Last night, I posted a few pictures of Beijing before I staggered off to bed, too tired even to remember that we’d crossed into 2017. (Happy New Year to all of you, by the way.) Now, though, I have time for a little narrative.
Because I was boasting about the wonders of me — me! — flying business class for the first time, I should lead with a few words about Air China’s business class service on a flight from SFO to Beijing: it was wonderful! Each business class passenger has a little pod with a seat that can lie flat in the pod. It was the first time I’ve ever traveled without knee pain. The food was very good and the service superior. I’m not a good sleeper at the best of times, but I was so comfortable I managed to grab almost five hours of sleep — a record for me.
Our stay in Beijing was only for 15 hours, the length of our layover. The Chinese government, however, has instituted 72 hour visa-free transit, so it’s very easy to get away from the airport and look around. We therefore book in advance a layover tour, from Beijing Tours Guide, a company I found through TripAdvisor. I was very pleased with my choice.
The adventure starts when one tries to get out of the airport. It’s very important to choose the correct line at immigration and at customs, or else the unwary traveler can find himself trapped in the airport until his departing flight without any ability to take advantage of the layover visa. Fortunately, Beijing Tours provided clear instructions so, other than some Russians cutting in on the very long lines (something our guide explained is common for Russian travelers), we were able to get out of the airport in only 2 hours.