Shangri-La Hotels welcome in Beijing China.
Read our previous posting “Air Canada from Toronto to Beijing China!”
It is actually Monday 03SEP12 at three in the morning when I start writing this post. Lynn is sleeping in our suite at the Shangri-La Hotel Beijing but, as was always the case when I traveled the world on business, I am up in the middle of the night the day of arrival. There is no logical reason I should have this jet lag, given how well I behaved on the plane. I did not have any alcohol to speak of (although I was compelled to have some port with the appetizing cheese course), I had plenty of sleep on the very comfortable Air Canada business class bed. The flight although long was uneventful and without turbulence, and I made sure to give plenty of sunshine to my eyelids for the three hours preceding landing in Beijing, by raising the window shade and staring at the mountainous Mongolian terrain, so that my body clock would be set on daytime. I even passed on the wonderful opportunity to watch one of the many french movies on offer on board! All to no avail. Oh well; here I am and there is Lynn, sleeping like a baby, which is what she did on the plane as well.
I have just spent the past hour trying to find a way around the block which Google has put on my blog and my blogger.com account; I am pretty handy with computers but I have been unable to beat that one. Google just refuses to let me access my blog from China. So, as a last resort, I have created a new blog on a different blog site and will have to notifiy everyone of our new trip blog web location. (PUDATE: Our blog is now located at www.bonvoyageurs.com).
Arrival in Beijing went smoothly. The Beijing airport is so much bigger than I remember it as. Our guide and our driver were there waiting for us as we exited the baggage claim area. A relief in itself, as this is the first time I am using this particular Chinese travel agency, China Highlights, and I was not totally sure of what was in store for us. The car they have for us is a Volkswagen, but nothing like any Volkswagen that I have ever been in. I first thought it was an s-class mercedes and had to double check. Luxurious, big, comfortable, with a bottle of water by each of our seats and a welcome bag with a number of useful things in it like maps, guidebook, inflatable pillow, towelettes, luggage tags, etc.. I knew then I had chosen correctly the travel agency to handle our logistical needs during our stay in China.
Jeff (easier to say than his real Chinese name) is our guide and Liu Tong Yen our driver. Jeff talked the whole way into town, telling us about the China and the Beijing of today and checking on our plans for the next day. The Beijing airport is located northeast of the city while our hotel, the Shangri-La Hotel Beijing, is located on the west side, next to the third ring road (an easy way to locate yourself in Beijing is by positioning yourself relative to which ring road you are close to; they start from the city center and expand outwards). So this is about a 45 minute car ride. Along the way to the Shangri-La Hotel, I mentioned to the guide how surprised I was not to have seen one bicycle yet, only cars, and lots of them. Jeff told us that there are now more than five million cars in Beijing, a city which was built for far fewer, and they have now implemented Singapore-style restrictions on car access to the downtown area. Your license plate number determines which days you have free access to downtown; on the other days, you will be fined.
I think Jeff said that the government is limiting the supply of cars because of the limited infrastructure. A lottery system has been put in place to determine who will have the right to buy a car!
As we make our way to the Shangri-La Hotel past an untold number of high rise apartment buildings, I ask Jeff whether China still enforces the one child policy. It seems it is still very much in effect. Only one child per family gets a social insurance number, and there are now at least 13 million chinese who don’t really exist. I have no idea where he got that number; how do you count people who don’t exist. The point here is that those children don’t have a social insurance number, they cannot get an education, or receive any other government services. Some rich families are able to pay a lot of money to get their second child registered but that is rare, given the cost.
We finally pull up at the Shangri-La Hotel. My first surprise comes when the porter opens the car door and says “Welcome back, Mr. Gagnon”. Wow! I am impressed; last time I was here, at the Shangri-La Hotel Beijing, was something like fifteen years ago, and this porter does not look much older than 15. This welcome is a sign of a well managed hotel. Little did I know what was in store for us. We make our way up to the twelfth floor and the Horizon Club for check in. Despite the very hospitable welcome we are receiving from the five staff members attending to us, I am a little bit frustrated as they don’t seem to know the whereabouts of the package containing my Chinese cell phone and my Chinese mobile internet hotspot.
We are finally escorted to our room on the sixteenth floor. I am surprised when someone from the inside opens our hotel room door. We walk in and find three Shangri-La hotel staff members had been waiting in our room for us. They have all sorts of gifts for us.
There is a cake on the coffee table with a “Happy 40th Anniversary” sign made out of chocolate. There is a box of dark chocolates, a platter of fruit, a vase of flowers, as well as the traditional welcome tea.
They even have set rose petals on the bed in the shape of a heart, as well as rose petals in and around the whirlpool in the bathroom. Wow! Out comes the camera for some pictures, including one apparently for the hotel newsletter; was I that good a customer for them back then? More likely than not, it is just the Shangri-La Hotels way of doing things, which is why the Shangri-La hotel chain has been my hotel of choice in China for all those years.
All that was left to do to complete this day was to order jing jiang rou si (shredded pork with pancakes) from Shangri-La room service.
Read what happens next at “Beijing China … A hutong and the Olympic Park!”
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