Amy and I made it to Beijing. The flight was terribly long and we didn't act fast enough to grab some of the empty rows of three so that we could sleep lying down. That meant we were in our seats for two, but I still managed about 4 hours of sleep in all (14 hour flight). Thank god the plane had TV on it.
After going through the HUGE airport (you take a train to pick up your baggage) we emerged and made our way to the taxis. Right off the bat, no english. I was smart and printed out a map that had a chinese address for our hostel (Qian Men Hostel). Did that mean we found it easily? Oh hells no. We ended up with our cabbie lost, asking locals in the Hutongs (picture an alley full of vendors and people on bikes and on foot) where we needed to go. I also had the phone number. we turned one street too late and made it more difficult than it needed to be. Figures. He was very nice though.
I thought I knew the meaning of the expression 'culture shock'. HA! Wait until you're travelling down a tiny alley in a car where no one speaks your language and you just can't stop laughing at the sheer hilarity of the situation. Good thing Amy and I both adapt quickly. Another thing we've learned, don't say "this is cute!" in a store unless you want to be followed around ENDLESSLY by the shopkeepers pointing things out to you.
The hostel is not exactly as nice as the pictures made it out to be. Don't get me wrong, I actually love it here! Hot water, internet , and a four bed girls-only dorm room (we originally booked for the 6 bed mixed but they overbooked it so they gave us the same price - score!). The shower experience was interesting. Chinese money is smelly and seems to be damp, even when it's dry. It's been spitting rain on us so we decided to explore and go buy some towels. We over paid, but we'll be better at bargaining in no time.
Dinner was great! Iced coffee, miso soup, and I had chicken dumplings. Much better than the garbage we had on the plane (seriously... why the hell do I want beef in gravy tomato sauce? BLEAH). Mom, you would be shocked by the hostel. It's a very old and traditional building. Which is a nice way of saying it has a run-down sort of charm. We're WAYYYY upstairs for our room. It's pretty cool. You'll be seeing pictures later in the week when I have more to upload.
Provided it isn't absolutely pouring rain tomorrow, we will be visiting Chairman Mao (sorry but no pictures allowed) and the forbidden city (lots of pictures will be taken there). It's 8pm here right now and that's about 4am Edmonton time. I'm surprisingly alert. We'll see if that works in reverse for the trip home.
Lots of love to all of you!