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The Adventurer’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 04 May 2006

Location: Korea (South)

MapWoke up at 6:00 am this morning. My flight was only leaving at 1:00 pm but I had to go to immigration to get a single entry visa stamped to get back into the country. I managed to finish all this quite early and had plenty of time to spare, but it's better safe than sorry. It was nice outside today and I was wearing my shorts and a t-shirt. Once we were up in the air though, you couldn't see anything down below through the fog/pollution. I arrived in Beijing at 2:05 pm local time.

Now the hard part. I called Brian who I'm staying with while I'm here, and he gave me instructions to his place (including pronunciation). Here I was in this strange place about to navigate my way to my friend's place. Anyone travelling to Beijing should not take any taxis from those who approach you or they will rip you off. Stand in a lineup as I did. I said the address and they knew what I was talking about, and corrected my pronunciation. The cabbie spoke maybe two words of English. I noticed the difference between Beijing and Seoul immediately. There's a lot more trees and parks, which is very limited in Seoul. There are a lot less signs in English too, although that's changing because of the 2008 Olympics. And wouldn't you know it? It started pouring rain as I was in the taxi.

So the taxi driver dropped me off at an International University (this is how I knew I was in the right place). I was to meet Brian at a gate. He wasn't there yet and I wasn't sure if I was at the right spot. I noticed right away all the people riding bicycles--everywhere! And the streets even have bicycle lanes. Meantime, I'm getting wet. Then I heard my name and it was Brian. So we went to drop my things off at his place. Many thanks to Brian who was gracious enough to let me stay and to show me around. Then we went out to get an umbrella to keep dry.

There was a couple in Beijing from Canada who were put in touch with Brian, so we went to meet them for dinner. First, Brian and I had to go for a couple of beers. Beer is so cheap in Beijing, unbelievable! Less than $1 Cdn for a big bottle. We went to meet Dave and Veronica and had an amazing dinner--Beijing duck, vegetables and some chinese side dishes. It was delicious. We ate like kings for cheap. Then we walked around for a little while in the Hutong District (the Hutongs are old alleyways of Beijing--this is where you really get a taste of old Beijing, more on this later). There are so many shops, coffee shops, and pubs there and also a nice canal--very cool. We went into a pub for some more beer. They had something you call shee shays (not sure if I have the name quite right), which is a big thing that you smoke flavoured tobacco out of. They are used in India. You inhale from a hose with a plastic tube on the end. Had to try it. You can check out the picture of it.

That was it. We headed back to the apartment and chatted for a bit. The next day was going to be a busy one, so it was time to call it a night. Agenda for tomorrow: the Mausoleum where you can see Mao Zedong's body, Tiannamen Square, Forbidden City, and Silk Market.