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Friday, March 3, 2006
Once we arrived in Beijing
our tour guide, Leon
whisked us into a chartered bus and we were on the way to the hotel. Leon
is Chinese, but he must have been educated in England
He has a bit of a British accent, and told us
to “queue up to get onto the lift” to get us to the right level in the
As we drove through the congested
streets of Beijing,
gave us a little tour and an introduction to the city.
The number of people living in Beijing is huge, and
obviously overcrowding is a problem. The
government is preventing the construction of more high rises, in an
cut the population density in the city.
Bicycles and rickshaws are
everywhere, since it’s so hard to
get around by car. Leon warned us that traffic laws in Beijing are much
different from what we are used to in the States. In
traffic signals are merely a
“suggestion.” He warned us not to assume
that it was safe to cross on a green light.
“If other people are crossing, you cross. If
no one else moves, you don’t move,” he
Our hotel is beautiful – five
star all the way. When we arrived, tea and
snacks were prepared
for us in the Executive Lounge on the tenth floor.
We have unlimited access to the lounge,
including daily happy hours with food and drink, as well as free use of
business center’s computers, fax, copy machine, and wifi access. Nice!
After we got settled, we ventured
out to see the city. Our hotel is located
in the heart of Beijing. It’s a very clean, safe area.
The streets are so clean you could
practically eat off of them. There is a
cop on almost any corner – the slightly military-looking kind of cop
carries a semi-automatic weapon.
The area of the city around our
hotel reminds me a little of
New Orleans and a little of Las Vegas.
Since it was Friday night, there were throngs of people walking
street. There were lots of little
shops and restaurants. There were also
high-end retailers: Lancome, Rolex, and
little boutique stores I hadn’t heard of.
And of course, the ubiquitous KFC.
There is a KFC every few blocks in this town.
The Chinese are obsessed with KFC.
We stumbled upon a little area of
street vendors, selling
everything from food to souvenirs. All
of the food was in stick form. We saw
chicken on a stick, corn on the cob on a stick, squid on a stick. One unique vendor was selling fruit on a
stick that had been coated in a crunchy sugary candy shell. Those were pretty good. We
also saw one guy selling scorpions on a
stick. The scorpions were still alive
and wriggling, though they had been impaled with the wooden skewer. I did not stick around to find out if they
were going to be cooked before someone ate them.
As we walked through the narrow
street lined with vendors,
the sellers (mostly women) called out to us, “Hey, lady, lookie lookie! Lookie what I have!” And
then she’d thrust some trinket under our
noses. This got to be a little annoying,
since I didn’t think we were planning to buy anything.
However, Mitesh became enamored with a fake
Rolex. Of course, the woman selling it
claimed it was real. She wanted 750 RMB
for it. Mitesh talked her down to 60 RMB
– about $8. Yep, Mitesh got a “real”
Rolex for $8!
We ended up back at the hotel around 9 pm, which
is 7 am Chicago
time. So I have now been up since 7 am the
day. Hopefully I’ll sleep tonight and be
adjusted to Beijing
time when I wake up tomorrow!
Go to March 4