Oh China, how hath you reignited the flames of passion that for so long lay dormant in my soul. For the time being you have quenched the thirst, so rooted in my body that I imagined it unquenchable.
China is a land of ancient culture and mystique wrapped in a vibrant paper of a modernity making its way to the front of the charge into this newest of ages. And as the newest addition to my places travelled, I couldn’t be happier.
Rachel and I recently visited the ancient lands of China, in case you couldn’t tell by my not-so-brief intro. It was a journey that will be forever cherished and remembered, not only for the stunning vistas and ancient sites, but also for the fantastic persons met and of course the delight in sharing such a journey with the woman I love.
“Aww, he is so sweet,” you might say. And dammit, you would be right. But seriously, I have travelled solo and had my share of adventures. While I believe that being on your own is healthy and a different type of exciting, there is something special about having a companion for the road. Someone that you can look back with and say, “Remember when I proposed to you on the Great Wall of China!”
Oh yea, I forgot to mention that I proposed to Rachel on the Great Wall of China and we are now engaged!!!!!!!!!
Like I said: this was a most memorable trip.
As with most trips, it began with a long and mostly uncomfortable flight. Well actually it began with Rachel and I sprinting through the airport trying to catch our plane but that seems like an irrelevant and potentially embarrassing detail so I have decided to skip it.
We almost did not sit together for the 12.5 hour journey from Los Angeles to Beijing but in classic Rachel Perry fashion she managed to have an entire row to herself, whereas I was sitting middle seat with strangers on either side. Needless to say I joined her in her empty row and we had an extra seat to spread our wings just a little bit.
The flight was uneventful so I shall move us directly to Beijing and the lands of China.
First off, Beijing airport (PEK) is gigantic. It took almost an hour of taxing to get from the runway to our gate. It was early in the morning and there was a bite to the freezing air. We disembarked and made our way through Chinese customs where I received yet another stamp in my Passport book (it had been collecting dust for too long at this point).
We found our first guide for our Rewards Travel China Tour and were informed that we had a few minutes to relax before catching a bus to our first hotel.
So what is the first thing Rachel wanted to do upon landing in China? If you know her at all you probably guessed: Find noodle soup. If you did, you would be correct. With some miming and pointing we managed to order great noodle soup in a Chinese airport restaurant. We ate quickly to get back to our tour guide, and this is where we had our first encounter with members of our tour. Mostly every family group kept to themselves but it was nice to see that we would not be alone for whatever this adventure held.
The bus was nice transportation but it took over an hour to reach the hotel through Beijing rush hour traffic.
Eventually we arrived and were in complete awe of the quality of our accommodations. It was too early to check into our room but the lobby itself was simply fantastic.
This is where we were introduced to Jade for the first time. She would be our Beijing guide and she was simply wonderful, absolutely everything you want in a good guide. She was helpful and informative, and she was enthusiastic about showing us a piece of her hoe and culture. We will hear a lot more about her throughout this narrative but for now we were given the rest of the day to do with as we would. Our first day in China might sound like it will be super exciting, and some exciting things happened and were seen but for the most part it was uneventful. We were tired and severely jet-lagged as it was the middle of the morning here and time at home was just about laying down to sleep.
Anyway we ventured through the streets of Beijing to a convenience store where we bought some essentials like Chinese Rice Wine (Be careful with that stuff), and some water. We dropped our luggage at the hotel and then made our way further up the street to an underground food court.
Once there we walked into a few places and we think we were told that it was too early for dumplings. Once again, if you know Rachel, you know that dumplings was at the top of her list of things to do in China.
After walking around for a little bit we decided to try to find the mall next door. Some of the people in our group apparently couldn’t find it.
After a few minutes we realized that it just hadn’t opened yet, so we waited in the frigid morning till the top of the hour when the doors would unlock.
Once inside Rachel’s eyes lit up. I confess that I am not a huge fan of shopping or spending money in general so I started to become grouchy, but it is hard to keep someone like Rachel down, even when I am being stubborn about it. We flitted from store to store, and I watched in fascination as Rachel looked around and was simply delighted by each and every thing she came across. It was such an ‘Asian’ shopping mall. Rachel was enamored.
My grumpy self followed behind her from store to store cringing at everything she picked up, assuming we were about to spend more money than we had a right to. Eventually we made our way to a more practical store for a pair of boots because Rachel did not like the ones that she had packed for herself.
We mimed our way into paying a pretty good price for a pair of Doc Martens that Rachel absolutely adored (and they were the only ones they had in her size because Chinese women have tiny feet).
Glowing with the success of navigating a conversation with someone who spoke none of our language and her new boots, Rachel and I made our way back to the food court where we finally got to sit down to some dumplings. Because we did not realize that these were giant plates we ordered a hundred or so dumplings accidentally and proceeded to try most of them! We packaged up the rest and headed back to the hotel to finally check in.
Our room was just as fantastic as the lobby and we were pleasantly happy with our first Chinese morning. We decided to take a short nap at about 330 in the afternoon and then to explore more of this foreign world in the evening. But alas, we slept for about 12 hours and completely blew away the remainder of our first day. Like I said, day 1 was not terribly exciting, but it was the start of something that would end up being truly wonderful.
Stay tuned as there is plenty more to come from our adventures in China!