Saturday, May 24, 2014

We’re off to China again!

Wow, I can’t believe it’s already Saturday in China! It’s actually 2am and I’ve been awake for about an hour.

Most families left on Tuesday to arrive in China by Thursday to take advantage of the Beijing tours. Since we are taking Henry with us, we decided to skip the first day of tours, but have enough time to acclimatize and be ready for the Great Wall tour on Saturday.

So, on Wednesday night we left our house at 10pm and boarded our direct Air China flight to Beijing. We’ve never flown with Air China before and we were really happy with the service, the food and even cleanliness of the aircraft (I personally loved the foot rest for my short stature!). We all slept pretty well, too! I think we managed about 6 hours throughout the night (what a strange feeling waking up and realizing there’s another 7 hours left of the journey :O!) and maybe an extra 2 hours before we landed.

We're in China!

It was pretty humid when we landed in Beijing on Friday morning, and the smell of the muggy air always reminds me of Hong Kong. We went through immigrations without a hitch and an officer on his Segway moved a bunch of us with kids from the “foreigners” lines to the “nationals” lines :). On the other side, we met up with another family traveling in our group and waited for our agency rep, who ran over to us puffing, panting and apologizing for arriving a few minutes late.

Our hotel room at the Sunworld Dynasty was on the small side; for two adults, it’s probably fine, but we had a lot of luggage, which is currently taking up all the floor space. After breakfast and naps, Dave visited the front desk to ask for a larger room. He came back to ask if I wanted to move to another room with a king-sized bed and pay for a roll-out bed for Henry. Although the king would have been more than sufficient for the three of us, I declined his offer as I was too tired to move. Besides, we are staying in Beijing for only two nights.

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo...or, not

In the afternoon, we refreshed ourselves and had planned on taking a trip to the Beijing Zoo. Dave had enquired at the front desk earlier about the zoo and was told it would cost around 30 yuan by taxi and about 15 yuan each for admission. The concierge called for a taxi and we hadn’t left the hotel driveway when the taxi driver started babbling in Chinese. I realized he was talking to me in the rear-view mirror and I responded, “Sorry, I don’t speak Chinese.” We thought our concierge had taken care of it, but clearly had not. Luckily Dave carried his “cheat sheet” card from our rep and pointed to the translation for zoo. The driver drove a little further down the road and babbled more in Chinese and after we put our charades skills to the test, we realized he was telling us there are two zoos: “one closer to the hotel” and another “farther away from the hotel”! He grabbed his pen and wrote down the cost for each distance: 500 yuan and 800 yuan, respectively! That’s $80 and over $125 for a trip to these zoos!!! Dave repeated, “No, no, no. Let’s get out.” The driver bartered with us one last time and asked how much we wanted to pay. When Dave wrote down “30” on the card, the guy added another zero to the 30! Anyway, we got out and walked back to the hotel, disappointed.

The guys working behind the concierge desk were surprised about what had happened, so one of them suggested we take the metro to the zoo. By the time he circled the second connection we had to take on the map, Dave and I looked at each other and told him we had changed our minds.

We went for a walk down the street to look for something interesting to do. It was getting very warm and I had wished I had brought my cute green umbrella. I forgot in Asia it was “normal” to carry umbrellas to protect oneself against the beaming sun. We were hungry again but it wasn’t time for dinner just yet, so we visited the small 7-Eleven store and picked up a bunch of bananas and more water. On our way home, we heard drivers honking their horn constantly. Henry hated it. “Why are they beeping their horns?” he’d ask. “Mummy, I want to go back to the hotel room,” he’d cry. Our baby was doing so well until now.

To eat or not to eat

The hotel buffet wasn’t open for dinner service for another two hours, and boy, it was the longest two hours ever! We walked around the hotel in circles and ventured out down some of the neighboring streets (and trying to ignore Henry’s pleas to return to our hotel room), and we had never been so bored! We figured some of the other families from our travel group (whom we haven’t yet met) may have headed to the noodle restaurant next to the hotel, but we didn’t enjoy the food there two years ago, so we passed.

The buffet was finally open but I didn’t see anything screaming out at me (the breakfast buffet was just okay, but please know I’m not an adventurer eater). I walked around the buffet three times and finally decided on the boiled noodles mixed with egg and tomato sauce and topped with mushrooms and three “fish balls” (that I’m familiar with) that the chef prepared for me. He was horrified when he saw me attempting to pour the egg and tomato sauce into a soup bowl. He said, “Not soup! You eat with noodles!” Henry was happy with my food choice, but I walked around the buffet another two times before deciding on sautéed vegetables, a small piece of pizza and a few prawn crackers. Dave recommended the Japanese chicken, so I had that with white rice. The dessert wasn’t bad. We decided we’d go elsewhere for dinner on our last night.

Final note about Henry

Henry has been such a trooper since we arrived in Beijing (he was great on the plane, too). He keeps asking when we’re picking up Oliver and we keep telling him “Oliver’s not ready for us yet. He will be ready to see us on Monday!” :). Not sure if he fully understands but we joke about how Henry may be surprised at the fact that Oliver is real! You see, Henry has been “talking” to Oliver over the phone almost on a daily basis for a last few months. His conversation to his little brother goes something like this: “Oh, hi. Can we play together? Yeah, yeah? Let’s play in my game room. Are you eating? Yeah? We bought you some baby snacks. Okay, bye.” So, when he finally meets his baby brother, we think he’s going to think, “Oh man, you’re for real! I thought all this was just pretend!”

Anyway, I think Henry’s awake now. I’ll try to blog again within the next few days…especially after we’ve met Oliver on Monday! :D Can’t wait!!!

Henry demonstrating our wonderful Graco Sit and Stand stroller!
 **** ****
Our 8-piece luggage (2 cases, 1 duffel with wheels,
carry-on case, backpack, diaper bag,
Henry's backpack, and stroller!)
 **** ****
Getting ready to go! Henry's neck pillow
really helped me sleep on the plane!
 **** ****
Dave filling in the immigration cards and
Henry playing with his toys.
 **** ****
Henry watching The Little Einsteins (I had to insert a wash cloth
under his headphones, so it wouldn't slide off, lol!).
 **** ****
Loving the foot rest on Air China.
 **** ****
Henry's second "child's meal" (the first one was ravioli).
 **** ****
Scrummy chicken and fried rice.
 **** ****
Our "super safe safe" at the Sunworld Dynasty, lol!
 **** ****
American outlets on the wall at the Sunworld Dynasty.
 **** ****
Henry checking out the room.
 **** ****
Two twin beds; Henry and I are sharing (it's manageable).
 **** ****
Another angle of the room at the Sunworld Dynasty.
 **** ****
The hotel restaurant in a courtyard setting.
 **** ****
Henry enjoying his noodles with egg and tomato sauce.

No comments: