My brother Ryan gets here today! I’m really excited to welcome him to China and share his experience of this amazing place. We spend the beginnings of the day getting caught up with work and laundry. It’s another beautiful, warm Beijing day, which is a surprise this late in October, but we nonetheless enjoy what the Universe has given us. The view from the rooftop deck of our hutong home is really fun. You can see over the whole neighborhood, as the rolling roofs flow all around like a dragon’s tail. It’s the best place for cats to be as well, and it’s nice to have some furry friends rummaging around. Ryan’s plane doesn’t get into until 3, so we finish work, go out for a walk and find some lunch. Around 330 we head out toward where he will meet us at the subway station. I’ve given him instructions and an address in Chinese that will allow the taxi driver to drop him off at a specific location. Ben and I go out to the location a little early to make sure we can find it, and set up on the stoop of the subway.
Ryan sends me a text that he just landed, so about an hour later, we start looking for him. The communication from him stops coming, so I assume that his network isn’t operating correctly, or that he has run out of power. In either case, I get a bit worried because he hasn’t shown up, hasn’t called, and his Chinese language is basically non-existent. Although I’m not sure of his whereabouts, and it is getting cold fast, sitting on the corner of the subway and watching Beijing life go by is fascinating. Old people, young people, fashionable people, people in their dirty construction work clothes. Life in Beijing, in all of it’s color, sound, and taste, goes by on the street, as we sit there stationary and soak it all in. The Chinese are a proud and determined people, and you can see and feel the zest that they have for life in every smile, in every excited and animated phone conversation. The horns blare, the bikes and scooters roll by, and Beijing exists just as it should; the busy, beautiful, exciting capitol city that it is.
Ryan finally shows up in the cab, as the driver drops him off right where instructed, and I give him a big hug, happy to see him. He’s a bit loopy after traveling for about 20 hours straight, as expected. He has booked a hotel room at the nearby Eclat, a futuristic and funky looking building right around the block. I grab his fiddle and bag and we head off down the block. He booked this room to have a nice easy transition into Chinese life, with a bit of luxury and ease to smooth the path, which was a good idea. The hotel is gorgeous, filled with art from Dali, Warhol, and many others.
The owner is an art collector and has filled this space with some amazing pieces of work. Each floor has it’s own unique theme, and they have booked his room on the white floor. As we get up to the floor and the elevator doors open, a white statue of Chairman Mao greets us. The room is posh and modern, coming equipped with a massage chair, giant soft bed, a stocked refrigerator, and even a lamp that turns on and off with a laser gun. This is a side of Beijing that we have yet to experience on our Banjo Earth budget. From hutongs to hostels, the Eclat displays a level of Chinese innovation and elegance that we are unfamiliar with. It’s nice to see this side of things, even though I prefer to see the real life of family living in the old and back-alley neighborhoods.
They have a complimentary happy hour for guests, a fantastic idea whose time has come, I might add, so we get him settled into his room and head down to the lounge to partake. I have a delicious margarita, Ben gets a gin and tonic, and Ryan opts for the Martini. It’s really nice to catch up, as I haven’t seen him in over 3 months. We enjoy our drinks, the company, and the people passing by. It’s cool to see him in this foreign and exotic land, and watch the effect on his soul taking place. Afterward, it’s time to hit the streets. He’s a combination of tired and excited, so I want to take him to see just a couple of interesting destinations. We start with Wangfuging, a touristy but hip section of town close to Tianenman. There we find some scorpions on a stick, lamb meat skewers, and all kinds of interesting things to ingest. It’s a nice way to start his China adventures.
Then we take a walk over to the Forbidden City and Tainenman Square. The palace is beautiful at night as it is lit up like a beacon to lost ships. Mao’s gigantic painting over the front is entrance is always there to remind of China’s interesting history. Given the past, it’s one of the coolest things for visitors to check out, and really easy to get to. So we take a few pictures, enjoy the view and the scene, then venture back to the Hotel Eclat. I get Ryan to bed, then catch a taxi back home. It’s getting late, and we have a very early date with a Chinese Rap performance (which is actually old people singing stories and playing classical Chinese instruments), so it’s off to bed, Banjo Earth style.