Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 Asia Trip, off the coast of Japan

I’m on my way home after two weeks in Asia. It’s been a hectic trip with 8 flights, mainly because I’m flying Cathay Pacific and have to transit in Hong Kong each time. The onboard Moving Map says I’m still about 9 ½ hours away from Los Angeles and I’ve already watched one movie (Prince of Persia) and ate one meal. The flight (CX882) home is fairly full; I’ve only taken the afternoon flight once before and that was to avoid a typhoon. Once again, I’m sitting next to a family with 2 kids. It’s a Chinese couple and they have no control over their kids. Right before takeoff, the older boy (4 years old?) was messing with the tray table and the dad smacked his arm. I’m not sure what he expected but the kid started crying and screaming. The younger boy has been throwing tantrums all flight so far. I guess it doesn’t affect me too much since I can’t sleep anyway.

Back to Beijing, I think I need to continue from Friday morning. I met an ex-coworker for lunch at Oriental Plaza located at the Wangfujing subway station. She is currently working for Deloitte in Beijing and their office is in the same location. She took me to a pretty nice sit-down Shanghai restaurant (上海小南国). Last month when she was in Irvine, I paid for her lunch so she wanted to treat me in Beijing. We mainly talked about work and China. Similar to John in Taiwan, she feels like there are a lot of opportunities in Asia but the work conditions and business ethics are a lot worse compared to the US.

Oriental Plaza from across the street

Raffles Beijing is near the same intersection. Lots of cars on Chang'an Road/Street/Avenue.

After lunch, I had nothing to do so I decided to walk west on Chang’an Road towards Tiananmen Square. It took me about an hour to walk from Wangfujing station on line 1 to Qianmen station on line 2, sweating all the way. Along Chang’an Road are expensive hotels, offices for multi-national corporations, and lots of government ministries. However, I also saw quite a few migrant workers with their luggage, and beggars in each underground pedestrian crossing. There is an index that measures the wealth disparity between a country’s rich and poor. China is at the top of the list, along with a few African and Latin American countries.

Bus stop nesr Tiananmen East station. There were a lot of people in line. Buses run quite regularly in Beijing and if you have a metro card, it's only RMB0.40 per ride. One thing that's odd is that multiple buses for the same route would appear at the same time, then nothing for 5 minutes and 2-3 more would show up? Why not space them out more evenly?

Tiananmen gate from across the street. To get into the open square, you have to go through an airport style security check with x-ray scanners and metal detectors.

Changing of the guards near the flagpole. My friend said that they raise the flag each morning at around 5am. She's never been to one in 33 years.

There were a lot of tourists taking pictures, even on a hot Friday afternoon.

BTV (Beijing TV) installed these huge electronic billboards in the square during the 60th anniversary parade last year (October 1) and they're still here.

Right side screen up close. It was roped off and guarded by one guy in a Beijing TV t-shirt.

Square West Side Road (per Google Maps). It's one of the few roads where you can make a left turn while traveling west on Chang'an Road. Normally it's empty yet security guards won't let you cross until the pedestrian crossing light turns green. Sigh... why not enforce this at all the other regular intersections where everyone jaywalks?!

Qianmen gate. I was going to visit Mao's mausoleum but I was tired of walking and sweating too much already. To get to Qianmen station, I had to walk down/up three underground crossings at the same intersection.

My Beijing friend, Sindy, arranged dinner and KTV with her cousin and his wife for Friday night since I said I could sing a few Chinese songs. Just as we were getting to her car, she got a call about an emergency surgery. Sindy works for a company that reps medical supplies (artificial blood vessels) and she has to support hospitals and doctors that use their products. Usually the surgeries are pre-scheduled but occasionally there are emergencies. So on a Friday night, we had to rush to her office to pick up the needed products (expensive) and deliver them to the ER. It took us about an hour to fight through rush hour traffic to get to her office and just as we were about to drive to the ER, she got a call that the patient (traffic accident) died. That’s way too much stress for me.

By now it was too late to meet up so I took her to Bellagio, a Taiwanese restaurant near Worker’s Stadium that I’ve been to a few times. The restaurant is near Sanlitun which means lots of clubs and expats. We saw some pretty slutty looking girls at many tables; not sure if they’re just rich 2nd generation kids or ernais. Next to Bellagio were some famous nightclubs and we some some pretty nice cars parked outside.

The next morning (Saturday), I got a call from John who lives in Tianjin though he has been in the US for the past 2 months. I wanted to visit him in Tianjin but since I was leaving Sunday morning, it was a bit rushed. I ended up talking to him over the phone… trip to Tianjin will have to wait until the next time I’m in China. Instead, I was invited to Sindy’s maternal grandfather’s 85th birthday lunch. It was at a restaurant and I ended up meeting her entire extended family on her mom’s side. Everyone was really nice though I could only understand about 75% of what was said.

I saw a BMW 535i Grand Turismo on the way to the family lunch. I haven't seen one of these before in the US. Since it's new, it was probably built in Germany and costs >US$100k in China.

We got there a bit early so we walked to a nearby park. In front of the park were people selling watermelons from the back of a donkey cart... in the middle of Beijing. Don't see that in LA everyday.

Next to the park were these super luxury (supposedly) apartments that cost RMB50k/square meter. That's very expensive since it works out to ~$700/square foot. Our house in Orange was <$300/square foot and our front yard doesn't smell like raw sewage. What kind of fertilizer are you using?!

Lunch banquet. There was a lot of food, including Beijing duck. I tried only about 1/2 the dishes.

Birthday cake. It was yogurt flavored... strange but tasted pretty good.

After lunch, her uncle and her cousins went to a nearby KTV place and we sang for ~3 hours. The English song selection was rather poor so I had to sing a couple of Chinese songs. I think they had very low expectations of my Chinese skills so they were impressed that I was able to read the song lyrics, which were mostly in traditional Chinese characters.

Dang, ~9 hours left to go on the flight and my butt is sore from sitting already. I’m going to try and take a nap and continue this later.


Anonymous said...

this is not acceptable. how can you mention slutty looking girls without including some pictures??? very very disappointed in the quality of this blog.

totochi said...

Hey, I got yelled at by a flight attendant already for taking photos. I don't want a bunch of gangbangers or government officials (same difference) after me for taking pictures of their mistresses.

Anonymous said...

this blog is just a big tease! very very disappointed.

Anonymous said...

hey, this is THE anonymous poster. somebody else posted the last comment as anonymous and being too lazy to use the caps.