Arriving in Beijing
(Written by Nick on 2/28/2011)
So… I am here. Just to take care of formalities, I am happy, awake, excited and safe.
I am writing my first post before our internet is set up, but we will be taking care of that today. To have my internet set up and most of my utilities working the second day I am in my new apartment is a feat in itself considering I don’t think this has ever happened so quickly in the 5 or so places I have lived since heading off to university (yes, only we American’s call it college). My flight from Chicago left on Thursday, February 24th at 7:00pm and I landed in Beijing international airport on Friday 25th at roughly 11:30pm. Having slept the entire 14 hour plane ride, I landed awake and, frankly, ready to party. Leah was also lucky enough to sleep most of the plane ride so it was no problem following the signs (all in English I may add) to find our luggage and then to find the taxi terminal. Our plan was to catch a taxi to my friend Matt’s house, where he had left his cell phone so we could call him on a friends number. Because we had roughly 300 pounds of luggage, Leah and I could not fit into a regular taxi so had to take a van. We got ripped off… I knew it was happening, but was to eager to get to our destination to care or be angry. It ended up costing us roughly 60$ for the ride which is ridiculous for even a major city like Beijing. We arrived at Matt’s apartment without too much complication and he then picked us up in a taxi on his way to a club to finish celebrating a friends birthday.
When we arrived at the club it was about 2:00am but Leah and I obviously felt like it was mid-day and were more than ready to hit the town. The club was a typical international bar with a solid mix of locals and foreigners. All of the signs in the bar were in Mandarin and English and I felt a strange sense of familiarity having been to numerous nearly identical clubs throughout Europe and even back home. The only major differences I noticed in the club were my ability to order drinks extremely quickly and the music that the DJ was playing. Matt didn’t seem too excited to go to this club because he said it was just a pop club that played mostly “top forty” music… Looking back, I think Matt would despise of the clubs back in the states because despite the one or two “top-forty” songs I did hear, it was mostly a mix of Bob Marley, Notorious B.I.G with a few Frank Sinatra songs thrown in. It was perfect :).
We had a few drinks, met Matt’s friends, had what seemed like a dozen or so more drinks and, before we knew it it was nearing 6:00am and the club was beginning to clear out. Matt, Leah and I left the club and walked through the empty back alleys, trekking towards a more busy road to catch a cab. It began to snow and it was beautiful. Matt stayed with a friend that night so Leah and I could crash at his place and crash we did.
We awoke at about noon the next day and were excited to explore. We headed to one of Matt’s favorite parts of town and walked around enjoying the scenery. It was an interesting part of town which in some senses reminded me of short north, a block later of Coventry, and then a block later of something out of Flying Tiger Hidden Dragon… the combination of old and new being one of my largest attractions to China.
Seeing it all was exhilarating; the local people, the fact that cars were allowed to drive through this tiny pedestrian walk way and just the interaction of the common man. After doing a bit of walking and window shopping, Matt and his friend Jen who had accompanied us decided it was time for our first meal of the day. We arrived at this tiny, very elegantly decorated Chinese restaurant that Matt had ate at before. There were maybe 7 or 8 tables inside the restaurant but it had an upscale feel and Matt had great experiences with it in the past. Leah and I let the locals do the ordering and we got 4 dishes for us all to split. In China, meals are regarded as more of an activity or past time than just fuel for the day and everyone shares all of the dishes. We had some sort of dish with deep fried potatoes with tea leaves, a minced meat dish, a chicken dish and an extremely spicy cucumber dish. Everything we ate was amazing and surprisingly didn’t upset my stomach in the slightest I believe the type of food was called Unnan or Hunan or something, but anyways, it was delicious.
We then spent the rest of the afternoon walking and talking before heading back to Matt’s to get ready for the evening. One of Matt’s co-workers was having a birthday dinner at a very popular pizza place (a pizza party as Leah loved to call it) and we arrived around 7:00 pm. All of Matt’s co-workers were fun and welcoming and this restaurant was awesome. Pizza’s bigger than you can imagine and an interior that was a combination between an enchanted forest and a nuclear bomb shelter… it was awesome. We slammed numerous mugs of Tsingdao, ate pizza (Matt proudly ate 6 slices, unfortunately not beating his record because they cut the slices smaller this night) and just hung out for a while. Now I know what you are thinking… Wow Nick, really immersing yourself in the culture over there with pizza and beer on your second night in China. To tell you the truth, this IS the culture of Beijing and I loved every second of it. To end the night, the group headed to another popular local club. We drank and danced and called it an early night as Leah and I were getting picked up by the cab at 6:00 am the next morning for the airport. I slept like a baby and woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed on four hours of sleep. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare and had no mentionable complications.
It was an amazing first weekend in China… we decided to save the sightseeing for our future trips to Beijing and just pretty much hung out, but I had a blast. Without Matt, we would have honestly been completely lost so it was amazing to have a guide and great to see an old friend again. I have only been in Shenyang for about 24 hours now so I will wait until tomorrow to post about this city, not wanting to prejudge and then eat my words later. I hope all is well back in the states and I miss you guys.