Greetings, everyone, from beautiful Beijing! I have been here for two days and change now; tomorrow, my group is heading south, to Shanghai.
It's been a memorable two days. More details to come later, but here are some notes from the capital city of China:
- It's apparently acceptable for men to pull over their cars on the expressway to take a leak. We saw this happening several times on the way from the airport into town. It was a fantastic welcome to China.
- It is also acceptable for a large transport truck to stop in the middle of the freeway, turn around and go into oncoming traffic after missing an exit. OK, it may not be acceptable, but I saw it happen.
- The Great Wall is, in fact, pretty damn great. I somehow managed to climb a serious portion of it, all the way to the top (I think our guide said it was 2,000 steps or something, many of these steps LARGE), despite the fact that I am a large, gin-swilling newspaper editor.
- They have Starbucks in China. But it's not much cheaper than in the United States.
- They also have a lot of aggressive people trying to sell stuff to anyone who looks like a tourist. And these people are EVERYWHERE, selling postcards, Olympic caps and T-shirts, books, shirts, etc. They also sell lots of Rolexes and Gucci knockoffs. (One persistent woman shouted that she was selling "coochie coochie," meaning Gucci. She sounded like Bea Arthur. It was hilarious and deeply disturbing.)
- We bought a watch in Tiananmen Square. It features Chairman Mao waving his arm. The watch band fell apart after about two hours, and by that time, the watch was already off by a half-hour.
- English signs and translations are everywhere, and they are almost always unintentionally hilarious. Take this appealing advertisement for our hotel's spa:
It has been recorded ... that massage can regulate Yin and Yang, harmonize the entrails, make your pneuma and blood smooth, dredge your veins and arteries and lubricate joints. In a word, it is worthy to attempt this "driving style massage"!
I could go on, but I have to be up at 4 a.m. local time to get ready for the flight to Shanghai. More to come later -- maybe from Shanghai, or more likely after we return to the states.
In the meantime, I leave you with the above photo. I call it "Dork at the Top of the Great Wall."