First impressions of Beijing, China

Two weeks after leaving the UK, we arrived in Beijing this afternoon.

We left Suzhou by car at 9.30 AM for Shanghai’s internal airport. Once again, we were pleased that we had a local driver and were not driving ourselves. The directions are very clear with almost everything in English as well as Mandarin but the driving is very different – “bad” with a capital “B” viz. by Western standards.

Shanghai’s internal airport was amazingly modern and efficient, with staff all trying to help. We were travelling in hiking boots to keep the weight of our cases down but they set the security cameras off. We were asked to take off our boots and walk through the security system again but there were two fundamental differences to a typical UK airport:

  1. We were asked if we would like a pair of slippers to replace our boots for our convenience when we took off our boots; and
  2. There were specially coloured baskets to take our boots through the security process, so that our boots that still had traces of mud were not placed in the same baskets as the next travellers designer coat etc.

Our flight with Air China, from Shanghai to Beijing, took just over two and half hours. When we arrived in Beijing, everything went incredibly smoothly, so different to arriving in a UK airport.

Anyway, we were picked up by our guide (his English name is Michael) and driver and dropped at our centrally located hotel, quite near the embassies.

This evening, we went to see the famous Beijing Opera. It was very entertaining and we would describe it as stage comedy, very colourful and beautiful with a tragic twist, set to music and song and very different to western traditional opera – however, extremely enjoyable. After that, we went out for dinner to a recommended restaurant specializing in dumplings – it was good – then back to our hotel, a quick drink and bed after a long day.

Tomorrow promises some serious sight-seeing, so watch this space!

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