Our hotel in Beijing doesn’t have room numbers. Instead, each room is named after a Chinese emperor. We are in the Shun Zhi room, very nicely on the ground floor. Very nicely, because there’s no lift in this four storey hotel.
Shun Zhi or Shunzhi, ruled for 18 years from 1643 to 1661. He was strongly into the whole Buddhist thing so his rule was pretty pious.
He became emperor when he was three years old. Then, one day, he didn’t turn up for breakfast. Everyone at Court went a bit mad, trying to find him. Eventually someone found a poem he’d left in plain sight. Hidden lightly in the flowery text was the message that he didn’t like being emperor any more and was going off to become a monk instead.
That sounds cool to us…which is pretty much what the hotel is. It sort of reminds me a bit of the hotel we stayed in in Prague. Mirinda reckons our room resembles a caravan. I think she’s a bit delirious from lack of sleep and a change in time zones.
Our journey through customs was laborious (though it was a lot better than trying to get into America) but harmless. Eventually we found ourselves out the exit and in the main arrivals hall. We were immediately accosted by a private taxi chap, offering to take us to our hotel for 450¥.
But Mirinda gave him short shrift. She knows we have to get a yellow cab with black stripes. Which we did.
Thus ensued an interesting pantomime regarding the location of our hotel. The cabbie (who didn’t speak English beyond ‘sorry’) kept miming a telephone to which we both said ‘no’. Turns out he wanted the telephone number of the hotel rather than to use one of our telephones.
He rang someone and had a number of long conversations before he turned to us and, all smiles, said it was ‘okay’. He dropped us at our hotel, down a very interesting looking street. The fare was 100¥…as it should be. He reminded me of Pigsy from Monkey.
Check-in was a bit of a palaver but we soon found ourselves in our room. Mirinda almost immediately went to sleep while I powered up the netbook to see whether I’d be blogging. And it seems, the Chinese government does not mind my blog…unless that bit gets censored, of course. I’ll not know till I post it.
Eventually we went upstairs to book a table for dinner and to see for ourselves, the magnificent view over the Forbidden City. We enjoyed tea and coffee, looking out over the tree tops and Chinese style rooftops.
They weren’t lying when they said it was almost right across the road. It is. And the roof terrace gives a reasonable view. Though, to be fair, it was getting a bit dark. I’m sure it would be better in the daylight.
Booked in for 8pm, we decided to take a wander around the streets, maybe heading down to the Forbidden City entrance.
It was on our way through the small, shop lined, traffic swollen streets that we came across our second attempt at a swindle (the first being the illegal taxi).
A group of people started talking to us in English. They seemed friendly enough and said that they were from all over China. We all chatted for about five minutes when one of them suggested going for a quick beer, just so they could practice their English.
This is the scam. They go into a bar with you, you all drink and then you’re left with an enormous bill.
Needless to say, we had a very important meeting to get to…we left quick smart.
Eventually we found the main street (it has 12 lanes) that bisects the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square. There were loads of people. It was night time and the place was shut and guarded by rather stern looking members of the Red Army and yet, there were thousands there. Just looking, taking photos, chatting with friends and family.
Maybe they all flew in this morning and were just doing what we were doing.
Anyway, it was fabulous. All lit up with the massing hordes. But we could only stay with them a short while. We had a dinner appointment to keep.
The food in the hotel restaurant was amazing. I thoroughly recommend the shrimp and lychee toffee thing and the papaya soup. This food was NOTHING like the Chinese we have at home. Eating is going to be such a joy.
Bed at about 10pm in an effort to avoid waking up at silly o’clock tomorrow morning.