Arrived in Beijing at 2am on Sunday, which meant there was very little traffic around. Having been travelling for over 36 hours, and having managed only 3 hours napping during that, the first thing I put my mind to was a good hard sleep. A hard sleep, because there's less than a cm of give in the mattress, though that didn't make it in any way uncomfortable.
Awake, and refreshed by 11am, I took a 20 minute walk to Tiannamen Square to settle myself in the city, taking plenty of photos on the way, mainly to act as a navigational aid when trying to return to the hotel. First impressions are that Beijing is a city much like any modern city, with all the brand stores you would expect, and a fair smattering of English signage. The one thing that sets it apart is the murk, a low, yellowish veil that makes everything seem ghostly and remote. on the walk a guy just started talking to me, and whilst I suspected he was a neerdowell, wanting my cash, I was on a main street and happy to chat. As we approached the Square and the Forbidden City, he invited me to an art show, which I politely declined, and continued on.
Tiannamen and the Forbidden City are on the later tour, and I'll describe them then, so I wandered into the gardens and took a few photos. Everyone else seemed to be taking photos of the tulips which were just blooming. I also power-napped in the murky sun before strolling back to the hotel.
In the evening the group me for the first time. Our guide, Ricky, is local and thoroughly knowledgable and enthusiastic. There are 5 others on the tour, Tim and David from the UK who are travelling together, Peter from Ottowa, Dale from Australia who has been studying in Shanghai, and Nicole also from Australia. It's good to have a bunch of solo travellers, rather than being stuck to a large group that already know each other.
Our first meal out showed there are a few who need to learn how to use chopsticks, and also that I'll have any dish containing chili pretty much all to myself!