Subtitled: I didn't sign on for a 16 hour flight, what am I eating anyway, and jetlag is nothing a waterfall shower and a hot chocolate chip cookie can't cure.
So when last we chatted, I was holed up in O'Hare killing two hours. A very long story short, the flight left 90 minutes late, which meant we were sitting on the tarmac inexplicably for that long before it took off, so in theory, in that same seat for nerly 16 hours. Joy. But it wasn't so bad because I had the window seat, the middle was empty and a very nice, information-sharing guy was on the aisle. We talked quite a bit, but I also watched three movies, slept a lot and somehow had three meals in-flight. The guy I met flies over once a month for business so he had lots of info about his experiences the last 20 years which was interesting.
Flying in toward Beijing, I was astounded how it went from fairly impressive mountains to mile upon mile of skyscraper apartment blocks. I mean HUNDREDS of apartment buildings as far as I can see. But I supposed in a city of 19 million, you gotta put 'em somewhere.
We got here late, so I was picked up by the driver and taken, with two other members of the group, directly to our welcome group dinner. So enter us, all in 30+ hours old clothes, bed head and in need of sleep and a shower. They took us to a restaurant that specializes in making vegetarian dishes taste like meat. If only I could tell you what I ate. The waitstaff just keep bringing plates and leaving them on the lazy susan, and it is up to you to serve yourself or not. They don't tell you what it is and good luck guessing. One thing I really liked in a light sauce turned out to be lotus root, go figure. When we found something we liked, we asked our guide Stanley.
At 8:30 they finally took us to the hotel, which changed from the original itinerary, again inexplicably. I thought we were taking the scenic route because Stanley was doing some guide schtick on the way which I was fighting to stay awake through, but I did perk up as we drove through Tiananmen Square. "Hey, that's Chairman Mao," I actually said as we passed his large portrait hanging over the gate (who knew you could drive right through the square like that?) It was dark so I didn't get much sense of the scope, but Stanley said people aren't allowed to walk in the Square at night because of safety reasons, so no sense trying to get there for night photos. He did add though "Much, much bigger than Moscow's Red Square," to which I thought to myself, "hey, don't you go all hating on my Russia now..."
So far, I don't have much of an impression since most of what I've seen is in the dark. I can say it feels like I'm being driven around a big version of Chinatown. I know that sounds stupid, but part of my jetlagged mind is looking for the corner where we turn and come out in front of South Station (sorry to those of you not from Boston, that may not make sense).
By the time we got to the hotel, I was near collapse but then the concierge handed me a hot chocolate chip cookie with a smile. Then I arrived to my plush king room and found a waterfall shower. Honestly, I'm not sure there is anything that would have made me feel much better at this point. If your jetlag isn't tempered by a hot cookie and a waterfall shower, I don't know what will do it.
Up and out by 7:45 tomorrow. It's 10 now, so I've been up 31 hours. Yee ha!