Chinese New Year

If you asked me a few years ago where I would visit while I was over here, I would have said, "Japan". Only Japan. Since getting here though I have managed to slip in a trip to Korea and now a trip to China. Why China? Well, the idea of spending the Christmas break alone in Tatebayashi filled me with dread, and the plane ticket was less than half what it would cost to get to Canada. All in all, I got the plane ticket for about 500 bucks and since I would be traveling with Andy and Alex, it meant that the Hotel would be split 3 ways. This made it a cheap looking trip. So I figured for that price, how can I turn it down... Good decision in the long run, and although I budgeted myself 1400 bucks for the trip, I did it for about 1000, and lived like a king whilst doing it.

It all started with Andy, as these things always do, and most of the travel arrangements were left to him. This was the first time I ever needed a visa, a relatively painless, but pricey thing to get, (although I did enjoy the fact that my visa only cost 75% of what China charges Americans...) And before I knew it, it was Christmas Day, and I was on my way to Narita.

Andy arranged the flights, and let me tell you something, the sure way to fly cheap is to avoid a good airline... We ended up booked on Air Iran, Tokyo to Tehran, via Beijing. In all fairness it was a 747 plane that we were on, and the food was good. The movie was replaced by a cartoon that looked like it was animated in 3d Studio Max, and you know you are in for a good flight when the radio comes on and instead of hearing "good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to ... airlines" you hear "In the name of almighty and merciful God, welcome to Iran Air. Interesting though, no alcohol is served, and on the plane there is a prayer room with a small screen. The screen uses some sort of Nav System to always indicate the direction that Mecca is in. It really is a big, big world...

It was odd, but while standing in line we were approached by a guy in line in front of us who spoke some Japanese and some English, who asked us to help with is bags. It took some bargaining before we realized that he was asking us to check some of his bags, cause he was overweigh. "Let me get this straight, you want me to take some unknown baggage from some unknown guy on a flight bound for Tehran. Yeah, right." He seemed very disappointed and a bit upset when we refused.

Before we get started, Alex and I took over 1000 pics combined, so while most of these are mine, some are his. Don't ask which are which.

Alex and Andy right before the traditional "Pre-Takeoff Double Whiskey". A necessity when you fly airlines like Biman-Bangledesh and Air Iran.


(I had a single.)

Air Iran, Flight 801 (Yeah I know, I know...)


At least the food was good. (On the way there anyway...) One thing I thought was interesting was the metal cutlery.

Chinese Border Control.

It turns out it was quick and painless and no one even checked our baggage. I guess Andy's plan to stuff Alex's bag with Free Tibet Shirts and Pro-Democracy flyers wouldn't have been that funny after all...

The First Order of business, Get some Cash. Airports usually offer a good rate, so we used the automated teller and changed about 100 bucks each. Colorful money that Chinese stuff. The hard part is they have multiple bills for different denominations, meaning you always have to be paying attention to what you are spending. Though I suppose that is always a good rule...

We caught a "Taxi" to our hotel. I say "Taxi" cause it was a private Taxi, so he took us for a ride on the price, charging us about 25 bucks for a taxi ride to the hotel. It was late and we knew we were being taken for a ride, but we were tired, and split 3 ways it wasn't that bad. We later learned about how much things should cost, and didn't get taken again, (well... once...)

Booking a hotel online is always a crap shoot. We ended up at the 5 star Crowne Plaza in Wangfujing District. As it turns out this hotel was in the middle of the happening shopping area, walking distance to the Forbidden city and Tian An Men Square, and was beautiful, with nice spa, pool, hottub, etc...

Not bad for 25$ a night. Traveling in 3's kicks ass.

We brought our own inflatable camping mattress to save on the extra bed cost and just had room service send up another blanket.

Gotta love the Chinese, printing everything in their own language. Hint Hint! Japan...i'm looking at you...
The first order of the day was power. Since Alex and I had digitals, and mine takes funny batteries, we brought my laptop and charger for power/storage. We needed a converter and I had e-mailed the hotel ahead of time. They at first provided only an extra power bar... not what we needed...

Not that we could figure out how to plug it in anyhow. We called down to the desk, and explained we didn't need more sockets, we need conversion to 110 volts.

This time they understood and sent up ...


Yes, the Autostab TND-1000, converting between 220 and 110, all while making funny noises and fluctuating slightly.

Learn to fear electrical fires all over again with AUTOSTAB!

Armed with some cash, and having dealt with the electricity situation, we headed out to get a look around.

The Wangfujing district was mostly closed by this time 11:00pm, so we had to settle for beer and chips from a small store. The hotel desk told us there were no 24 hour stores nearby. This didn't prevent us from finding several.

Red Coffee. Funnier in China then anywhere else.


On to Day 2...