Well, he is reopening the rest areas, but with no solid plans except a hopeful "adopt-a-rest area" scheme and having guys in orange scrub the urinals. After seeing that, some folks may keep on by the rest area at 70 mph.
Anyhow, it always amazes me how much catch-up is needed on the home front after being gone for a couple weeks. Plus, I missed the AARP TaxAide training and have been going through the slow online recertification process... torture. While my schedule continues to be hectic, I'm finding a little time to get back to CCC and posting about our trip. Will include a few of the nearly 1,000 pictures I took. In between, I'll toss in my 2¢ about goings on in the Valley and Commonwealth.
*****Dateline Chicago and Beijing, January 8/7, 2010
Flight from Chicago was smooth and followed route over Hudson Bay, near North Pole, and over Siberia. Plane full, economy class crowded but everyone in good humor. Then the check-in procedures at the airport includes a quick health screening, a walk thru infrared scanner checking body temps, and a long line waiting to have passport/visa checked. A few people were pulled aside and questioned briefly about a stuffy nose or cough. Finally able to grab checked luggage and meet our guide, “Hanna.” The airport was super clean and utilitarian. Little commercialization such as found in U.S. airports until we went through the gauntlet of duty free shops on way out. While security is evident in the U.S. it is more obvious at the Beijing airport, most of them younger, in uniform, and most wearing (useless) masks.
Trip to hotel was through rush hour traffic some on a toll road that was moving (but not as fast as in U.S.) and lots of stop and go as we approached the central city. We were picked up in a Buick van and saw a few other American cars such as Jeep. Roads dominated by Asian brands such as Honda, Toyota and Hyundai but there were many VW’s and most taxi cabs seemed to be Jettas or Hyundai. Hanna pointed out things along the way but because we were so tired and there was a bit of a language barrier I’m not sure how much sank in. Reminded us of travel in the congested areas of NJ turnpike.
A few other early impressions along toll road and highway:
- Many of the cars were upscale.
- Impatient drivers, lots of horn tooting, swerving back and forth into lanes.
- Buildings along road seemed darker than you’d find in a US city - less outside lighting.
- Every now and then caught the smell of burning coal and noticed some smokestacks.
- Glad I am not driving. Very glad.
Arrived at the Dongfang Hotel and checked in. Of course, that meant checking and scanning our passport/visa again. Rooms are nice and have some western touches... with differences. For example the mattress is, compared to US, thin and hard... but pretty comfortable... or maybe we were just whipped! Pillows are a wider, thinner rectangle and seem to be the husk filled type. Room was very warm although it is very cold outside. Room key is slipped into receptacle just inside door to activate room electricity, so lights shut down when you leave the room and take key card. Not used to this style shower and curtain and made a mess. Like western hotels they provide soap and shampoo but no lotion. In addition to shower cap they provide slippers, toothbrush and paste, combs, and a condom. That prompted lots of chatter among the student in our group, especially since it was there only on the first night. TV (not a flat screen) has a bunch of channels but it looks like just three in English – China business, BBC Asia, and a old movie channel.
Our first meal in China was pizza. Yep, pizza. But, we'd arrived late and there was little time to head out for some Chinese - imagine we'll have plenty of that over the next few days. The pizza was good, about like take-out here. The Tsingtao beer was cold.