Our first park we found – people were dancing
and enjoying the outdoors, even though it was
a bit cold.
My friends and I decided we needed an overseas trip, and without a specific location in mind we went searching for a deal. We found a good deal through China Spree, a nine-day trip for $999. 

A hop, a skip, and a giant jump to China


Our flight to China left LA at midnight.  

Special Note:  If you sign up for this trip, we liked the choice to take the midnight flight out of LA, because we had more time on our own for the first day when we arrived in Beijing. 
A first class cabin on China Southern’s
Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (Photo/Xinhua)

Twelve, long, grueling hours to China. First class was beautiful, and made me think of a James Bond movie – which unfortunately was not where I was sitting, so I didn’t get to feel like James Bond.

My friends and I had thought a window would be a good choice. However, there wasn’t anything to see and we arrived too early in China to see anything at all. So after six hours of movie watching and nodding off, I finally decided to take a walk. I loved that the woman in the isle noticed and just started poking the guy in the middle to get him up and out of my way. I had felt guilty about waking him up. Then she exclaimed, quietly, as most everyone were sleeping, that she was amazed at how I lasted in my seat. Just lucky I guess, although next time, I’ll get up more.
There isn’t much to do though. Freshen up in the bathroom, walk around, get a glimpse of first class, and see my friends sleeping. Then back to my seat.

Listen to your instincts, get money exchanged as soon as you can

We landed to a quiet airport at 5:30 AM. When we got our luggage and made it through customs I

Jim, our well-meaning guide

was going to get some money exchanged. My friend, Ben, had wisely told me to get some exchanged right away. Except, our guide, Jim, insisted that we wait until we got to the hotel. I should have listed to Ben.

Our hotel, The Trader’s Hotel, is lovely and it’s connected to the metro and a giant mall that’s spread throughout the underground and many buildings. Other than the supermarket, it’s all high-end stores.
However, we couldn’t check in because it was too early (we were aware of that) and we couldn’t get money exchanged because the manager wasn’t there yet. Excuse me? We have all day to wander Beijing and our guide is barely able to exchange $20 for each of us. So we have to stick to charge purchases as much as we can, or search out a bank, which isn’t on our agenda.

Be ready to take things as they come

We did get to see a lot of beautiful buildings on our walk
LuAnn has her heart set on seeing a porcelain museum mentioned in a guide book, so Jim wrote down the address in Chinese and we went for a taxi. The taxi driver dropped us next to a tall, ancient wall, pointed off in a direction, then told us to get out. Ah, travel.  

It’s spring here, early March, and there is a cool wind. Which is good because it keeps the air relatively smog-free today. Otherwise, we’d have to wear masks to save our lungs.  

We spent the next five hours slowly wandering around, checking out the area, and searching for the museum. We asked many people who couldn’t speak English, would show them the address, and they would just shake their heads.

My favorite spot: We walked up to the door of a place that looked like a museum. An old man unlocked the doors and let us walk in. Beautiful antique furniture surrounded us, he waved us to walk around while he looked at the address, then he shook his head at our address too. I don’t think anyone was supposed to be in that place, and he let us see such beautiful things. Not that I could tell you where it was after all that walking, but it was awesome.

We never found the museum, and I think LuAnn was a bit sad for not being able to find it. But we can’t say that we didn’t try!

Check out the crazy Americans

Spring blooms in the park
One of the many curious locals
checking out the Americans


We went back to the wall – part of the old Beijing Wall and spotted a  lot of locals stretching and doing Tai Chi. What a great idea, we thought! Let’s stretch our sore, jet-lagged muscles. 

We picked an open area near the wall and started some yoga stretches. Within minutes locals were lined up taking photos of us or taking selfies with us in the background. It felt a bit like being a monkey at the zoo. It didn’t really bother me though, I just wondered what they were all thinking.

Metro or taxi?

We decided to take the metro back (our guide, Jim, had discouraged us because he was worried we would get lost). Turns out he was sort of right.
I loved the lighting in one of the metros
The metro itself is really easy. Most posted maps are written using alphabetic letters (not just the Chinese symbols) and we were able to get to the right stops/changes. We did exit the wrong direction though and found ourselves wandering the long halls of the mall (did I mention it’s giant!). Once we found our way outside I was able to figure out where we were and steered us back to the hotel.
Our hotel rooms are nice and there is wifi, but no access to Facebook or to my blog, so my plans to keep people updated aren’t going to work. At least I can access email and let everyone know we are doing fine.  
Restaurant Decor

Next for the evening is dinner at a place listed in LuAnn’s guidebook where monks serve vegetarian food on wood plates.  Meaning another taxi ride. I didn’t really want to go.  I would have preferred to take a walk around the neighborhood, find some restaurant nearby. But she had read this guidebook so many times and it was our only dinner on our own in Beijing. So off we went.  

The ride was crazy, like being in a roller coaster, reminiscent of other non-US taxi drivers, and we still weren’t sure we were in the right place. The food was very expensive and as you can see from the picture below, no wood plates here. The decor was lots of heavy fabrics, weird lamps. Sort of crystal ball reader with a mix of Mediterranean.  
Klingon gagh or weird noodles?

Rebecca and I appreciated our soups but Sarah and Luann were disappointed in their dinner.  Their noodles make me think of Klingon gagh – only they didn’t squirm, thankfully.

I did my best to lift everyone’s spirits, because we’re in China! And tomorrow is a long list of things to see.  

We had a much less crazy ride back to the hotel and it was time for sleep!
So, not a perfect day, but we’ve seen some great sights, got plenty of exercise, and had some good laughs.

You can check out my next day in Beijing, China.

If you’d like to see more of my travel posts, check out the trip to Costa Rica:
Day 1 in San Jose, Costa Rica

Additional days in China will be added soon!

Hello. I’m Sonja Dewing. I am a Writing Professional: Technical, business, and instructional writing, as well as a freelance writer for magazines and newspapers.

I’m a dedicated fitness fiend, outdoor enthusiast, and adventure seeker. I’m also a fiction author and I blog about my travel, backpacking, and other adventures.