amazing we didn’t hit anyone. We had some fun crossing roads today too, as we walked around, but no close calls!! 🙂

W went to a Buddhist temple, the Lama temple and a Confucian temple, both pretty close together. It was nice — the buddhist one was crowded and full of golden buddha statues and other statues, and had some amazing painted ceilings and roofwork. The Confusian one was right beside the Imperial college, and both were not crowded at all, had old trees, an Imperial throne room with a moat around it, and lots of stela (or stele) which are huge stone monoliths with writing on them. There was a huge cavernous room with hundreds of them standing, like an ancient library, with writing on both sides of them, beautiful, carved characters. And they were small — like 2 cm high — and I think the tourist sign said there were something like 600,000 characters and it took 12 years to carve them all. Marble, amazing. It made sense, actually, that the Confucian temple area had lots of emphasis on knowledge or widsom, and less on symbolism or mythology.

After that, we went to the Beijing bookstore, which was quite an experience. Lots of people, me the only blonde. I mean, I only saw one other person whose hair came close to mine, and it was quite a sad bottle job. Neat. I have a huge nose! And big eyes, too! 🙂 The bookstore was more like a library, not like a chapters. I found some photography books to peruse, since all the books were Chinese. Lots of people reading, but no chairs so people would sit on the floor. Security guards in the store, and walking around in the “square” outside. Security guards almost everywhere we went, actually, and bathroom attendants. I’ll talk about the bathrooms another time!

We rode the subway to get to the bookstore, which was good! A bit squishy, but no worse than riding the LRT after a concert (better because everyone was sober)! It was quite easy to find our way, even switching subway lines, but there were some interesting moments! Lots of escalators, many levels, sometimes we had to walk 5 minutes down a pedway to get to the next area. Fun, to be sure!

Well, I think I’ll leave it at that! I’ll try write again tomorrow, but we’ll see!

Note: This is 2 days late, due to internet restrictions in China. Did you know some websites are blocked? Wild.

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