Thursday, May 31, 2012

Honeymoon: Day 1

It's been over a month since my wife and I got back from our honeymoon. While away we kept notes of what we did each day with the plan to write these up here as soon as we returned. Well it took a bit longer than planned to get round to it, but here is the first of our day-by-day instalments: travels to Beijing (we went to China in case you couldn't guess!) It may be a bit more detailed than absolutely necessary, but it's also there as a reminder to us.

Day 1 (and a bit)

09/04/12 - Just over a day after the wedding we boarded our flight to China. We flew with Emirates going from Glasgow to Dubai, with just a couple of hours in Dubai airport, and then on to Beijing. We arrived in Dubai airport late at night feeling pretty exhausted mainly due to finally starting to come down from the wedding high. Having realised I'd forgotten deodorant and Jen needed some make-up we did a bit of duty free shopping before trying to find somewhere for a snack. After much indecision we settled on a fish-based cafe where I had a beef sandwich, Jen had a croissant, and we drank some Sprite. This slightly revived us for the second leg of the flight. Originally the Beijing leg was supposed to be in an Airbus A380, but in the end it was downsized to a more standard Boeing 777.

10/04/12 - We arrived at Beijing airport in the early afternoon. We passed through a thermal imaging machine to check if you've got a fever and need to be quarantined, and then went into the impressive immigration hall. We passed through immigration without any problem and after a short monorail ride our luggage was waiting for us (this can often be an issue for me - in the past Jen has blamed my luggage woes on flying with a big back pack, so I'd been made to buy a proper suitcase for this trip). Our taxi driver from the airport was friendly and kept trying to point our things for us to look at, but as he spoke no English and us no Mandarin we just looked, smiled and nodded. Getting in to the centre of Beijing we were mainly struck by the size of the place and the buildings - everything was massive. We arrived at our hotel (the Hotel Kapok) in late afternoon just as rain broke.

Our first room in Hotel Kapok
The hotel had a quite funky facade and looked pretty swish when we got inside. They didn't have the style of room we'd booked available, so they upgraded us to a bigger room (it even had a small outdoor garden area) for a day (this turned into 3 days, but unfortunately not the whole stay). The room was massive, with a huge bathroom, and even came with its own gas masks in case of fire!

Night street food market
After having a brief rest we headed out to get some food and have a bit of an explore. Just about 100m from our hotel there was an outdoor food night market and one of the major Beijing shopping streets called Wangfujing. We perused the food market starting off with corn-on-the-cob-n-a-stick (rather than tucking straight in to the starfish/seahorse-on-a-stick) before heading down Wangfujing. Just off that street we found another small alley containing more colourful street food. With the rain having eased off we headed back to the main street market where we had crab dumplings, fried dumplings,spring rolls and banana fritters, which were all very tasty.

The band at a Qianhai lake bar
Despite the long day we'd got a proper second wind and decided that we'd try and find a pub. We briefly went back to the hotel to check our options before deciding to try and find a bar on Luogu Alley. We also decided that we'd try walking there as it didn't look too far on out map. It turns out that the city blocks in Beijing are larger than they look, but after about half an hour of walking (and seeing our first instance of the Chinese street dancing craze) we arrived at where the entrance to the alley should have been. Unfortunately it seemed to be a building site for a new subway station (a few days later we found out that there was a way through to the alley), so we decided to carry on walking to Qianhai lake where there were more bars. Another half an hour later we found it (after passing a bizarre Christmas display!) and walked round to look at the bars. All of the bars had live music going on in them and none were that appealing, but we wanted some alcohol after our long day and eventually just went into one after being accosted by a bar promoter type. The band in this place weren't that bad, but hadn't attracted much of a crowd. We both had a single drink and left to head home.

I made a slight wrong turn on the way back, but I realised my mistake quite soon and we headed in the right direction back to our hotel. After another long walk we made it back without any problems and quickly got to sleep.

I expect the following posts will get shorter than this!