Off to Beijing
June 19, 2008
Off to Beijing. We departed the hotel this morning at 0600 and headed out to the Shanghai airport. Among the more interesting sights to those in the FBO business was the ramp cleaning lady who was literally camped out near our plane- which was at a MINIMUM two miles from the nearest building- cleaning any FOD she could spot on the tarmac. I got a wave out of her and caught it on the Blackberry.
The fuel truck finally came with the right hose to fit our plane and we slowly got fueled, only to have to all get out and push the Citation backwards as the fuel truck’s transmission refused to go out of Park and was stranded right in front of us. Unfortunately, no one was available to take a picture of this action as all hands, including the fuelers, were needed to push the plane backwards and slightly uphill far enough for us to be able to start up and depart.
Jim and Chris once again took the front seats and I tested my ears on this flight to see if they would clear correctly at last. They did, so I’m back on flying status for future flights when asked. One of the attached pictures shows our friend Earl keeping Mercer and I enchanted with yet another of his stirring tales from his repertoire.
Now, I’ve seen some big airports, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything to match Beijing! We must have taxied for 5 miles after clearing the runway to get to the area that had 3 Gulf streams and us parked in a very remote spot. I did notice that one of the Gulf streams belongs to our company’s fuel supplier, ConocoPhilips. I only hope they were working to get the oil prices back down some with the help of our Chinese friends.
We can cut the air here, as advertised, the smog is pretty bad. Very low visibility on a sunny day. We are at The Raffles Hotel, one of a chain started 199 years ago in Singapore and a well known high scale chain here in China. It is a beautiful place and my room is just terrific.
UPDATE! Friday Morning Beijing Time Room update. Well, my room is “mostly terrific.” I found out when the construction crew quits work on the building across the alley from my window…. when the Olympics start in August! Loud arguing in Chinese accentuated the front end loader’s diesel song; punctuated by the cymbal crash of occasional deliveries of steel dropped on the ground by a crane when offloading a truck.
But, the good news is that I can have plenty of time, since I'm starting before 5AM our time, to bring you a little more about our trip. I just uplinked the Shanghai blog and discovered that here in Beijing, just like Shanghai, I COULD NOT LOOK AT OUR OWN BLOG! I've decided that the blog addresses have been blocked by the government here, since you might imagine that you can get all kinds of opinions on blogs on the internet. I know that there are filters in place here that aren't found elsewhere- as we did in Dubai as well- interesting.
Anyway, some humor attached-once again- to food. We wandered down the street to the shopping mall where we were told there were many options. We found one 'sit down' style restaurant, we were the only non-natives we saw in the whole mall. We ordered from menu's pictures and then spent the better part of 90 minutes frequently dissolving in helpless laughter as we encountered a number of funny things:
- Watching Jim rolling noodles up on his chopsticks like you would spaghetti on your fork. No it doesn't work!
- Trying to identify over a dozen unknown food "items" that would float up in our soup or appear under a pile of noodles or in the casserole of chicken that was the "haus espeshealluty".
- Trying to decide where the chicken dish fell on the Kelvin Scale of heat. Let me tell you, I do not shy away from spicy food, but this dish made a jalapeno pepper feel like a snowstorm. The rest of them ordered beer, which we discovered came in huge bottles. I started with one Coke, but was driven to another by the chicken dish. While the attached picture taken by my phone isn't the best, the little white pieces that look like snow were the seeds from the peppers from Hell that are what makes the whole dish red in color. WOW! Chernobyl style Chicken in Beijing!
Yes, you did have to be there, but the laughter and the good natured natives in the restaurant made it all a wonderful evening. Jim gave the manager a tip from us after paying the very reasonable dinner bill. I don't think it had ever happened to him before. He stood and looked at the 50 yuan bill ($8.00) in his hand like it was from space!
We are off to tour the town in a couple of hours. More later. - Bob
June 20, 2008 - Beijing
The tour of Beijing today started in the lobby of the Raffles when we met “Mavis”, our 27 year old native guide. Turns out that when the students are in English class in college, the teacher picks out an “English” name for them and Mavis was it for this quiet yet very competent guide. Along with our driver “Rio”, we set out in a Buick minivan no less, to see the Great Wall, followed by the Forbidden City of the Emperors and then Tienanmen Square and a walk back to the hotel. Once again, traffic is our constant companion as we slugged our way out through the 6 “Ring Roads” that circle Beijing.
