This arti­cle is part 7 of 10 in the series Beijing Acupuncture

Our lay­over in Seattle was mer­ci­ful­ly short, although long enough for every­one on the tour to find a restau­rant near­by and grab a meal before depart­ing for China.

Hardly any inter­state flights offer food any­more, at least for free, and the cost of the sand­wich­es they offer far out­weighs the val­ue of the meal.  This has been a boon for all the food sell­ers locat­ed in air­ports around the coun­try, as trav­el­ers rush to grab a meal between flights. Unfortunately, food found in air­port mid­ways is not much bet­ter in most cases.

However, I found a small restau­rant with a sit-down area and a respectable menu and entered behind a pair of mid­dle-aged ladies whose over­heard con­ver­sa­tion includ­ed com­ments about the tour to China.  The restau­rant was quite crowd­ed at the time, but the lady who appeared to seat the two in front of me not­ed that a table was just clear­ing and would be ready for them in a cou­ple of minutes.

As the two chat­ted and wait­ed for their table, I com­ment­ed, “So, you’re both on the tour to China?”

“Yes,” respond­ed one.  “You, too?”

“Yes,” I replied.  “I was won­der­ing.  The restau­rant is quite full and we don’t have a lot of time before our flight, would you be ter­ri­bly incon­ve­nienced if I joined you at your table for lunch?”

They looked at each oth­er and spoke almost simul­ta­ne­ous­ly.  “Why, no, of course not.  We’d love to have the com­pa­ny.  Since we’re all going to be see­ing each oth­er for the next two weeks any­way, it will give us a chance to get acquainted.”

Very short­ly, we were ush­ered to our table and our lunch was filled with mun­dane food and small talk.  I was glad that we had suf­fi­cient time for a glass of wine fol­low­ing the meal.

Leaving the restau­rant, we pro­ceed­ed to walk the quar­ter-mile to our depar­ture gate, me with my small car­ry-on and both ladies with rather large purs­es and rolling car­ry-ons.  Is it just me or do women real­ly always pack more than men when going on trips?

As we neared the depar­ture gate, we could hear the announce­ment for board­ing.  I was at least impressed by the effi­cien­cy of the tour plan­ners in sched­ul­ing the flights so that the tour group would­n’t be caught wait­ing in air­ports for extend­ed peri­ods of time.

Knowing that the jump from Seattle to Beijing would be almost twelve hours, I had upgrad­ed my seat­ing to busi­ness class.  Since my expens­es were being cov­ered, I was­n’t about to spend twelve excru­ci­at­ing hours with my knees in my chest.

As always, I board­ed behind almost every­one else and set­tled in.

As the 747 lum­bered its way to thir­ty-six thou­sand feet, I extract­ed a Benedryl from my case, downed it with a swig from the bot­tled water I had brought aboard, and wait­ed for it to take effect and help me to sleep for the major­i­ty of the trip.  Since I had been trav­el­ing most of the day already, my fatigue would be help­ful in secur­ing a lengthy nap, which would also allow me to arrive in Beijing pret­ty well refreshed and alert.

We would be arriv­ing in Beijing at 2300 hours local time.  By the time we col­lect­ed our lug­gage, cleared cus­toms, and reached our hotel, it was like­ly to be 0200 hours local.  Fortunately, our tour plan­ner had tak­en this into con­sid­er­a­tion as well and no activ­i­ties were planned before noon of our first day, suf­fi­cient time to get over the time dif­fer­ence and recov­er from a long flight.  Those who could, would undoubt­ed­ly be up ear­li­er and out for break­fast for a quick look around. Since most of the flight had been a sleep-over for me, I ful­ly expect­ed to be up a bit earlier.

It was a most­ly tired group that wait­ed to be checked into the Park Plaza Beijing Wangfujing hotel in the wee hours of the morn­ing, but the recep­tion staff were extreme­ly polite and accom­mo­dat­ing as well as high­ly effi­cient in get­ting every­one to their assigned rooms.

L.T. had been insis­tent on book­ing me as a sin­gle occu­pant, know­ing that my work there would require some pri­va­cy dur­ing cer­tain peri­ods.  It would not pay to have to be con­stant­ly explain­ing to a nosy room­mate if I need­ed to be some­where oth­er than where the tour itin­er­ary want­ed me to be.

So it was that I set­tled into a very west­ern­ized room on the sev­enth floor of an excel­lent hotel just a short dis­tance from the famous — or infa­mous — Tiananmen Square.

I imme­di­ate­ly set about putting my packed clothes into the clos­et and dress­er and arranged my toi­letries in the bath­room, ready for an ear­ly rise and brief exploration.

Despite hav­ing slept for most of the flight over the Pacific, meet­ing sched­ules and mov­ing through mul­ti­ple modes of trans­porta­tion can leave one phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly exhaust­ed, so I had lit­tle trou­ble falling into a com­fort­able slum­ber once again, after set­ting the alarm for 0730.

I actu­al­ly awoke slight­ly before the alarm was set to go off, the light stream­ing through the spa­cious win­dows of the room and the muf­fled sounds of the city sev­en sto­ries below help­ing to arouse me.

Beijing is a city that greets the day ear­ly, with the blare of auto horns and the rat­tle of bicy­cle bells.  I did­n’t know there were that many bicy­cles in the whole world!  Even at this hour, the streets were filled with cars and bikes and peo­ple rush­ing to somewhere.

I scratched and rubbed all the usu­al places, forc­ing sleep from my body and head­ed to the bath­room to show­er and shave, eager to get to the street and mingle.

It’s amaz­ing how easy it is to find a MacDonalds in Beijing and I decid­ed to break­fast on a sausage and egg sand­wich and copi­ous amounts of cof­fee, a large cup of which I car­ried with me as I walked the streets in the neigh­bor­hood of the hotel and took in the local sights.

Even today, when the city smog was at a rea­son­ably tol­er­a­ble lev­el, a light haze hung over everything.

I arrived back at the hotel about half an hour before the time at which our group was to meet in the capa­cious lob­by and secured a map of the city from the concierge.  It was time to find out where the acupunc­ture par­lor fre­quent­ed by Yeung was locat­ed.  I had three days to com­plete my plans.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.

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