We experience our first taste of China directly in the plane. Just after landing, we can notice a different ambience in the cabin as some passengers are stretching loudly while the hostess is requesting for early birds to sit down because the plane is still moving. While we wait to get out, we can see through the windows, a gray and foggy sky.
Beijing is constantly dressing itself with an annoying layer of pollution enough to disorient you about the location of the sun, as the sun appears blurry and pale when you find it.
Out of the plane, we pass some signs indicating to walk slowly—because some thermal detectors are measuring your temperature—and we arrive to the lines for immigration control. Some people are squatting while talking by phone.
Squatting anywhere is not that uncommon here. We will see it several times in different situations and we will experience it ourselves too while using the toilets—Here in China the toilets are of squat type and they usually have no toilet paper inside, you have to take it first at the entrance, if there is any left.
After some wait, the immigration check arrives: the officer takes your passport and plane tickets, looks at the papers and at you for some seconds until he finally puts some stamps, then gives you the papers back and lets you pass. Everything without a single word, no questions asked. Marvelous then, we are officially in China, tired and willing to arrive to our hostel in the middle of Beijing: It is time to take the metro.
The metro in Beijing is as full of security—with bag controls on every entry, cameras and security guards on every corner—as it is full of users—with never-ending rivers of colorful and diverse people going in and out of the clean platforms and modern trains. It is in the metro when you start realizing that you are being watched. Yes, Chinese people are not that used to Westerners and they will find you funny—in both senses. So you might raise an eyebrow while wondering if that person really just took a picture of you or not.
Going out of the metro we see some kids without shirts playing with the mechanical stairs. Their fun does not last long as the security guards immediately appear yelling, one of them with a smile, but the other keeping the serious face. On top of the stairs the mothers of the kids are also laughing, no worries here.
It is dinner time after arriving to our hostel, we decide to try some local food in a place located just in front. Before we realize, we are sitting in a table inside a dirty place, full of younger people than us yelling around buckets of chicken wing skewers and beer. I can see some bones on the floor. The waiter doesn’t speak English but we manage to order a salad and some marinated tofu. You can see someone talking to their friends in the same table in the same volume as they talk with the waiter at the other side of the room. The conversation here flows for everybody. At the end the food arrives and tastes good, we pay and go to the hostel to finally rest. So many things to process in one evening. China looks like it is going to be fun!