It was once again terribly hazy with visibility below a mile for almost 100% of the day, getting a little better as we walked from the Square to our hotel in the very hot and humid afternoon. It was a treat to get back for shower two of the day. In my determination to be a good reporter, I managed to beat off the beer sellers in the lobby and get up here to write the blog BEFORE going back to the bar in an hour or so :-).
The Story of the Great Wall is truly incredible. At one point about 650 years ago VIRTUALLY EVERY ABLE BODIED MALE IN THE COUNTRY was hard at work on the building of the wall. It is also known as the world’s largest cemetery. Many, MANY workers died during the building of the Wall, they were simply made a part of it, buried on the spot in whatever section they were next to when they died. The Forbidden City was spectacular. About 200 acres of incredible construction and wealth displayed for us to see today after being closed to all but the royal family and its slaves for so many centuries. We decided since about 20,000 Eunuchs were used to protect the Emperor and work for him, that we would just as soon not be a party to helping him out!
We are certain that many of the things we saw today would be three times as spectacular if it was a bluebird day with clear skies and bright sun. Alas, that was not to be today. We drove through the Olympic area on our way back from the wall and were able to see some things in the dim distance. If the networks have the same kind of weather when the show starts, they will have a hard time bringing you anything that looks like it was shot “in living color.”
We are off to Seoul in the morning. I’m heading over to Mercer’s room in a minute to try downloading some of his pictures of Shanghai. If the construction workers do their thing again, I’ll be up in the morning early and will have a chance to send some of them up to the blog. See ya! - Bob S.
June 20, 2008 - Off to Seoul in the morning
Again, check back later this week for the pictures that will go with this blog Beijing The Olympics are about a month away. The “Party” has had 1,000,000 workers brought in to get ready for it. They have been working constantly since they were awarded the games. They have not stopped yet and it is a horse race. Just ask Bob, where outside his room at the Raffles Beijing Hotel they work 24/7. Bob didn’t get much sleep as workmen bang steel girders together constantly. I, on the other hand and on the other side of the hotel luxuriate in my suite with its two bathrooms and beautiful fabrics. The master bath is much bigger than my first house and had as much marble as Mount Rushmore. My Butler, Frank was very nice but not ever having a Butler before I was a bit intimidated. I really tried hard to find stuff for him to do thinking that his job probably depended on his charge keeping him busy. In the end I decided having a Butler was just too much trouble. Frank would have to fend for himself. I drew my own bath and refused to eat the chocolate he laid out on top of the 12, count them 12, pillows on my King Size, canopied and shrouded bed. The bed was also raised on a very proper, sultan-esque dais which I fell off of, first night. Thought I was going to have to call Frank to pick me up and tuck me back in.
Back to the City tour. Mazy, our great Chinese guide was spectacular. Warm, friendly, very bright and communist. The reality is if you want to get anywhere with your career in Beijing, you need to be a member. You don’t have to practice or go to Party meetings but, I get the sense you better have that little card in your pocket. We did the tourist things, the Great Wall 1/10,000th of it anyway. Did you know it is the biggest cemetery in the world? One fifth of the population of China during the Ming Dynasty was working on the wall. This was very tough work and if you died on the job they just plastered you in and kept going. Of course, this great endeavor didn’t work. the Mongol’s were amused and road right through it. Bummer! The Forbidden City is something everyone needs to see before they get plastered in and left behind. I forget the statistics but it is 100 times bigger than I imagined. And 100 times more beautiful. It was very good to be the Emperor. There are 9,999.5 rooms in this place. That is the real number no hyperbole here. The Emperor was God. The .5 room was in heaven. The logic escapes me but Mazy said it was true and I believe her. Three thousand wives and 20,000 eunuchs. He was the only fully equipped man on the premises after 6:00pm when all the ministers and aids were sent home. It would make you think twice about accepting an invitation to an evening backgammon game with the emperor. You might leave more on the table than your marbles. Off to Seoul, South Korea. - Mercer