When I awakened on September 1, 2015 I'm fairly certain that we were flying over Manchuria or some area of Northeastern China.
The landscape below us was dotted with clusters of high-rise apartment buildings with connecting roads and streets. I noted that the skies around us were clear and blue with the sun setting in the western horizon.
Our descent into Beijing Capitol International Airport was standard procedure and uneventful. I made it a point of expressing my thanks to the flight crew. The experience -especially the food served us- was one of the best.
I grabbed my carry-on luggage and followed the other passengers as we disembarked at 6:20 p.m./ 18:20 p.m from CA Flight 982.
As I followed everyone I noticed a young Chinese man smiling at me. His name was Mr. Hao Xiaochen who welcomed me in English. Xiaochen was with the Chinese People's Association for Friendship With Foreign Countries. He took my bags.
We departed from the other passengers and I was conducted to a nondescript elevator. Down we went.
When the door opened we were greeted by security officials who took my passport and luggage. The others and Xiaochen were all-smiles, very pleasant and asked me about my flight. It turned out that I was in a receiving area reserved for VIPs, including heads-of-state and diplomats. I felt like I was in a James Bond 007 movie.
During the whole time I was preoccupied that at long last I had arrived in China. Was I excited? Absolutely.
My passport and luggage were returned to me. Xiaochen led me outside to a car and driver waiting for us.
One thing I noticed -this time from the ground- that the skies were clear. In the Western media we are often treated to images of Beijing cover in shrouds of polluted cloud cover. Such was not the case this time. I learned later that the government banned all outside fires and factory-based burning within a 500-mile radius of the capitol.
We boarded our official car and off we went to Beijing. I rode in the backseat. Chinese music played on the radio. The smell of cigarette smoke seemed everywhere -not unlike a ride in a New York City taxicab. As the sun continued to set I gazed outside at the traffic all around us. Xiaochen and the driver conversed together in Chinese. I was not bothered by this at all, preferring to soak in everything around me.
I'm not certain how long it took us to get to central Beijing. Eventually we arrived at the Grand Hyatt Beijing at Oriental Plaza at 1 Chang An Avenue. Security guards were stationed around the perimeter of the hotel. I would learn later that this was where all the visiting dignitaries were staying -very conveniently located near the Forbidden City, Tianaman Square and the Great Hall of the People.
|The Grand Hyatt Beijing at 1 Chang An Avenue.|
|This is the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Beijing.|
I was warmly escorted by both Hao Xiaochen -carrying my luggage with a smile- and Ba Cuicui to my room. She would be staying in the hotel during my stay, making herself available 24/7 for me and other invited dignitaries. Xiaochen received my heartfelt thanks as I bid farewell, settling into my room to freshen up.
|This was the view outside my room in the Grand Hyatt Beijing.|
|My first selfie in China! Not too bad for someone who's a bit jet-lagged after 13 hours in the sky.|
An evening buffet dinner was being served in the Grand Ballroom on the LG floor, according to my itinerary.