Thursday 19 May Chengdu to Beijing

This morning we woke once again to a very foggy/smoggy Chengdu. After an early breakfast, we said goodbye to the staff at the Grand Hyatt Hotel – several of them stood outside and waved goodbye to us.

Our coach took us to the Chengdu Airport and then we lined up to check in, go through a special security gate and then made our way along a very long concourse to our gate for our 2 hours and 20 minutes flight to Beijing. We were surprised at how busy the Chengdu airport was this morning. Our flight was with China Southern Airlines on a Boeing 777 and was very comfortable. We were also surprised that such a large plane travelling from Chengdu to Beijing was full.

Beijing, which covers 16,800 square kilometres, is the capital of China and is home to China’s finest Imperial relics, as well as being our tour guide, Vivian’s home. We arrived in Beijing at 2.45pm and we had to take airport buses to the terminal, where we walked a fair distance to the baggage collection area and then waited for ages for our suitcases. We boarded our coach with our driver, John, and our suitcases were taken separately to the hotel. We then drove along a highway into the city, which took a long time because there was so much traffic. Vivian told us that Beijing used to be the bicycle kingdom, but people are now using mainly scooters and cars. We were surprised on our way from the airport to find that there are lots of trees & gardens here and also walkways across the highways & main roads. We finally arrived at our hotel, Raffles Beijing at 5.30pm – it took us longer to get from our aeroplane to the hotel than it did to fly from Chengdu to Beijing.. We were met by John, an expat Australian, who is the Ambassador for the hotel. He took us all inside this amazingly beautiful hotel and took us to an area where he had drinks waiting and chairs set out so that he could have a chat to us about the hotel and dinner arrangements and also to give us the keys to our rooms.

Our lavish room is on the 4th floor and has a separate lounge room, bedroom, toilet and bathroom and has lovely views from the huge windows in the general direction of the Forbidden City. Raffles Beijing was built in the 1900s and from the moment we walked in the door to see the lobby with its crystal chandeliers, graceful arches, vaulted ceilings and grand staircase, we were impressed. The hotel was restored in 2006 and they have done a great job, ensuring that the attention to detail has meant that this magnificent old hotel has not lost its charm. The hotel is close to the historic Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and is considered to be “the jewel of hospitality in a city of treasures”. We hadn’t realized that there are several (about 10 we think) Raffles Hotels in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South Africa.

Because we got to our hotel later than anticipated, we only had time for a brief walk to explore the outside of the hotel and then it was time for our lovely buffet dinner in the East 33 Restaurant. It was so lovely to have salad with our dinner!

Our Beijing itinerary has been changed and we are going to the Great Wall of China tomorrow, as Vivian thinks there wont be as many people there as there will be on Saturday. We are looking forward to seeing the Great Wall of China, with fingers crossed for good weather.

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