Saturday, April 20, 2013


We woke this morning in Datong to snow!  A light dusting covered the roofs of the old hutong houses below our hotel window:

We ate a quick breakfast of leftovers from our delicious dinner last night, packed up our bags and headed down to the lobby to check out and meet our driver.  We’d so enjoyed our driver yesterday that we asked him if he would drive us to the airport this morning.

We were very impressed that he had checked the time of our flight to Beijing, found that it left at 9 am, not 9:25 as our printout showed.  He was there almost a half an hour early to make sure that we got to the airport on time!  He drove very carefully in the snow, although the roads didn’t seem to be slick.  He was in a talkative mood, and asked many questions about our country.  He also had some not so complimentary views on the Chinese government and shared his concerns with us.  He has great hope that China’s new president Xi Jinping, will have a positive impact on the lives of the average Chinese citizen.  It was very interesting to us that he was so open today, yet yesterday both he and Nancy were mostly very complimentary about life in Datong. He really let loose with his opinions this morning!  We listened politely, as we are very careful about discussing politics when we travel.

We arrived at the tiny Datong airport with plenty of time to spare, checked in, got our boarding passes and proceeded through security.  I actually got a smile from the passport checker this morning!  I also got a VERY thorough and serious pat down and “wanding” by a young female security agent; she insisted on looking at my stack of credit cards, passport, boarding pass, money, and even my chapstick.  I’m kinda scary looking, you know! 

We had a while to wait before boarding, and it was very cold in the airport--I think they forgot to turn the heat on this morning!  The flight was a short one, 50 minutes, and soon we were on the ground in smoggy Bejing.  Our plane taxied to the terminal--it seemed like miles and miles!  After we deplaned we walked and walked and walked, finally reached the baggage claim area, picked up our bags and headed to the taxi line. We didn’t have a long wait for a cab, and soon were on our way into the city.  It was a sloooow ride--lots of traffic!

The taxi left us at the small alley way to our hotel.  We were prepared for the fact that this neighborhood might look a little rundown--but it wasn’t too bad.  For our 10 days in Beijing we are staying in two different areas and hotels.  Our first 3 nights we are staying at “MIchael’s House”, which was described as being a restored old courtyard type home in an interesting old hutong area of Beijing. 

We were warmly welcomed, quickly checked in and shown to our “Deluxe Double Suite”  right off the main courtyard area.  Our room is nice--very clean and has plenty of room.  It certainly does not compare to the charm of our guesthouse in Pingyao, though!  

Lobby, sitting area:

Our room--it has a wonderful, soft bed:

Sitting area:

We quickly dropped our bags and walked around the corner to a small restaurant recommended by sweet and helpful Sophie, the young receptionist.   We had a nice lunch of noodles/soup, dumplings and glazed pork and rice, then set off to explore the neighborhood. 

Glazed pork and rice--really good!

Delicious noodles in broth--just what we needed on a cold, windy day:

Hmmm, about that “interesting old hutong area”....not so much!  It’s a bit shabby, which we don’t mind, but definitely NOT interesting in the least!  But it’s only 3 nights and 2 days, so no biggie!  

We followed Sophie’s good directions to a nearby market, she said it was a very big grocery--and she was right!  It was a “Wu-Mart Hypermarket”, the Chinese version of our Walmart Superstore.  They got the “Hyper” part correct--what a mad house!  

The shopping frenzy at WuMart:

It was on two different levels, with clothing and home goods on the ground level and food in the basement.  We did a quick walk around the clothing area looking for a scarf for me--it’s freeeeezing here, and I didn’t bring one with me.  Didn’t find any, so we headed for the basement grocery area.  I grabbed a cart, and then my true WuMart shopping experience began.  Each cart had a small “computer” tablet attached to the front--and it cycled through several singing advertisements.  My favorite (ha!) was the group of WuMart employees singing, very loudly! With my cart and all the other carts singing in unison, the loudspeaker announcements, and all the background chatter--way too much noise for us!  It was actually quite funny----for about two minutes!.

The offending shopping cart, I couldn't find the "off" button!

Fairly decent wine:

We finished our shopping as quickly as we could, checked out and got out of there!  We walked to a nearby subway stop and bought two passes, then headed back to our guesthouse to unload.  We thought we should explore our neighborhood just a little more, hoping to find a more interesting street if we turned the other way.  No such luck, but we had a nice loooong walk, because we got lost!  With the help of a nice parking lot security guard, we eventually found our way back to the guesthouse.  We were freezing cold, so we decided to “order in” for dinner.  With Sophie’s help we ordered a few different dishes, and now we’re settled in for the night.

I’m expecting a good nights sleep--the bed feels wonderfully soft!

Tomorrow in Beijing:  We’ll take the subway to Tiananmen Square and surrounding area.

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