Okay, we’ve made it to China! The flight from Atlanta to Seoul wasn’t bad at all. When you’re going to be on an airplane for more than 10 hours, you sort of surrender to the fact that you are going to be stuck on that plane for practically forever. And then the time goes by surprisingly quickly!
My vegetarian meals were not that great…probably because I told the airline that I eat eggs and dairy (which I do) and thus I was put into the “Western Veg Meal” category as opposed to the “Asian Veg Meal” category. Mark’s meal’s were better, especially the bibimbap one.
Other than that, and the listing of movie titles to choose from not corresponding at all to the movie that would play, I thought the flight was just peachy. Slept a good bit, drank some wine, watched some good movies….sort of like a lazy Sunday at home! And before we knew it, we were in South Korea!
At the beautiful, pristine, gleaming Incheon airport we made our way to Gate 49 for our much shorter flight to Beijing. On the way to the gate, we stopped for a quick snack at a kiosk and discovered Butter Stick. Butter Stick is an addictively yummy snack of thin, crunchy, sweet and buttery cracker/biscuit thingies. Sort of like Pocky but sweeter and minus the chocolate coating.
On the flight to Beijing, which was less than 2 hours, we were fed yet another meal. We also met another American couple on their honeymoon, and a South Carolina high school on their way to spend three weeks attending a Chinese school. Then we landed in Beijing and the real adventure began. Could I successfully get Mark and myself to our hostel in one piece?
Heck yeah!! We made it through customs despite the overly serious customs official intently studying our passport photos and our faces to make sure that we were who we said we were. We cashed some traveler’s cheques, and found the shuttle bus (thanks to the help of an airport employee who caught me looking at an airport map and asked me where I was trying to go. I couldn’t remember the word for shuttle, so I blurted out “gong gong chi che” instead, which means bus. “Ah, Bus!” the guy exclaimed and pointed the way.
We managed to buy two tickets for Line 2, and we even managed to find the right bus (not difficult as they were clearly labeled) and get off at the right stop (a little more challenging, but I asked a fellow passenger). Upon disembarking, we were surrounded by people shoving business cards in our face. Not sure what for, but we waved them off and were then followed by a bicycle rickshaw guy. These guys are famous for ripping people off, so I told him I was getting a taxi. Well, the taxis were all clustered together just waiting for people needing rides.
And they all wanted to charge at least 50 RMB to take us to the guesthouse, when the guesthouse website clearly stated that taxis shouldn’t cost more than 20. I knew haggling wouldn’t get me anywhere with those guys, because they clearly had the upper hand. It was dark, we didn’t really know where we going, it was too far to walk to the guesthouse, and there weren’t any other taxis in sight. But then Rickshaw man peddles up again and says he’ll take us for 20 kuai (kuai = RMB). So we hope onto to the rickshaw clutching our bags and go whooshing through the streets, with cars whizzing past us and a couple almost hitting us.
It was fun! And then it seemed like the guy was kind of lost. He tried to drop us off at some random place that was not our destination, so I whipped out the map the hostel provided and showed him again where we wanted to go. Then he decided it would 40 kuai instead. Grrrrrrrrr! But, the rickshaw was more fun than the taxi and the guy did peddle kinda far, so we paid up without complaining once we found the hostel. I didn’t feel like arguing the principal at that point, so…yeah, we were ripped off. But it’ll be easier to drive a hard bargain when it’s not 10:00 at night and we’re loaded down with bags and clearly looking like newbies to China.
So, our hostel, the Red Lantern House! It’s really cute, down some twisty narrow hutong streets. We have a big king size bed and it’s very clean and quiet. I like it so far!! We’ve already met a fellow backpacker in the lounge and she was really nice and had helpful info about going to Yunnan. Now it’s early in the morning and I’m wide awake, so I think I’ll go hop in the shower and get ready for an awesomely fun day!