This blog post is coming to you from behind the great firewall of China; the same firewall that blocks FB and most other social networking and blogging sites. (lets hope they don't block TP too!)
After a busy and fun past couple of days, it's just beginning to sink in that I'm actually in China rather than Canada. (and a change of blog title is required I think) So far I have seen some of the famous sights, explored the maze like hutong communities, eaten some weird and wonderful things (more on that later), met some cool people and taken hundreds of photos. (in fact my phone memory's pretty much full so my mission for this afternoon is to find a USB stick to post them home on)
Without further ado I shall recall for you the highlights of the past four days (two boring days spent on the move then two exciting days in Beijing!):
Days 120 & 121 -
So today was the day that I came to leave Canada. I still had lots to do before leaving however so I had a very long and busy day of buying things, posting things home, trying to learn some basic Mandarin phrases, packing and finally, saying goodbye to everyone at the hostel. I tried to get a couple of hours of shuteye before heading to the airport but it wasn't happening so I watched TV for a while instead. 2.30am came and I made my way to the bus stop, dodging the drunks on the street and then once on the bus I was dodging people throwing up on the bus - nice!
I reached the airport and it was absolutely empty. Like, I was the only person in the whole terminal. I found which check in desk to wait at and when 5am eventually rolled around I checked in and went through the long security and US customs/immigration procedure. I had to take my shoes off and go through the xray scanner (it was that or a strip search and there was a bit of a nip in the air in the airport so two seconds worth of radiation was a better choice), then I actually cleared US customs whilst still in the airport in Canada which was a novel experience. (although the signs clearly stated that it was US property - similar to an embassy I imagine)
Then came a long wait in line before I was actually allowed to go to the gate and I got asked more questions by different security people which went along the lines of:
Them - "What have you been upto in Canada?"
Me - "Just travelling around"
Them - "Why?"
Me - "What do you mean why? Why have I came travelling?"
Them - "Yeah, why?"
Me - "Why not?"
Them - "Right, go and speak with the other officer over there"
Then I got asked even more questions about where I'd visited in Canada, how much currency I had on me etc. I had fun recalling past exerpts from my time in the country and eventually they either got bored of listening to me or they were satisfied that I wasn't a drug dealer/money launderer/mob boss and they let me go. (which just goes to show I can fool anyone ;] heh )
I made my way to the gate as my flight was due to leave in about twenty minutes, passing by Tim Hortons to grab a final doughnut and muffin in Canada. (and to use up my coinage as it's not much use in the States or China) I scoffed them both down and boarded the teeny tiny plane that was to take me to Detroit. When I looked out of the window and didn't see any engines I have to say I was a bit worried as gliding from Ottawa to Detroit would be quite a mean feat to achieve. My fears were alieved though when I saw another small plane next to us with engines either side of the tail - phew! I fell asleep before we took off and woke up just before we landed in Detroit as I was so knackered. (I wish I could do that on long haul flights!)
When we landed in Detroit, I checked that my luggage would go all the way through to Beijing and then spent the next fourteen hours trying to sleep, watching films on my laptop, eating and taking it easy. I managed to book a hostel for my first four nights in Beijing and rather than have the hassle of getting the subway on my first night I just booked a pickup from the airport to take me to the hostel. 11pm finally came around and I boarded the Boeing 777, settled into my seat and got ready for a long flight.
I have to say, I was impressed with the service on the flight. There were pillows and blankets, as much free beer/wine/soft drinks as I wanted, three meals (which were ok but come on, it is plane food afterall not 5* haute cuisine), a huge library of films, tv and music to watch/listen to (Hangover 2 is hilarious!) and comfy(ish) seats. I managed to sleep for a few hours here and there, helped along by the free Tsing Tao beer and food.
After a long but trouble free flight we touched down in Beijing at about 11pm local time having lost twelve hours with the time difference. I thought that immigration would ask me questions as I hadn't specified an exit date or method on my landing/departure cards but the officer didn't say anything to me apart from hello and goodbye. My pack came out on the luggage belt pretty quickly and my airport pickup driver was waiting for me in arrivals and before I knew it, I had arrived at my hostel. I was very tired and smelly by this point (the smell of a person after they've been in transit for 48 hours is very distinct!) but I found myself chatting to a Danish bloke who was here visiting students he had taught six years ago at universities across China. After talking for a while, tiredness got the best of my and I went to bed.
That's all for the past two days folks. I would have put all four days in one post but I wouldn't want you to fall asleep whilst reading it so I will continue with my tale on a new page