Weary Travellers

Travel Update: Beijing, Day 4

We took it easy on our last day in Beijing. Our flight was scheduled for 8:30pm, meaning that we could spend most of our day wandering around the city.

We checked out of our hotel, stowed our luggage with reception, and headed out in search of food. We wandered down Wanfujing Road, a major thoroughfare near our hotel. It was there that we gave in to temptation.

There are a few Western fast-food brands that seem to be doing very well in China. Regular readers of this blog have already seen our visit to McDonald’s. The golden arches are everywhere, which is hardly surprising. What is surprising (at least to me) is the ubiquity of the Colonel. KFC is everywhere, and their locations are always packed. It was just such a venue that we decided to explore for our last breakfast in the PRC.

KFC Menus
We were so busy fighting for seats that I didn’t even snap a decent photo.

KFC outlets were everywhere in the cities that we’ve visited in China. They appear to be far more numerous, and far more densely packed, than they are back in Vancouver. The success of KFC is dwarfed, however, by the ascendency of Häagen-Dazs. Never before in my life have I seen so many ads for gourmet American ice cream with faux-Scandinavian branding. They sell it in nearly every grocery and convenience store that we’ve seen, and we’ve managed to stumble across several retail locations in each city we’ve been in. Häagen-Dazs is inescapable here.

As it happens, Kat and I stopped in to a Häagen-Dazs store to cap off our first full day in China. A combination of poor memory and chocolate-induced coma prevented me from informing you of it at the time. I suppose that now is as good a time as any to redeem myself.

Häagen-Dazs loves chocolate almost as much as it loves linguistically-questionable umlauts.

Where were we? Right, KFC. It was all right. After feasting on a variety of deep-fried-chicken-based products we went in search of improved luggage for The Missus, who had arrived in the PRC with a duffel bag that was more hole than whole. We found a fancy department store just down the street. Wanfujing is a fairly fancy street, which (in China) is not mutually exclusive with being covered in KFC outlets.

The store used a federated structure that I’ve seen a lot in China. Unlike the Bay (a popular Canadian department store), where all employees are Bay employees, each section of floorspace was dedicated to a single brand, and a brand representative did the job of trying to sell you the goods. I imagine that this is a somewhat-more-aggressive version of how high-end cosmetics are handled in Canada, except that the whole store operated like this, including the candy and luggage areas.

Anyways, The Missus ran the gauntlet of luggage salespeople, chose a piece, and headed back to the hotel to consolidate her luggage into this new container. Kat discovered that the ground-floor lounge served drinks and I discovered that it came with free wifi, so we resolved to rest in air-conditioned bliss for a little while.

Ladies Packing
Well, I rested. The ladies got to packing.

While we were there we put in a Skype call to our good friend Shawn Nakashima, who is far too hardcore to be asleep at 2am (in his local timezone). The Missus and I were very excited to be able to talk to our good friend back home. We talked about our trip to China as well as our upcoming trip to Japan. It would be awesome if Shawn (or, as he is better known, Naka) could join us.

After repacking and Skyping and so on we decided to head out in search of a highly-recommended night market that apparently opens at 3pm. I suppose “afternoon market” doesn’t have the same level of caché. We did not find it, but we did find some bikes where we thought that it should be.

If the bikes had been for sale, we could have called this a partial success.

We returned to our hotel defeated, but in good spirits. Hoping to miss Beijing’s rush-hour subway traffic (which appears to last for five hours), we decided to head up to the airport early and relax. So we did. Soon we were lounging in a café situated next to our departure gate, eating lasagne and melon and burgers and such.

Beijing Day 4 Dinner
The Western food soothed our souls.

We got on our flight, which was uneventful. It did have one highlight, though:

Airline Häagen-Dazs
I told you, it’s inescapable.

Our plane touched down in Hong Kong mere minutes before midnight. From this point on, Kat and were practically old hands. We hailed a cab, got to our apartment, and went to sleep.

Tomorrow is orientation day at HKU. We’re hoping to take things a little slower once we’re in Hong Kong, so I’ll probably be transitioning to a weekly update schedule.