To my surprise, the plane and airport fiasco that seems to inevitably damper a traveler's spirits when flying to a land far, far away was absent from this trip to Asia. Nothing impressive, but definitelhy not the most fun. I've realized how spoiled I've become. No Singapore Airlines attentive in-flight hostesses, no personal television with on-demand movies in economy, really uncomfortable seat (well, that's a given on any plane). Yup, pretty basic when you fly United.
Since I only managed to grab three hours of sleep the night before due to my infamous propensity for last-minute packing, I crashed on the flight. Crashed only after a bunch of bumpy attempts and landing - turbulence, uncomfortable head pillows, and my fellow passenger beside me constantly jabbing his elbow in my side and reaching over me to open or close the window shade. I did catch the tail end of a cheesy Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy, which to my disappointment left a bad taste in my mouth. Or maybe it was the cold ravioli and spongy "chocolate cake" they served for lunch.
We get to the Beijing airport, and I immeditately start thinking how many football fields the facility would equate. Huge open air spaces and extremely clean and crisp floors and windows. Yup, you can definitely tell they're full steam prepping for the Olympic games, starting August 8th. As we head towards customs, we see the a special immigration line for Olympic personnel and, I assume, any arriving athletes. A news crew of some sort has set up bright lights behind and in front of a custom agent's booth, the poor employee dabbing sweat from his forehead while a camera man shoots a traveler being stamped into the country.
More evidence of the games continue to bombard. People in Beijing 2008 shirts, adds for VISA, and Yao Ming holding up a cell phone for a communications company. (Though unrelated to the upcoming games, I did spot a Rain - you may know him as Stephen Colbert's Korean pop star nemisis - on the side of a city bus. And I get it now, ladies. He is a fine looking young man.)
We are met my our tour guide and her escort, who takes us out to the bus and to the Hilton hotel located in the part of the city concentrated by embassies and counsulates.
The room is super sleek and modern, and I now I really shouldn't leave the shower to sit so long in dryness.
So I'm back from dinner - a Chinese restaurant behind the hotel called "Dish from Mao Zedong's Hometown." Not bad. Then headed to a shopping center down the road to buy bottled water, some snacks, and to browse through all the hip designer wear. Mrs. Thompson put it well when she noted that it was really the SouthPark Mall of Beijing. Can't wait to find some cheap Keds, or Toms would be nice too.