After Mike spent a few days with us in December, we flew to Beijing for a brief overnight layover before our continuation to Thailand and Sri Lanka. We landed and went through the special line for transit visas. This was just a few days before three-day visas on arrival were beginning for Beijing. (And Shanghai?) We grabbed our bags and took a longer taxi drive than I expected to get to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express.
(A few notes – always be sure to have print outs of your continuation flights when you’re getting any visa on arrival. Also, whenever possible you should have a printout in Chinese characters for any destinations you will give to taxi drivers. “Holiday Inn Express” seems like it would work fine when given to a taxi driver that picks you up at the airport. Fortunately we were prepared.)
The hotel was actually in a nice spot to be able to grab some dinner. We checked in (which always takes forever in China – it is like they are surprised you showed up) and then had a meal at a dumpling shop. Pepper and Jordan headed to bed and Mike and I took a taxi to Tienanmen Square to make the most of his few hours in China. It had snowed an inch or two since our arrival. The Square itself was cordoned off but the Gate of Heavenly Peace had work crews clearing the snow.
Mike and I wandered around the are of the square more but it was clear that by this hour (after 11PM) nothing was going to be open and few things were even lit. We started to walk toward the street that has really strange street foods like roasted starfish, deep fried birds nest, all sorts of insects on a stick, stinky tofu, and just about any other strange food eaten in Asia. We took a side route and by the time we got there it was completely shut down and cleaned up.
We decided to trek back toward the square except one block further east to try and find a taxi back to the hotel. Almost two hours later we were in a cab that we didn’t have enough money to pay for the ride for. Apparently the taxi rates skyrocket late at night. Beijing always has something to teach me!