Let me paint you a picture of a Chinese airport—it is one big ass smoking lounge because there are no rules against it, really just suggestions. Watch where you walk too because, especially in the winter with everyone in China choking on the air, the phlegm is flying everywhere. Need a Peking duck or hairy crabs (in season only) to take home to Momma—no problem, whether fish or fowl, it can be purchased for gift giving at the airport. The planes at least looked like familiar to their U.S. counterparts but that unnatural shaking that broke loose when we landed on the tarmac in Beijing made me wonder if these suckers were made of wood because it sounded like the nails were popping loose—get some super glue or wrap this baby in duct tape before I fly again please. The bullet train is looking better all the time, though I was told that it flipped a few years ago killing many. Choices, choices!
Finally landing in Beijing at 1 a.m. after the usual delays (I guess 80% or so of all flights are delayed due to unnaturally thick air or whatever) and expecting to walk into a terminal, I knew I was in trouble when the cold air hit me smelling like diesel fuel and I realized the journey was far from over.
We were herded onto a packed bus to get to the terminal. Joy! This after my initiation into in-country air etiquette in China that dictates that you jump up instantly and jam the aisles with elbows out to gain position to push your way out. It’s a game really and commuting on the subway every day makes me a player for this clusterf*&# of epic proportions. A jab here and elbow there plus the correct blocking style with my luggage and no one is getting around this little woman.
Shanghai to Nanjing to Beijing and back. For now, this will be a frequent circuit for me. Of course this is China so commuting is an adventure every time with surprises along the way that make you say ahhhhhh. Getting to the Grand Hyatt in Beijing, I staggered to the room and tried to calm down and get some sleep. A beautiful hotel located near the Forbidden City, the pool is RIDICULOUS and like a tropical heaven. Not that I thought of packing a swim suit or had time to relax but who knew that an oasis liked this could exist in cold, grey Beijing! I can’t wait to go back in February and bring Thom along so he can walk to all his favorite hutongs and take photos of life in China. That is, if I can get his ass off the pool lounger where I predict he will be residing especially once he learns that room service delivers poolside and the wifi is free.
I also got to experience eating Peking Duck for the first time. Lucky me got a prime seat across from the open air kitchen at Made In China, the really gorgeous hotel restaurant that is famous for this dish. The whole process from oven to table is very ceremonial. The browned duck is swung out of the wood stocked fire pit by the chef and, in front of the viewing window with great fanfare, he deftly sliced off the duck’s head and instantly the dam broke loose and tons of fluid gushed out of the bird. Yum! Drained dry, the waiter then brings the carcass to the table and slices it up for you to eat with little pancakes and various accoutrements like plum sauce/ginger/cucumber/sugar/mustard. Avian Flu be damned—I ate me some crispy duck and I liked it. I am trying to be more adventurous in my food choices as I haven’t projectile vomited for awhile so I think it’s overdue. Who knows—maybe I’ll try the scorpions next! I am sure in Vietnam, where we are going next week, there will be an opportunity to try out crazy stuff. Stay tuned!
Hopefully, we will survive the firecrackers tonight on Chinese New Year and the ensuing pollution. So far a few have gone off sounding like rapid gun fire and the pollution is so bad I can’t see across the river. Multiply that by a thousand and I hear that is what we will be experiencing. Thom vows to run out and take photos of the chaos but I am staying inside and will emerge only if my wine runs out. Cheers!