Wow, the longest flight...EVER! But now that we're here, it was worth every second. Remind me I said that on the trip back home. We left Cincinnati on Wednesday night at 9:05. We met up with some additional travelers in LA and flew all night to Seoul, Korea. Korean Airlines was quite good in terms of service. We were given choices of western meals and Asian meals. Most of us chose the western meals but I'll get plenty of chances to eat meals native to China. More about that later. The flight attendants were very attentive and looked very put together in their uniforms. Incredibly, they looked exactly the same at the end of the 12 hour and 25 minute flight. They were very courteous and polite and most spoke pretty good English. As English is the international language of business today, most of the educated Asian s and Europeans all speak at least some English. I wish the US focused more on foreign languages in our schools.
We arrived at Incheon Airport around 3:45 in the morning. The Seoul airport is amazingly clean and gleams with care. They have women on carts that have dust brooms to keep the floors tidy. The restrooms are made of marble tile and look like 4 star hotel bathrooms. I wish mine at home looked that good. We had a 5 hour layover and I was bummed because my phone was not showing any network connectivity. And I was ready to do some work!
Arriving in Beijing at 10:35 am, I was anxious to see if my phone would sync up and it did. Yea!!!! I was also curious to see the "fog" in Beijing. It is quite impressive and I can see why this has been a concern for the athletes. We were met by Mo's mom. It is their family's condo we are staying at through the Olympics. It is very large and bright and their 19th floor condo overlooks the Olympic village and the Bird's Nest. The Bird's nest is less than a mile away but it is difficult to see it. Visibility is approximately 9/10's of a mile. Hopefully we will be able to see the fireworks and watch the opening ceremonies on television. There is an English speaking television station that is highlighting the Olympics which will make it nice for us watching. If we can stay awake, that is. The marketing for the Games is impressive. There are literally hundreds of Chinese dressed in identical uniforms that are ready to help you in any way. The venues all have maps and the city is dressed up in flags and Olympic rings lining the streets and adorning buildings. I can't wait to attend the first event.
Mo's family as I mentioned is hosting us. There are 10 of us staying in the condo and we shared many gifts with them. Her mom, brother, and cousin picked us all up from the airport and then took us straight to the local police station to register. It is required that aliens (us) register with the police if you are staying with local families. It is a security measure. In fact, the Chinese have 50,000 police making sure the Olympics are a safe place to be. Their presence is everwhere, even lining the streets at attention to protect the visitors.
Once registered, we went and had dinner at the cafeteria next door to the highrise where the condo is. We had a marvelous dinner with our hosts with stewed cabbage, chicken and vegetables, beef, eggs, soup, dumplings etc. It is common to drink beer (Tsing Tao) and it comes in very large bottles that I think are 24 oz. Interestly, the area of Tsing Tao was settled by Germans and that's why they make a very good beer. All the food (and beer) was served family style and placed on a Lazy Susan that spun around to everyone sitting at the round table. It was great fun because our Chinese hosts have a wonderful sense of humor. They were very polite too, as they watched some of us try and use chopsticks. They rightfully should have been pointing and laughing at us.
As I look around the living room a few of my travel companions are out like a light. Others are on their way after full stomachs and the Chinese beer. After all, it is 3:15 in the morning where you are and most of you are sound asleep. It is the exact opposite. It's the middle of the afternoon and I can't wait to sleep. Catch a few winks for me will ya?
Tomorrow it's off to the Great Wall of China at 6:00 am to miss the crowds and then off to the Forbidden City. After a traditional Peking Duck dinner (I'm wondering about that...) we will be off to see the Cincinnati Symphony.