I spent my last day in Beijing feeling a bit foggy. Yesterday had been a long day, so I was a bit frustrated when I found it difficult to sleep. The wind had kicked up during the night, and was busy whistling through the hallway outside my door, which connected the courtyard to the lobby of the hostel. On its way through the corridor, the wind was either slamming the doors open and closed, or whacking the hanging scrolls of calligraphy against my wall, making a loud and constant knocking noise. It was fairly maddening. Anyway, I think I managed about two or three hours of uneven sleep between gusts of wind.
The upside of all of this was that today was a gorgeous day. The wind had swept the city of its blanket of smog, leaving the sky clear and blue, and the air smelling fresh. There was a beautiful autumn crispness to it all that I didnÂt expect to experience in Beijing.
Because it was impossible to sleep anyway, I grabbed my camera and went into a back alley market to check out the scene. The place was just coming to life at around 7am, and there were plenty of photo opportunities. ItÂs too bad that my camera was as dead as a brick when I tried to turn it on. That was a bit worrying since I had just put a freshly charged battery in the day before. I went back to the hostel and tried a different battery. The camera worked again. What a relief! I guess the camera must have been on and been lying against something causing it to constantly try to focus or something. ThatÂs the only explanation I can come up with.
Armed with a now functional camera, I headed back to the hutong market. Shooting the market was a blast. People were curious about the camera. One man came up and wanted to give it a try. I showed him how to use it, and he snapped a couple of photos. He was thrilled. I did a closeup portrait of him afterwards. When he saw me later on, he gave me a ham and egg sandwich heÂd just bought from the bakery.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The rest of the afternoon was pretty uneventful. I walked to the mall with the Canadian girls so they could get a cup of coffee from the fairly decent cafÃ© there. After that I had a late lunch at the wonton (yuntun) place. I killed the rest of the afternoon reading my guide book to try to fill in the gaps in my itinerary. Soon enough it was 4pm and time to go to the airport to catch my flight to Huangshan airport in Tunxi.
When I say Âtime to go to the airportÂ IÂm being very conservative. I left plenty of time to get there for my 6:50pm flight. I didnÂt know what to expect with traffic and other delays. Coming into town on Tuesday, it took almost two hours to get from the airport to the hostel. This time, only took 30 minutes to get to the airport. Even though the airport was packed with people, it seemed to be a pretty efficient operation. I was through security and waiting at my gate with well over an hour before I had to board my flight. Soon enough, I was dozing in a chair in the lounge. When I woke up, they were announcing my flight. I was expecting the worst from Air China. IÂd heard horror stories about Chinese airlines, so I have expected to see chickens fluttering through the cabin as a wing trailed flames and smoke, having to stand because someone stole my seat, and the cabin crew shouting obscenities at everyone. In reality, it was one of the best flights IÂve ever had. It left precisely on time, the airplane was clean and modern, the seats were spacious and comfortable, and the service was impeccable, in Chinese and in English. Also, now I know where China is hiding all of its best-looking women. TheyÂre all in the air serving as flight attendants. There was a swarm of four of them serving drinks and snacks on the plane, and all of them looked like supermodels. Not bad at all.
The plane landed at Huangshan airport at about 8:30pm. I collected my luggage and spotted the taxi driver that the hostel had sent to pick me up. He was busy shouting into his cell phone so I didn’t really talk to him much. We eventually arrived at the hostel, which is a bed and breakfast housed in a four-bedroom apartment on the fifth floor of a grey apartment block downtown. The host Steven gave me some travel tips about the area and offered to arrange my travel for the next few days at a nominal fee. My room has two tiny single beds and an ensuite bathroom and shower. ItÂs nothing fancy, but it’s spotlessly clean and quiet.
Tomorrow I’m taking a taxi tour to three villages in this area. It’ll be wonderful to get into the country for a while.Â