We've made it from Maui to China! With only a short stopover and an airline change in Seattle, we didn't have much time to talk about the specifics of our adventure in China. Sitting at the airport – and continuing on throughout the 12 hour flight – we read through a lot of the things we had downloaded and tips we had been given by friends. We also talked about the different opinions that people have shared with us about China. In our experience, no single place arouses such differences in opinion. We have heard from several well-seasoned travelers that China is, by far, their least favorite country. Others have said that the food alone makes it a favorite destination.
Before landing, we decided that, once on the ground, we'd pay close attention to our first impressions. Unfiltered first impressions.
So, we haven't been here long – just about 24 hours of running around – but following are those initial thoughts.
Not So Well(ness).
Let's get this out of the way right up front. This place is smog infested, and it's as bad as you've heard. This picture was taken mid-afternoon. That's the sun trying to poke through the smog.
Sadly, this has been a "good" smog day (according to people we've talked to). The poor air quality has quickly snapped us out of the blissed-out zone we were in on Maui. It's such a contradiction that this bastion of acupuncture, herbal medicine, tai chi, etc. is so hard on the lungs and body. After only a day, we're feeling it.
100% World Class.
Before arriving, we knew enough to know that Beijing would be a top-notch city. We have to admit, though, that we weren't expecting to find one of the most beautiful rooms and some of the best service we've ever encountered at our first hotel. We're staying in three different areas around the city so are excited to see what our other accommodation experiences bring.
And now, the other reality.
This is what is right outside the curtained window on the other side of that bed in the above picture. A top hotel right next to some much less stellar living conditions. We'll be seeing a lot more of this, I'm sure.
Our food journey is off to a great start. Check out this dish – tofu, vegetables and a senses-arousing sweet and sour sauce. We look forward to many more meals like this – but we're asking the food gods for firmer tofu.
When we went out to grab a taxi at the airport, we found a line of about 500 people. Within an hour, we witnessed 3 kids shitting on the road. People smoke everywhere. Minutes ago,a young couple approached us with the notorious "tea scam" that's so common here.
Despite all of that, we're finding the general vibe to be quite calm. People are friendly, and they move at a mostly sane pace. That's not what we were expecting.
We're going to have to summon a lot of patience, but things are looking good so far.
Next up, we're moving from our upscale hotel to a hutong for an up-close view of how locals live.