Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gulay Gulay Turkiye! Ni Hau BeiJing!

When I first saw "Turkish Airlines" on our itinerary I was a bit skeptical, but am totally changed now. Our overnight flight from Istanbul to Beijing was pleasant. Out of the 8hr flight I ate & drank for half of it! Then watched Indiana Jones and then fell asleep during the video of Beijing. Most other people were sprawled out across seats almost immediately after take-off, but Julie figured they actually had timetables to keep upon arrival. Ha! Suckers...
Istanbul's Ataturk airport is one of the nicest I've been in, and Beijing airport is definitely the biggest but nice and shiny new and both are easily navigable.
We got from the airport to our hotel's area with no problem, and then ran into cabbies who refused to take us the rest of the way. Partly language barrier, part them insisting upon ripping us off. We found an Olympic volunteer who showed us the place on a map and said the cab ride should be ~¥10 vs. the ¥50 that the cabs wanted. So we took the subway instead.
I'm glad we're here just after the Paralympics as the volunteers are still out and about, and all of the infrastructure is fresh. The subways are the cleanest and newest I've been on and are easy to use with english signs on them.
Our hotel is tucked away in a "hutong" neighborhood. We haven't explored it yet, but it's a unique place. Old men walk around in pajama bottoms and no shirt or sit in groups playing cards, old women sit and fan themselves, and kids play everywhere.
So, recall during the Olympics how the skies were sunny and blue on TV? Yeah, not the case anymore. At 5'o'clock you can stare directly at the sun without it hurting your eyes at all. It's just a red ball in the sky. Looking up with your arms straight above you, the area between your hands is sort of bluish. Anything out of that is turning dirty brown. It's gross. We walked around tonight and our eyes were starting to hurt. It's no wonder people hork and spit all the time here.
Julie noticed a couple days ago that the Paralympics Closing Ceremonies were today. We took a chance at just going to the Bird's Nest to see if we could score tickets even though the volunteer people said it was sold out. But we could not get near the stadium since police had the whole zone cordoned off. So we went for dinner at a nearby restaurant and watched the remainder of the ceremonies on TV. I'm pretty sure I noticed a discrepancy between seeing the fireworks on TV and hearing the booms outside. So we were this close -- but still this --------- far away. Neat anyway.
And the food was good and tasty. I've got a little Chinese phrasebook on my palm that's working quite well at helping us communicate. So I can say "beer" in another language (pi jiĆ¼).

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