An early morning wake up call, no gas (= no food in the hostel), and a run to Starbucks was the beginning of another day of traveling yesterday for us here in China.
But we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare for a trip to Pizza Hut (brunch?) especially considering our plane was thirty minutes late boarding. At first, we were super excited about the Hainan Airlines plane we were on from Chengdu to Beijing because it is the nicest plane I’ve ever been on. It was even nicer and newer than the plane that took us from Chicago to Shanghai. Thrilled with the individual TVs, reclining, seats, and more space than usual, I settled in to watch He’s Just Not That Into You to pass the two and a half hour flight.
It was the most stressful flight I’ve ever been on. The turbulence was sporadic but terrifying. Several times we dropped suddenly enough for people not wearing their seatbelts to come out of their seats and for pretty much the entire flight the plane shook as if it were coming apart. My hands were sweating, my heart was pounding, and every time there was turbulence the flight attendants announced to us that there was turbulence (really? I hadn’t noticed!) and the movie I was watching temporarily turned off and therefore couldn’t be used as a distraction from my thoughts of imminent death.
But the flight eventually stabilized (we, in fact, didn’t die) and we landed at the Beijing airport and were on our way again via another mode of transportation. After the airport “express shuttle” (a mini-subway) we took the real subway (it’s still so awesome!) and found our hostel without any trouble. The people are friendly (maybe too talkative and personal at times), our room is comfortable, and the food and drinks are good.
We went out to the Hutong Alley district we visited during our last trip to Beijing over National Day holiday (week) and found the burger place we were so amazed by the first time. With real (thick) beef patties, mustard, mayo, real Swiss cheese, crispy bacon, and real onion rings we were spilling over with joy to consume legit and amazing hamburgers (I got my favorite – Swiss and mushroom). We spent the rest of the evening hanging out and talking to the people in the hostel (I even encouraged one Chinese girl behind the counter that she is not too old to learn how to dance as an adult – go for it!)
This morning we slept in, grabbed a delicious American breakfast (eggs, toast, sausage, bacon, hash browns) with real espresso, and were delighted to discover that it was a beautiful day (in the neighborhood) here in Beijing. To celebrate, we got massages at a hotel down the street before we wandered through the Hutong alleys again and decided it was a good day to do the one touristy thing we didn’t do the first time we were in Beijing – the Drum and Bell Towers. So we walked our way over there and purely by chance made it to the top of the Drum Tower right as they were performing the drumming. It was lots of fun to watch.
From the top of the Drum Tower we realized just how the nice the weather was today in Beijing – the skies were blue, there was no hint of smog, and we actually saw white wisps of clouds. We also realized there was an ice skating rink (a frozen lake) about two blocks away and, filled with excitement, we made a beeline for it. As usual, a man tried to rip us off for tickets and skates to get in (300 Yuan? I don’t think so!) but, after pointing out to him that we do in fact know how to read the English price sign above his head, we got in for the right amount and were on top of a frozen lake surrounding and surrounded by ancient pagodas. We crammed our feet into some cheap, ill-fitting skates and were on our way, gliding and sliding around, having really the best time! What a great find for our one impromptu day in Beijing! We had a blast skating around watching everyone (with a surprising amount of coordination) slip and slide around. Some were on ice skates, while others were in rented “ice-mobiles” and chairs with skis attached to the bottom. It was beautiful outside, the people were happy, and I got to do something I’ve never done before but wanted to do since I saw it on the TV show Arthur – ice skate on something other than a man-made indoor rink.
We grabbed some dinner at the hostel (I got my first smoked turkey sandwich in about five months) and we spent the rest of the evening just hanging out. I was going to attach some pictures and videos to this post but the Internet in this hostel is really bad (probably too much traffic) and so I’ll post them once we get back to Baoding tomorrow afternoon.
Thank you for reading,