Monday, October 26, 2015

My Days in Beijing - Day 1

Over a decade ago, I thought of taking a trip to China when I read about the big dam project that was taking place in the Three Gorges in Hubei and Chongqing.  It really troubled me that thousands of villagers would be displaced, and all of the travel guides were advising people to see China before it changed.  Not one person I knew was interested in visiting China, and I wasn't interested in visiting this country by myself.

After years of vocally wishing that I could go to China, Gerry and I booked two tickets on the "Imperial Jewels of China" Viking River Cruise.  Being on this trip of a lifetime (I seem to say this a lot on all the trips I go on, I know) really opened up my eyes to many things.  I'll cover this trip over several blog posts.  

It was such a relief to be off the plane and on a bus to our hotel.
It was a difficult flight for me going from Los Angeles to Vancouver to Beijing.  I don't remember being so uncomfortable and in pain on a flight in the past.  The rheumatoid arthritis wanted to get the best of me.  Instead of getting some necessary sleep time, I was constantly trying to find a comfortable position where my joints didn't hurt so much.  Prior to the trip, my rheumatologist asked if taking plaquenil and ibuprofen would be enough for me.  I was confident I would be okay on this 11.5 hour flight.  I just didn't want to go back on prednisone or the chemo drug methotrexate.  I also brought two boxes of those pain-relieving patches to help get me through the flights.  Getting up to stretch and to walk up and down the aisle helped a bunch, too.

On approach to Beijing International Airport, I saw many, many tall buildings sitting on large empty land.  No cars, no people, no activity.  I heard about these vacant condos on televised news. They're referred to as ghost cities.  Read more about it here.

Approaching the airport was a bit exhilarating for me.  I had a window seat, and I noticed that we were flying very low over the water, and I'm thinking if the plane doesn't hit concrete soon, we are going to be ditching in the bay!  I'm waiting and I'm waiting to hear the plane thump on the runway. Eventually, I feel the plane tap the runway, easy-peasy.  My concern was that the runway begins close to the water's edge - no kidding.  I don't know what's scarier, approaching Beijing International, or standing on the top level of the Laurel Airport Parking building as planes approach San Diego International Airport.  These are the kinds of scares that make you want to scream.

It always take a long while for everyone to deplane.  Fortunately for us, we are near the front of the plane so we didn't have to wait long to deplane.  I always hit the Ladies Room before we head for baggage claim.  So this is what I see when I open the door to my stall.

It's a squat toilet.  I was warned about these toilets and was not looking forward to using it, but I had no choice.  Happily, I had no trouble fumbling with clothing or squatting.  There was nothing to it.  As a frequent traveler, I know to always carry seat covers, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer in my bag. Some public restrooms are not equipped with these hygienic items.  Always have them readily in your bag, and it's a good idea to share with your fellow travelers who fall short.  They'll remember you for the rest of the tour.
After retrieving our bags from baggage claim, our Viking River Cruise agent greeted us in the terminal and drove us to our hotel.  On the way, I couldn't help but admire the beauty of the city. There were trees everywhere, and gigantic floral displays roadside.  The avenues were shaded and there were so many green spaces where the people could relax or farm.  It was just amazing! You've heard all that talk about the heavy smog in the large cities, especially Beijing.  Well not this day! Apparently, there was a very important parade in the city a day or two before our arrival there. Before such occasions, the government will order all factories to shut down for a few days to help clear the air.  The sky was so blue, and I could see the Beijing landscape for miles from our hotel suite!

We arrived at the Westin Beijing Chaoyang.  The hotel is beautiful, to say the least, but the decor had me feeling a little dizzy with all that glitz, gleaming glass, weirdly placed mirrors and shining dark floors.   I even felt nauseous at times.  At night all those lights would reflect off the black marble floors and I felt like I would fall through the floor onto the lobby below.  
Not to take away from this glitzy hotel, I will say that the hotel's restaurant Seasonal Tastes is a super-star in my book.  The restaurant's SuperFoodsRx menu includes nourishing, wellness-enhancing foods - rich in nutrients and antioxidants, and low in calories.   As I look back on the foods I ate on this trip, I think all of it was so healthy because I came home minus seven pounds.  All the walking and hiking we did on the trip helped with the weight loss, too.  And no, I was not trying to lose weight, but I like that my clothes fit me better.

It was an exhausting day, and I was beyond excited to begin touring the city in the morning.   

Huge room, awesome bathroom!

I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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