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We arrive in Beijing at 2: 30 PM local on 9 May. We started 2 hrs behind the sun and caught up with it over Alaska to arrive 2 hours behind it again in China. The view from the aircraft during the approach is a light brown smog blanket that obscures the ground. There are huge crowds in the airport - simply masses of people, both Chinese and foreigners, but with such a beautiful and huge airport the passport and customs process goes much faster and easier than in an airport in Russia. It appears that they have many aircraft landing around 2 - 3 PM -surely they cannot have such crowds all day. TheVantage company program director (Kelly Weiman) and her crew are waiting and eager to get us going. We must wait a while, however, as tour group members are arriving on different airlines over a several hour period. No problem, plenty of time to explore this magnificent airport. Vantage immediately take all the luggage and deliver it to the hotel rooms. Kelly Weiman provides city maps and guides. A modern bus takes us via super highways downtown. It is rush hour and the highways are packed with cars and busses. Entering the city we see many high-rise apartment houses aand then office buildings. Beijing is very impressive. They must be tearing down whole neighborhoods for the elevated super highways and all the modern buildings. The city boasts 5 ring roads all connected by extensive multi-level clover leaf intersections and exchange ramps to elevated cross town highways. On the way the highway passes along a canal. Once on the city streets the auto traffic is mixed with hundreds of bycicles.
We arrive at the beautiful, five star Presidental Palace Hotel located near the Forbidden City. The stated room rate on the wall is only $100 a night, quite reasonable for such a gorgeous room complete with every possible convenience. The hotel lobby is lovely also, with many services including Internet Cafe. The Vantage program director briefs the newly assembled group as we get to meet each other in a private meeting room. The room keys and all check in formalities are already completed - remarkable for one used to the hassle of checking in to a Russian hotel. Tea is served as the director explains the layout of the area and time for events. A printed schedule for the following day activities is provided. Then Ms Weiman walks with us to show the way to a local store about two blocks down a side street, where we buy bottled water and some ice cream - less expensive by far than at hotel prices. It is getting dark around 18:30 so we do not attempt to explore far from the hotel.


Return to Xenophon.