Beijing Day 8

Our plane doesn’t leave till 9:00 PM tonight (and arrives at LAX at 5:00 PM tonight, the wonders of the international dateline) so we did a little more sightseeing.

First stop was the Dongyu Temple, the first Taoist Temple we’d visited after slews of Buddhist Temples. It was a bit of an eye opener. I had no idea Taoism was this pagan. It apparently rivals Hinduism for sheer number of deities, not to mention ghosts, demons, and assorted other creatures. Plus there’s reincarnation, and a hierarchy of possible next lives. If I recall correctly, if you do nothing but evil you come back as an insect; if you do more evil than good, you come back as a bird or a fish; and if you do equal amounts of good and evil, you come back as a mammal (but not a person). Of course, you can also just end up tortured in one of 14 hells:

Punishment Department

(According to Wikipedia, there are actually more and less pagan versions, and it’s arguable whether they’re really the same religion. This was my first encounter with the more pagan version.)

The temple is near the Embassy District, which is a bit more upscale than the neighborhoods we’ve been staying in and visiting. This was also the first neighborhood where we saw any non-Tourist Westerners. Not a lot, mind you. Not even one in a hundred I expect, but enough that Beth and I weren’t so obviously standing out.

Skyscrapers seen from temple grounds

Afterwards we found some cappucinos (Coffee is a very unusual drink here, so you take it when you can find it.) and visited a local department store. It’s set up quite differently than Macy’s or Sears. It’s composed of many independent vendors, each with their own little booths, and each shouting for your business as soon as a Westerner walks by. We picked up a T-shirt, a few handkerchiefs, and some scarfs. If I’d had a little more time, I could have gotten a custom suit made.

Chinese clothes

I stopped in the local equivalent of Best Buy, but there was nothing special to be found. It was mostly a somewhat poorer selection of material as in the U.S. at more or less the same prices. Not very interesting. I had thought that since so many electronics are made in China these days, there might be something cheaper here, but apparently not.

I finally convinced Beth to take the subway home instead of a cab, at least for part of the ride. (The subway doesn’t really go very near our hotel.) Once inside she was a lot more comfortable with it. She didn’t realize how modern it was.

We had lunch at the BaiHeLu Duck restaurant, next to the hotel. With some pointing at the menu, I succeeded in ordering something that proved to be Mooshu Duck. beth went for a fish, which seemed safe enough, until they brought her a brown paper bag, which a large black fish (carp?) promptly jumped out of and scared her. Apparently, this is done to assure the customer of its freshness. We would have trusted them, but after everything was cooked it was indeed quite tasty.

We packed and left for the airport about 3:30 PM for our 9:00 P.M. flight, and got there only half an hour later. The new terminal 3 is huge and still rather empty. It wasn’t as empty as when we arrived, but certainly didn’t feel like a busy night at JFK. It turned out there are separate ticket counters for each flight, rather than for each airline. Our ticket counter didn’t even open till 5:30 PM, so we killed some time drinking tea and Diet Coke at a Thai restaurant on the upper level of the terminal.

Terminal 3 in Beijing Airport

Check-in was straightforward, and they didn’t hassle Beth over the extra 2kg in her luggage. However going through security they took all her cosmetics. Apparently, no liquids, gels, or such are allowed on flights, whether you have them in a plastic baggie or not. I suspect she probably could have snuck them through without much trouble if she hadn’t volunteered them.

After security, we took a train to the international part of terminal 3. We did the usual duty free shopping, mostly to try to spend our last Yuan. I tend to think duty free is never actually cheaper than just buying liquor at home, but we did find a couple of interesting Canadian wines to try. We also grabbed a few very weird drinks at “Steak and Beer”. The Margarita was almost like a real Margarita, but Beth’s martini might as well have been from outer space.

The flight home was uneventful: 11 hours in coach on Air China and I slept for two thirds of it. They played “Bee Movie”, which put me right out. We got in about 5:00 PM PDT (four hours before we left Beijing time). Business class definitely would have been a waste of money on this trip.

All our bags arrived intact, and we didn’t have any problems at customs. We changed as much of our remaining Yuan back to dollars as we could. The money changer wouldn’t take anything smaller than a 10, and I think we got about $45 back. I wanted to hang onto it in the theory that the Yuan is likely to appreciate faster than inflation, but Beth is adamant that she never wants to return.

The Prius was safe in the parking lot, and there weren’t more than the usual number of accidents stopping traffic on the ride home on the 405. We crashed out for the night, and that was that.

Leave a Reply