Sunday, August 23, 2009

Letters from Beijing

Monday, Nov. 26, 2007
I landed in Beijing last night, it actually felt like a faster trip than I'd ever flown out to the far east. I had found a hotel on the internet, close to the airport was all I wanted. The guys driving me to the factory liked it too because it was close to the airport and we avoided all the Monday morning legendary Beijing traffic.
Sino Swiss Hotel, Japanese and Swiss conglomerate, how could they go wrong I asked myself? Yeah, well, the lobby looked great, but with a "No fly" list, "Do Not Call" list, I've got my 1st entry into the "Do Not Stay" hotel list.
I was on the 7th floor, yet I heard the singers in the lounge back on the 1st floor. The sound wafted through the vents along with hot air, lots of it. So much hot air that I had to open a window so I could breathe. When I opened the window and stuck my head out, I could see my breath, yet it barely staved off the strong dry heat of the hotel.
The air was so bad I woke up at 2am and thought someone had their dog in their room only to realize that it was someone sneezing/coughing at the same time. The reason I know it was a human? Because a few minutes later I heard the distinct sound of someone trying to cough up a phlegm ball and having a hard time.

I checked the mattress for bed bugs, I checked the seams, if there is evidence of them there, then the mattress has got bedbugs. So I slept on top of the beddings, luckily I had brought long sleeve flannel pajamas, the thought of it now, still leaves me itchy.


I only had one bath towel, one hand towel, a bar of soap, 2in1 shampoo and body wash that came out of a screwed-to-the-wall dispenser. So I took their toothbrush.

I'm in Chengde tonight, check your map if you're really interested. It's where the royal summer palace is located-I ate next door to the summer palace for dinner. But my hosts told me it was basically inner Mongolia. We actually drove through the Great Wall. The region reminds me of the Mojave desert and Colorado. Mountains and desert. This place is only 60km away from the border between Mongolia and China. People take the drive up there to saddle up and ride around like a Mongolian, sleeping in a yurt. I wonder if the tours offer fermented yak milk?
The picture is a view from my room, the city is split in half by a river that is lined with large rubber bladders that they inflate/deflate to regulate the water levels.
This is my 2nd stay in a Chinese hotel, and this is better than the Sino Swiss. I checked the mattress and it's clean. Maybe because the owner of the factory I'm visiting is a hotshot in the area and they knew better than to give me substandard service. I have two of everything, towels, slippers and robe! The bathroom was stocked will all kinds of goodies.
But again, even though parts of the road are icy from the cold, I'm sitting here with the window open because the heat is stifling. I should have turned off the heat completely when I left for dinner.
On my bedstand is this Star Trek-like command console, you can control the lights, the temperature, the radio and television. I want one for myself!
I slept maybe 8total hours since Sat. morning when I left Chicago, it is now Monday night in China and my hosts are all impressed that not only did I work through the afternoon, I was able to perform intricate computer work without once going crossed-eyed nor did I fall asleep during dinner, which from what they said, have actually happened.
Lunch was beef dumplings, mutton dumplings(tastes like beef), pork w/cabbage dumplings, and pork w/onion dumplings. Lunch was called a light meal.
I ate at a traditional Mongolian dinner, served in a restaurant shaped like a traditional Mongolian yurt(tent). I tried a few new dishes. Venison was served rolled in what looked like tempura and served on a skewer, tasted like chicken. I ate their version of Peking duck, tasted like beef. They are heavily into meat, meat and more meat.
Then there was the obligatory cheer to everyone's health. The northern Chinese drink a Chinese vodka that is so strong it could probably cure gangrene. They serve it in this teeny weeny brandy snifter looking thimble. Probably only held one teaspoon, but when I brought that to my lips, I stopped and watched everyone else toss back their heads. My host told me not to do the same, just take a small taste. I took a very little sip simply because before I even tasted it, I smelled it and my teeth turned black. It felt like I was drinking rubbing alcohol. I was promptly informed that despite the various cheers the rest of the group exercised, I only had to lift my glass or drink my tea. But I did take several sips to at least give them the benefit of my respect and appreciation. I finally stopped sipping when I took a bigger sip than previously and promptly had my eyes water as the alcohol drained down my throat. It burned my lips and my tongue, instantaneously caused a bright red flush across my face. My host thought I had eaten something spicy and expressed his concern. I thought my brain had liquified.

(Pronounced like bung!I think. It's what they say in the north, to be said with a thumbs up, meaning "Good!" "Great!")

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