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September 16, 2001
Brisbane to Beijing (Russell)

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A sunset farewell to Tangalooma

We recall from our arrival in Australia that we experience a great deal of anxiety, stress, and culture shock every time we move from one country to another.  Today's transitional shock was greatly increased by the stark contrasts between China and Australia.

Our last day at Tangalooma on September 15 was a wonderfully relaxing day at the beach, considering that we had to vacate our room and most of our baggage by 10:00 AM.  We simply put our carry-on bags into temporary storage and relocated ourselves to the beach.  Gail, with help from the boys, created a wonderful sand dragon that had other people stopping to look.  We were able to play two more rounds of tennis and some more archery.  In addition, we took a couple of kayaks out to the Tangalooma Wrecks where we hand-fed the fishes.  All in all, it was a wonderful finale to our Australian adventure.  When we boarded the ferry back to the mainland, we realized that it would be our last Pacific Ocean sunset -- in fact, our last view of the Pacific Ocean at all until we return home.

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The sand dragon

On arrival back in Brisbane, we discovered with humor that the resort had taken our abandoned Styrofoam eski and shipped it with the rest of our luggage, thinking that we had forgotten it.  Luckily, we found a family from Tasmania who was willing to take not only the cooler but our other leave-behinds as well (jackets, water shoes, etc.) and donate what they couldn't use.

From that point, things started to go less smoothly.  Although we got to the airport by 6:30 PM, everything was pretty much closed down, and Singapore Airlines wouldn't re-open for several hours.  Unable to get rid of our bags or advance to the Business Lounge, we parked in a waiting area and ate at the only restaurant that was still open.  By the time we finally made it through ticketing after 9:00 PM, the boys were falling asleep.  We had to wake them up again in the lounge to board the plane at midnight.

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Singapore Airlines Business Lounge at midnight

Joss fell back asleep immediately, Cam discovered the onboard video games and had to be forced to shut down, Russell (as usual) had no trouble getting to sleep, and Gail (as usual) didn't get any sleep at all.  The flight from Brisbane was seven and a half hours, followed by a two-hour layover in Singapore on the morning of September 16th.  (At the airport, we met an American family who had just completed a vacation in India.  Due to the current situation they have been unable to return to the States, so they were trying to figure out where to go next.)

The flight to Beijing took another five and a half hours.  The boys sat together and played onboard video games.  Russell had picked up several newspapers and magazines in Singapore, and he and Gail looked at page after page of New York photos with many tears shed.

We arrived in China at 2:30 PM on September 16th completely worn out.  Joss already began to show signs of stress during the long line at Border Patrol, so we were very pleased when our guide, Kitty, showed up to meet us outside of customs.  Kitty has been a Beijing tour guide for two years since graduating college (and after ten years of learning English), and her English is great.  She will be our guide for the duration of our stay in Beijing.

We took a twenty-minute taxi ride to the Xinqiao Hotel, blocks away from Tian An Men Square.  Where Tangalooma was sunny and bright, Beijing was completely overcast and grey.  Everything -- the buildings, the streets, the sky -- looks like it needs to be washed.  Where Tangalooma was quiet and peaceful, Beijing was completely noisy and chaotic.  Gail remarked that there was more English signage than she expected.

Kitty left us to our own devices just after checking us into the hotel.  This turned out to be a mistake, as we discovered that our two adjoining rooms do not adjoin.  After an unsuccessful attempt to get this corrected at the front desk, we resigned ourselves to having one adult sleep with one child in each of the rooms.

Dinner was on our own, so we went out exploring the streets of Beijing around the city.  Some of our observations:

Gail rejected Russell's suggestion that we grab dinner from a street vendor.  We almost gave in to the boys and had dinner at a KFC, but the family completely freaked out when we walked in and discovered that everything was in Chinese.  So we trudged back to the hotel and ate dinner at the onsite cafe.  In all, we made it about two blocks away from the hotel.

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Our first dinner in China...NOT!

Beijing is two hours earlier than Brisbane, so we retired early.  Tomorrow we will begin to explore the city for real.  Luckily, we will have a guide to show us the way.


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