Exchanging money at the airport
We checked in at the Grand Hyatt and went upstairs to get settled. The four of us had invested in a two bedroom suite on the eighth floor, with a living room and small kitchen area. Very nice...but one problem...only 2 beds! We had requested twin beds, but got two kings instead. Lee, annoyed, called the desk since he had reserved the room. Housekeeping informed us that one of the large beds could be separated into two twins, but the other could not. They came up with twin linens and separated the one that could be, which turned out to be the one in my and Lee's room. They said they would bring a rollaway bed up and set it up in the living room for us. Doug volunteered to take the rollaway, which left Dave with the king bed in the other room.
Grand Hyatt Hotel, Beijing
Ok, problem solved, let's go check out the hotel!
The concierge told us that amenities here were complimentary, not an extra charge like they were in Japan. (the pool area at the New Otani Hotel cost over $40 to use! no thanks!) The guys went to the gym, I went to check out the pool complex. It was huge! A large pool with many different depths, it had large pillers in the middle and artificial stone work all around. It had a waterfall, 2 "grottos" with hot tubs, caves, trees, the whole nine yards. With all the plants and rocks, plus bird and animal noises coming from hidden speakers, the place was kind of like a secluded jungle lagoon. Every lounge chair had an oversized rolled towel on it, as well as a complimentary bottle of water, with several pool attendants constantly refreshing them.
Doug in his "room" before they brought the rollaway
The locker room had another
hot tub, as well as a sauna, steam room, lockers, and free toiletries such as razors, shaving cream and toothbrushes. Very nice! They even had a little centrifuge machine that could get all the water out of your bathing suit in about 15 seconds...and little plastic bags to put the suit in after that...they really thought of everything! I went for a swim and a soak in one of the hot tubs, and was sooned joined by the rest of the guys from the gym. After lounging around there for an hour or so, we decided to head upstairs to start getting ready for dinner.
When we got back to the room, both Dave and Doug were shocked to find both their wallets and passports were missing!!! They had both left them in their bags on the floor, and now they were not there! (both Lee's bags and mine were apparently untouched) I had remembered seeing Daves wallet, visible in his open bag, when I left the room, but didn't think anything of it.
Now, it was clearly missing, and he was ready to kill someone! He dumped his suitcase all over the room, making a huge mess, in a futile attempt to find his missing items. Losing your passport and
wallet, on your first day in China...not good! It was about this time that Lee noticed a note from the hotel staff on the table, asking us to phone the front desk for instructions on how to operate the safe. He put two and two together, and called them while Doug and Dave tore through everything. The desk said that housekeeping had noticed the wallets in the open bags, and had put them in the safe. It was a huge relief to Dave and Doug when they opened the safe and found the missing items! It was a terrifying 5 minutes up until then, though! They were thrilled to have their stuff back, but still pretty pissed off that someone had taken it upon themselves to go into their bags and remove these items.
fountain outside our hotel
It would have saved a lot of time and trouble if they had only said that in the note!
For dinner, the concierge had recommended a place in the mall next to the hotel. They didn't speak much English, but we just pointed at several dishes on the menu and shared. The food was decent, although one dish was very hot with chili's...we didn't finish that one! It was 9:30 pm by the time we finished, and the mall was closing up, so we had to walk the long way around to get back to the hotel. We did some exploring around the hotel, going up and down stairs, checking out the piano bar in the lobby, etc. We found a bar around the corner from the reception desk, and went in to check it out. It was very dark and smokey in the bar, also very small and crowded, so we didn't even stay for a drink.
Lee in our room
I'm used to Connecticut, where they don't even allow smoking in bars! Just being in there was making my eyes water. When we came out of the bar again, there was a well dressed Asian woman in the lobby, giving us the eye. We had seen her when we went into the bar, but paid her no mind. Now, she seemed to be checking us out. Dave said, "Hey, I bet that's a hooker!" Naw, we thought...she seems to be to well dressed, and professional looking. looks like a regular business woman to me! "Oh yeah?" said Dave, "Watch this. lets stand right here for a few minutes" We stopped in the middle of the lobby, and stood in a semi-circle, facing each other. Within 10 seconds,
she came walking over to us! "Hello, would someone like to have a drink with me?"
Our little kitchenette area...we barely used it
"uh..no, not really!" we replied. " Well, would you like me to come up to your room with you?
" Boy, talk about direct! No thanks, lady, not interested! "well, here, take this in case you want to talk later"
Talk? She then attempted to hand us a small strip of paper, written in Chinese. (she had several) phone number? business card? I dunno, we didn't take one, and she walked away and went back to the bar. I almost wish I had taken one, it would have been an amusing souvenir, a hand-written business card from a Chinese hooker! But, I certainly didn't want to give her any false encouragement! No, that is definately NOT the kind of entertainment we came to Asia for! "See, I told you guys!" said Dave.
Yeah, yeah, you sure can spot 'em! We went back to our room to relax and prepare for tomorrow....by ourselves!
There was a piano bar in the lobby
Our flight to Beijing
was uneventful, and just under 4 hours. Piece of cake, compared to our first flight from NY to Tokyo! We exchanged money at the airport, and asked at the information desk about transportation to our hotel. The lady there ordered a van for us, and also arranged for our ride back to the airport for the day we came back. We were all able to pay for the rides individually by credit card, which was nice, and she gave us a discount on our return ticket because we were booking it now. Good for us, one less thing to worry about! She told us it would take about 20 minutes for our van to arrive, and had us wait for it in the Starbucks at the airport. (Starbucks seems to be the main US export to China! I saw more of them here in 3 days, than I think I did in my month long US cross country trip!) Our van came, and it took us less than an hour to arrive at our hotel. Interesting thing about China...tipping is not only unnecessary here, for the most part it is not allowed! Cabs, vans, restaurants, etc, just pay the fare or bill, and that's it! We checked into the Grand Hyatt Hotel, not far from the Forbidden City.