On the 40th anniversary of the day Apollo 11 lifted off from Earth for the Moon, we touched down in Beijing for the first leg of our China adventure, one also involving the Moon. Somehow, I’d always imagined the flight plan just cutting straight across the Pacific, but we flew up the West coast, over Alaska, crossed the Bering Strait, and down the eastern Russian coast – a 12-hour flight that hugged the Pacific Rim, landing at what would be the equivalent of about 3 am, Pacific Time. Interestingly, since we were flying westward, we’d been chasing the Sun, giving ourselves an additional 12 hours of daylight (and you think YOU’VE had a long day!).
It’s REALLY warm and hazy here, with today’s temperature about 90 degrees, F. and no blue sky that I could see. I hope it’s clearer in Shanghai, where it counts. Our Academy group consists of 25 people. We’ll join up with 31 others for our cultural tours, then meet up with even more eclipse-chasers in a reserved area at Dishui Lake outside of Shanghai for the eclipse itself.
Beijing immediately gives the impression of a huge, crowded city, with construction going on everywhere, high-rise buildings crammed together, and lots of big, bright, colorful, lighted signs. Johnny, our local guide, told us that automobile traffic has skyrocketed in recent years in this, the third most populous city in China after Chongqing and Shanghai. Fortunately, arriving when we did, we didn’t have to face too much traffic on the way to the hotel from the airport. The trip took somewhere around 45 minutes, but Johnny kept us entertained with plenty of useful tourist tips and information. I spotted four KFC’s along the way - the Colonel is popular here…
Tomorrow, meeting the rest of the group, welcomes, and the Forbidden City!