Chile Feels Like A Decade Ago!

Trip Start Dec 30, 2011
Trip End Apr 27, 2012

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Nihao (Hello) Friends, Family & Fellow Travelers!

Only 3 & 1/2 months ago, we arrived in Chile.  Today, it feels like a decade ago!  Living out of our luggage....clothes out, clothes in...what do we wear (often it's whatever's the cleanest). Then you find an opportunity for laundry and so the cycle continues. Every so often, a time comes to donate a shirt here or other item there and purchase something new, fresh and clean!

Eating restaurant food has also been a challenge. What do we eat today? Breakfast, lunch & dinner? Often we ate twice a day with a snack in between so this meant a good breakfast or lunch but always an emphasis on dinner! The biggest challenge for us was always deciding what to eat for dinner? Where... which restaurant...check the menu...check the prices? After all, we do have a budget. And for us, on a four month journey, a budget is a necessity! Thus, finding a restaurant that met most of our pre-determined factors was often frustrating and contentious. But, at the end of the day, we always found a place to eat and with only a few exceptions, ours meals have been pretty good! We especially valued those home made meals and bbq's we had at the homes of our friend's in Perth! Those occasions were very memorable for socialize, reconnect and renew friendships!

So, this brings us back to today which began early in Hanoi, Vietnam. On the surface, a 10am departure doesn't sound too bad until you factor in the recommended 2.5 to 3 hour check in for international departures, 45 to 60 min taxi ride to the airport, at least 30 mins for breakfast, 45 to 60 mins of "getting ready" time and final packing. Then, that 10am departure translates into a 5am wake-up! Ugh!

Today's flight, on Vietnam Airlines, was our 12th of 14 on this journey with eight different airlines and despite a little more turbulence than normal, we arrived at the very impressive Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA). Wow! These Chinese spared no expense in building this airport!  Unfortunately, arranging a taxi ride from the airport to our hotel in Beijing wasn't as impressive as the airport itself. 

It seemed taxi cabs were not too interested in picking us up, for whatever reason?  At least four taxi's drove right past us in the taxi que.  We didn't understand why?  Even with the assistance of the taxi co-ordinator.  The taxi's just kept driving past us!  I can understand if we had just arrived after flying for 14 hours!  We've looked pretty "dazed and confused" after those flights!  But here and now, we just didn't understand why taxi's weren't interested in picking us up!  At this point, the 400Y limousine fare (as opposed to the 100Y normal taxi fare) was looking pretty good.  At least the limousine wasn't hesitant in taking us! Who say's capitalism isn't alive in China? 

I even did some prep work in anticipation of this moment.  Upon arriving, I found the information desk and a nice young lady wrote down our hotel's name and address in Chinese.  This would definitely assist drivers in finding our restaurant.  Or so I thought!  To no avail.  It didn't seem to be working!  We didn't know whether driver's 1) didn't want our fare, 2) didn't like our location, 3) didn't know where the hotel was, 4) didn't want to deal with Westerner's or any language barrier or 5)didn't like my "Tibet or Bust" t-shirt (just kidding)?  It baffled us why at least six taxi's drove right past us! 

Then, as I was watching the taxi co-ordinator communicate with yet another driver, which frankly, didn't sound too pleasant, the driver reluctantly stopped long enough for us to put our luggage in the trunk.  I place emphasis on "us" putting our luggage in the trunk because it wasn't the driver!  At this point, my emotions ranged from "LMAO" to "Pissed Off" which likely were quite different to our driver's emotions which appeared to be much higher on the "Stress" meter.        

But, there's nothing like a good ole' smog filled Beijing traffic jam to cool emotions and lessen the tension!  Within  30 minutes, the taxi driver motioned to me about the hotel address again.  I provided him with the piece of paper which had the hotel name and address written in Chinese.  In addition, I booted up my iPad2, opened up the Chinese app I uploaded and showed him the location of the hotel on a Beijing city street map.  He seemed to understand!  At this time, I thought our driver's apprehension may have resulted in his lack of knowledge of the hotel's location and having to communicate with a tourist in a foreign language.  I was willing to give our taxi driver the benefit of the doubt.  It seemed that his reluctance to pick us up wasn't a personal thing!  Chinese - Canadian relations may have looked "sour for an hour" but in that time, they've turned around and are back on the Up and Up!  HaHa! 

I thought we may have been getting close to our hotel as street signs seemed to indicate we were within the 2nd Ring Road which is where I thought our hotel was.  I also kept a look out for the Railway Station as our hotel was also near it.  And about an hour after departing the chaos of the Beijing airport, I noticed the Harmony Hotel sign on the roof of, you guessed it, the Harmony Hotel.  I quickly pointed out the Harmony Hotel to our driver and in the process, likely released a lot of stress on him as well.  Total taxi fare, about 95Y.

After check in, the evening left us enough time to go for a walk where we located the Chongwenmen subway station and a New World Shopping Mall and some restaurants where we had our first Chinese dinner at the ever popular Chinese restaurant "Pizza Hut"!  Ok!  We envisioned a much more traditional meal with perhaps traditional Chinese food!  You know..... rice, wonton soup, chow mein, lemon chicken, ginger beef!  However, this restaurant was packed to the rafters with hardly a table available!  And by looking around, we appeared to be the only tourists which meant, by simple deduction, everyone else were locals.  We were a bit surprised!  We thought, have the Chinese switched from rice to risotto, from chow mein to linguine, from sweet and sour ribs to dry ribs, from mixed vegatables to Super Supreme Deep Dish Pizza's?  It sure seemed like it!  But it didn't matter to us!  We were hungry!  And tonight we'll celebrate our first Chinese dinner in Beijing with a large Pizza Hut Deep Dish Pizza! HaHa!

Zaijian (see ya later)!  Ganbei (Cheers), Rick & Elsie!

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