18.04.2009 - 18.04.2009 15 °C
Despite the pilot loving the landing so much that he decided to do it twice (those bumps were all part of the runway, weren't they?), it was a pretty great trip into Beijing, and getting met by the driver from the hostel was a bonus.
After exhausting my mandarin vocabulary (well, two words) and then playing the charades-communication with our lovely driver, we were taken to the Red Lantern Hostel in a hutong in Beijing. The main part of Red Lantern is over 300 years old, very impressive with a couple of storeys and balconies and talented carvings everywhere, plus the guy playing guitar while his young son was singing definately added to the atmosphere. Out in our part of the hostel is another tour booking desk/reception/bar/restaurant, a fantastic courtyard complete with water feature and resident duck, and some lovely hosts who are really happy to chew the fat with you and tell you about the hostel, Beijing, and China in general.
Paulette couldn't believe the smog here, she was amazed that you could actually look straight at the sun for a minute without hurting your eyes - in fact, I think the lantern that we set free on Karon Beach last night was actually brighter. You don't really notice it though, cos while you're walking around you're so busy smelling all the food sizzling on streetside stalls, avoiding holes in the pavement, sneaking peeks into other hutongs and shops, and playing chicken with cars as you attempt to cross the road. That was another discovery, crosswalks here just mean that you can cross there, not that the cars have to stop, and considering lanes get made up pretty much according to drivers mood, the best bet is just to shadow a local!
The whole city looks quite different to when I was here in January 08, partly due to the tidying up for the olympics but mostly because its spring - all the dead looking trees are now bright green, the date trees are starting to bud, and there's a really strange phenomenon that looks like snowflakes floating around...apparently its from the trees, it looks like tiny bits of cotton wool, and its absolutely everywhere and sticks to your eyelashes like candy floss!
After a fantastic feed of hotpot and Tsingtao beer, its back to the hostel for a chat then ready to hit the Beijing subway tomorrow.