It was the moment I’ve dreamt about…and planned…for almost twenty years. I was in the my early twenties when I came up with the plan: I figure I’d never be able to afford a first class ticket to Asia, so I’d sign up for one of those air-mile credit cards and spend every cent possible using the card–and start stacking up miles. And I did. Every trip to the grocery store, every meal out, every pair of socks…everything, was paid with my airlines credit card. Cashiers looked at me weird when I’d by a 59 cent pack of gum with my card, but a mile is a mile, right?
And now, here I am, laying back in Global First, on United Airlines flight 88 from San Francisco to Beijing. The trip had been booked for 10+ months and I thoroughly enjoyed the anticipation, but it almost became unbearable the last two weeks leading up to take off.
I was in the nose of this double decker 747, the cockpit above me. The flight was amazing. My seat converted all the way into a flat bed. In addition to the overheads, I had storage compartments for my stuff all around me. A million movies and TV shows; I saw some really good ones! And fantastic service including an ice cream sundae trolley. I soaked up every minute of it as we chased the sun west. I had to really focus to understand how we left at 11:15AM on Friday and arrived at 2:20PM on Saturday without ever passing through the dark.
By the way, this is country #50 for me, and that’s pretty exciting. There are 196 recognized countries in the world, and I’m out to see every last one; so number “50” is definitely a milestone for me. And no, I didn’t plan it this way. Only days ago did I sit down and write down all the countries I’ve seen to get an updated count. I was pretty jazzed to find out I was currently at 49 and China would be 50. Made it even more special.
Day 1: I really did a piss-poor job at researching China before I arrived. Literally, probably the worst job ever for such an important country. However, as you’ll soon read, China was not my main reason for visiting Asia. It was the gateway to another country–the entire reason I was traveling to Asia this time. More on that later.
Taxi to my hotel–Great Wall Sheraton–and then freshened up quickly before I hit the ground running. With no research in hand, I quickly got directions to one of the few places I knew about: Tiananmen Square. I remember seeing this place on the news when I was a kid, and the historic standoff between one student and a tank…wow! So I was on my way.
There was a metro station a quarter mile from my hotel and the subway system in Beijing turned out to be a breeze to understand. By the end of the day I knew how to navigate around Beijing effortlessly.
Tiananmen Square was massive. Huge buildings, overpowering statues and lots of people. I should have known a little bit more about the things I was looking at, but I will probably study them later.
To be continued…This entry was posted in Asia