Monday, November 29, 2010

2010 Beijing Trip, Home

Yawn... I had to go to work today after arriving at LAX last night so I'm really tired. In addition, I scheduled a root canal for this morning so I was at the dentist office bright and early at 9am... or 1am Beijing time.

The rest of my Beijing trip was pretty uneventful after the ski trip. Here are some more photos:

Sindy had to go to a surgery Friday morning so I slept in again at the hotel. It didn't take too long so she came back to the hotel around 11:30am. For lunch, I decided that I would cook the spaghetti that we bought on Tuesday at her parents' apartment. Their kitchen was really small and they didn't have too many pots. Anyway, the pasta is cooking on the left, I had already heated the canned sauce (Hunt's spaghetti sauce with Italian sausage), and I'm heating up the garlic bread on the right. Originally, they could not find a can opener but her father eventually found a "Swiss" army knife which had a tool that opened cans very slowly. I think it turned out okay for canned sauce; I would have preferred to cook the sauce from scratch but that would have taken too long.

After lunch, Sindy went to get her hair styled at the salon downstairs. It was a really small place but it was packed with chairs and there were about 10 hairdressers (mostly guys) standing around. Her "regular" guy was off that day so some random guy was working on her hair. It took about 20 minutes to style with a brush and hairdryer, and he finished up with some gel and hairspray. Total cost: RMB15 or ~$2.25.

For dinner, we went to a Korean BBQ place with her extended family. I'd met everyone already the last time I was in Beijing. Before dinner, we checked out her cousin and his wife's new apartment. I think they bought it in 2008 for ~RMB750k and they said it was worth almost 2 million RMB now. It was a one bedroom apartment out by West 4th Ring Road.

As usual, they ordered too much food. I think for 9 people, the total bill was ~RMB600 or about $10/person. This was not including the bottle of wine and moutai (~RMB1000) that her uncle brought from home. I think everyone was full but they ordered a few bowls of cold noodles 냉면 and stone pot rice 돌솥비빔밥.

After dinner, we went to a KTV place in the same shopping mall. The place was really crowded so we were only able to get a small sized room. It got really warm since we packed all 9 of us in there (no additional girls). I think we sang for ~3 hours and left a bit after midnight. The lobby was still packed with people waiting for a room. Crazy.

The next day, we were planning to go to Tianjin by high-speed train. I was going to visit John and Jenn but they went to Japan for the week. However, since I didn't get back to the hotel until after 1am, we got up late and decided not to go. Instead, we took a trip to Ikea. I read an article in the LA Times about the Beijing Ikea before and had always wanted to see how it compares with the huge Ikea in Costa Mesa. It took us forever to find a parking spot so I was expecting the worst. This is the entry/lobby and the store was laid out the same way as all other Ikea stores I've been to.

It was crowded. There's probably 10x the amount of people compared to the Ikea stores in LA.

Swedish meatballs! I never had them here in the US so I don't know how they compare. We got 10 and only ate 9 of them.

Almost every seating/sleeping display was covered with people Here you see 5 people on one bed, with two people laying down. It's hard to visualize the furniture in your house with all the Chinese people in the way. I'm not sure why everyone was sitting around so much... are they tired? The LA Times article said people went to Ikea to escape the summer heat but this is wintertime and it was pretty cold outside.

The cafeteria was packed full of people. They were serving more than Swedish meatballs; there were some Chinese dishes and other Western food such as spaghetti(!) w/meat sauce and steaks. We just got some meatballs for a snack and had to wait for a table.

Lots of meatballs. They were just okay. Sindy also got some strange spicy cold noodles; I think she said it was a Chengdu dish. I don't think I've ever seen it all the times I was in Chengdu.

What she really wanted was the RMB3 hot dog, which was sold next to the checkout area. It was not too good (for me anyway). We also got some RMB1 soft serve cones. While walking around, she picked up some minor kitchen items. We had these in the large yellow Ikea shopping bag. Not knowing the checkout process, I put the bag on the conveyor belt. Typically in the US, the cashier would probably ask you nicely to take the items out and put the bag in a bin in front of the conveyor... perhaps he/she would even do it for you. However, this is China so you get Chinese customer service. The cashier basically threw the bag at me and rudely yelled at me to take the stuff out of the bag. WTF? Up until that point, I could have been at an Ikea in the US... except for the thousands of Chinese people in the store. Sindy also asked her politely if she could use her credit card to pay for the 3 items. This same cashier gave her an annoyed look and pointed at the card reader. Sheesh... if this was in the US, I think I easily could have her fired. If that person worked for me in any type of customer service role, I would have fired her.

For dinner, we went to a Sogo department store near my hotel. The original plan was to go to a steakhouse but we ended up at the food court. Like most food courts, you have to purchase a meal card and deposit some money. When you're done, you have to line up again to turn in the card and get a refund on any money that's left on the card... pain-in-the-ass. Not learning my lesson, I got a bowl of noodles with BBQ pork and it was just as bad as the bowl I got at Vancouver Airport. Very disappointed.

Sindy bought some cold noodles and a bowl of something. It was not that good either but better that my bowl of crappy noodles.

The next and last morning in Beijing, I was woken up by what sounded like war but turned out to be fireworks celebrating a wedding... twice. It was really really loud. I packed, went to Sindy's parents' apartment to pick up more stuff to bring back to the US, and had more homemade dumplings for lunch. Her dad made 100+ dumplings and wanted me to take some back to the US. Hmm, raw meat... yeah, that would be easy to bring across the border.

My flight was delayed about an hour when I checked in online. When I got to the airport, the display board didn't show the delay... panic! Turned out the display board was not updated. We ended up having some mechanical issues which delayed us for another hour at the gate. This was my flight: AC030 from PEK to YVR on a Boeing 767-300.

I ended up having ~30 minutes to connect to my YVR to LAX flight but I posted about that already. This was sunset at ~5pm as we were coming in to LAX.

At every other airport outside US, even at places like Chengdu and Sanya (Hainan Island), they have free luggage carts available. At LAX, you have to pay $4 (except for Bradley). I saw puzzled looks on foreign visitors' faces as they try to unsuccessfully grab a cart from the stack.

As I was waiting for my check luggage, this girl walked by wearing a pageant ribbon with "Marissa" written on the back, which I assumed was her name.

Intrigued, I tried to get a front shot from across the room at max zoom. The sash read "Miss South Col...something"... don't know if she was coming back from somewhere or attending a pageant in LA.

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