Monday, August 06, 2007

Hello from Beijing

It took a while to decide where this year's big vacation would be. I like Hawaii, but have certainly been there often enough. Europe is terrific, but I wanted more of a challenge than that. Having thoroughly enjoyed Vietnam two years ago, decided to head back to Asia.

More specifically, to the Middle Kingdom, to China, one of the many countries I've always wanted to see.

Then I put out feelers for a posse of fellow travelers. Seth was a quick yes. Dresa said she'd think about it, then she, and to the astonishment of all, Karen, said that they would come.

From Sydney, Peter and Lilian figured a few things out, and then decided that they would be interested in coming as well.

So, that's the gang- me, Seth, Karen, Dresa, Peter and Lilian.

I'm the pilot fish. I arrived here on Sunday, on the Continental nonstop flight out of Newark. The rest of them arrive on Wednesday.

The hotel we're staying in is the Park Plaza Wangfujing, which is located east of the Forbidden City. The hotel is modern in all respects, thoughtfully equipped with a minibar happy to sell you a can of local beer for $3.50. They must not realize that hotel guests can figure out how to get to the local "Quik" store a block away that sells the same can for fifty cents.

I've never had the pleasure of being in London or Pittsburgh in the 1930s, where massive factories burned coal without any pollution controls whatsoever, but I feel that I'm now reliving what that experience must have been. They're burning an awful lot of coal very close to here. Beijing is a fine city, but it does not have a future in ecotourism.

Today, I walked the miles and miles around Wangfujing Street. As you walk south on Jinbao Street, the left ( east ) of Wanfujing Street is a car-free pedestrian mall, while the right (west) is a wide two way street, filled with cars, smoky buses, and a number of bicycles.

Tomorrow, I'll take the No. 1 subway from Wangfujing Street for a joyride out to Tien an Men Square.


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