We landed in China today after a 13 hour flight. As previously noted, our route took us north of the Arctic circle east and west of Alaska. We crossed back down through Siberia and then into Mongolia. Ulan Batar (the capital of Mongolia) was only barely over the horizon from us. From our cruising altitude of 37000 ft we descended into Beijing at 11:09pm local time; which was around 10:09am in Minnesota. It was a surreal experience that I will never forget.
As we landed I noticed that the city was considerably darker than I expected. Flying into Chicago Midway after dark is amazing because the city stretches out in every direction in a perfect grid shape. Beijing seemed dark by comparison and when we landed there was little fanfare at the terminal. We seemed to be the only people there. We passed through customs in a matter of minutes and found our way via tram to the baggage claim. I must say that PEX is one of the most spectacular indoor spaces I have ever seen. The architectural style is simply stunning. I'll upload pictures of it when I am able to dump pictures from my camera.
We arrived at our hotel tonight, the Dong Fang shortly after midnight and proceeded to promptly leave to find beer. We found a shop across the street that sold us 32oz beers for $2 (10 Yuan) and we proceeded to stand in the middle of the street and finish them in a matter of minutes. I bought a small bottle of a local liqueur for $4 and shared it with everyone as a "Welcome to China" gesture. I'll upload pictures of all of this as soon as I can, for now I am having to rely on my roommates computer to connect to the internet as mine doesn't have an ethernet jack and there is no Wi-Fi at this hotel.
So the flight was good, the airplane food sucked (except the chicken) and the people here have been nothing but happy to see us! Tomorrow we do Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, traditional houses, a street tour and the Hongqiao Super market!