| Alfred C. Snider | April 15-16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 2001| Other Journals | Debate Central |
I did awaken with light coming in the window, so I guess that means I did sleep. While I did not get a truly restful sleep it was sleep nevertheless, and we were getting closer to Beijing. As I awakened it became clear that our cabin companion, the architect, had left at an earlier stop. Juefei sipped some coffee and I sipped some water as we watched the countryside stream by. The development got more and more dense as we got closer to Beijing.
Arriving at the Beijing Rail Station | In the luggage delivery mini
We arrived at a little after 6 AM and the train pulled to a stop. We got our considerable luggage out of the overheads and took it out of the train and stacked it on the platform. We declined the offer by various porters to take our bags and then a smart little electric cart driven by a young woman in a red outfit pulled up and we loaded our bags in and took a seat. She speedily drove us through the terminal and out into the parking and loading area, but were blocked by traffic and more gridlock there. We were able to escape after a few moments because the electric cart was so small that it could squeeze through some tight spots. We emerged into the taxi zone and we snagged two taxis, got in, and we were on our way to the Beijing Grand Hotel where we would be staying (again).
I got a half-day on a room so that I could wash up and repack for my trip that evening to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. The real challenge was to repack, because I could only take one bag (20 kilos weight limit) and one carry-on on domestic Chinese airlines.
I met Juefei and Janet Xing downstairs for breakfast and Juefei advised me to drop off my laundry right away so that it would be ready before I departed for the airport. I did this and then returned to finish breakfast with them. Juefei briefed me on my visit to Inner Mongolia, who I would be meeting, what my agenda should be, and other useful advice.
At 10 AM I met with one of Li Ardong's student who would be my guide for that day. My first stop was at an internet café near Beijing University where I would be able to catch up on my email and other affairs which I could handle through the internet. The fee was 5 Yuan per hour (less than $1) and I plowed into 480+ email messages, deleting most, answering many, forwarding many others. While not as quick as my T1 connection back home, it was quicker than I had expected. I was especially glad to receive information from Rodrigo Rojas about my upcoming debate trip to Chile, including debate topics, debate format, and travel information. However, I did sit there for four hours without leaving my chair, but at least I felt better about events back home and that all was going well.
My companion met me at 3 PM as we had planned, and we set off to see more of Beijing. He said that he wanted to go to the Beijing Zoo, and while zoos are not my favorite places, I did want to see the Pandas and also because it was Sunday the zoo would be crowded with families on an outing and it would be an excellent place for people watching.
Finding a parking space was a challenge, but my companion was up to it and found an excellent spot (a small dirt plot) not far from a footbridge which led directly to the zoo itself.
The Beijing Zoo is, for a zoo, very well done. The animals are kept in large facilities with huge natural areas for them to wander free in, and the grounds were beautifully landscaped and laid out. There were different complexes for different types of animals. The reptile house had some amazing Asian snakes, and many of them were available for direct experience. I declined an offer to drape a huge snake around my neck for a mere 10 Yuan.
The highlight, of course, was the Panda House. I saw five pandas (more than exist anywhere else on the planet, I believe) of various ages. They were playing, eating bamboo shoots, and frolicking happily in a large and well landscaped environment. The children, of which there were many, were ecstatic about the pandas, and more than once they made me laugh.
We also visited Lion Hill (tigers and lions, oh my) and I saw some awesome tigers who were lolling about playfully with each other. The elephant area was also interesting, with family groups of elephants living together and wandering about. There was also an interesting display of rhinos, with white and black rhinos striding about the enclosures.
After that we simply wander about the beautiful grounds and then ultimately made our way back to the car. We went back to the hotel and I got my one bag, stored my other bags, and tried to get my laundry. They seemed not to know about it, but after some searching we were able to locate it, and I packed it away before we headed across the street for dinner at a very popular and crowded restaurant. I was hungry since I had skipped lunch. While trying to arrange a table a bellhop from the hotel appeared with a small plastic bag containing a pair of my socks, which had been left out of my laundry parcel. I stuffed them in my coat pocket.
My companion was able to get us a table quickly (I don't know how) and we placed our order. The meal was, as all my meals have been, fabulous, with many different dishes, including delicious vegetables I cannot identify, cured duck eggs, spicy and savory dishes, and much, much more. It was time to leave and we called for the bill. Finally, I was able to buy something. It was $44 Yuan, or a little more than $5, for a fabulous meal I would gladly have paid $40 for in the USA.
We headed off to the airport with plenty of time tom spare, because I certainly didn't want to miss my flight to Inner Mongolia, a flight I had been waiting for all of my life. We zipped through the sparse Sunday traffic and made our way to the Beijing airport. I checked in to my flight, checked my one bag, and headed off to security. Airport security in China is professional, but slightly less intensive that LaGuardia or JFK in New York City. I moved through easily and made my way to the gate.
I found the gate and set myself up to do some reading and also watch the people, which I try to do constantly. There were a good assortment of people waiting for the flight, obviously business persons, students who seemed to be returning home, and just normal people. There was a gate change (from 38 to 35) and we boarded right on time.
The flight to Hohhot | Beijing Airport
The plane was modern and could have been in service in any USA route. I was, indeed, the only non-Asian on the flight. The stewardess brought me the only thing they had in English, which oddly enough was a text of the "I'm sorry" statement by Colin Powell about the airplane incident. It was only a 45 minute flight, so there was a quick beverage service and soon we started our descent and I could see the lights and buildings of Hohhot (as best I can determine pronounced "Who-Hey-Ho-The") below us.
The airport was not crowded (almost 11 PM) but was very modern. My bag arrived quickly and I was met by Mr. Chen Yao (my local contact) and we greeted and rapidly went out to a car. We drove quickly into the city, which looked modern but not as modern as Beijing, and on some streets I could see an older China, a more interior China, of smaller clay brick houses. There seemed to be fewer cars on the streets, but it was late.
We pulled up to a very impressive large hotel, the Yi Tai Hotel, and I was checked in. I noticed that it was a four star hotel, a level up from the Beijing Grand. The lobby contained an impressive wood carving of Ghengis Khan. I went up to my room and found it to be most luxurious. I checked the television searching desperately for English language news, but failed when I found that CNN-USA was actually "Hainan TV" in Chinese. Oh well, perhaps I will try again tomorrow.
I was very exhausted, having had a long day and very little sleep the night before, so I fell asleep in my lovely room right away, wanting to build up my energy for the next day.
I am, as a matter of fact, in Inner Mongolia.