My big plan was to keep the excitement of traveling in Cambodia alive as long as possible. Since I had a 12 hour layover in Beijing to not take advantage of this seemed foolish and an incredible waste of opportunity.
My intention therefore was to arrive in China, obtain a day visa, leave the airport, grab a taxi, and head to the Great Wall.
I knew that this optimistic plan was fraught with issues all of which were out of my control. Even if I could exit in a timely fashion I would then have to communicate to a Mandarin speaking taxi driver my exact destination. The fact that this destination was one of the worlds icons gave me little confidence in my success.
My next issue would be traffic. Not so much getting to the wall, as I would be heading out around 6am so figured traffic would not be so heavy, but heading back. This leg of the adventure I wondered about. Getting stuck in a jam on the way back to the airport with a non-English speaking driver to a plane that would depart at a specific time; this was cause for concern.
Then there was re-entering the airport. If that was anywhere near as difficult as getting to baggage claim then I was in for a treat. The maze of tunnels, exits, nondescript signs, and alleys that got me to baggage seemed more like a personality test than a route to collect a bag.
I could see myself camping out in Terminal B of the Beijing International Airport; much like E. Snowden in Moscow. My San Francisco bound plane flying overhead, through the brown smog, without me.
But, you only live once and who knows when this opportunity will re-surface!
I had climbed on the Pyramids at Giza when that was allowed. When people were still regularly falling off and causing themselves great bodily harm. Hence the eventual restrictions on trampling over, and access to the innards of, ancient historical artifacts.
I had marvelled at the Taj Mahal with a sense of relief that all the hype surrounding it had been accurate. It truly is one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Shining bright white and conveying a message of love and deceit ripped right out of the pages of a daytime soap.
Also back when these kinds of things were allowed.
I had entered the Colosseum before they built steel barriers and a totally out-of-place floor to demonstrate where the original floor used to be. Imagination could easily have put it there for anyone interested in attempting it. To desecrate the Colosseum with a newly constructed partial floor seemed ludicrous.
There was no climbing on or entering this man-made wonder!
All of these places are part of the 7 Man-Made World Wonders. The only one I hadn’t visited was the Great Wall. If my plan worked I would be able to visit that wonder as well.
I am not sure how the Man-Made Wonders Organization came up with those seven as I would have to think that places like Petra, Borobudur, the Potala Palace, the Acropolis, and Angkor Wat would be first-rate contenders as well.
Anyway my plan…well it was just SO not going to work. I had made one giant oversight!…if making an oversight is even possible?
I had just been in Cambodia and so my clothing was basically shorts and t-shirts. The temperature was going to plummet from 90 degrees in Phnom Penh to -4 degrees in Beijing.
Even the airport was freezing!
If it hadn’t been for the Beijing Pizza Hut and their low ceiling-ed pizza shop, that sold omelettes, I am pretty sure that all heat would have escaped upwards and out of my reach. The terminals must have a height of 150 feet easily and all made of glass. The heating system seemed non-existent and most people were wandering about like frozen zombies in scarves and double rolled turtle neck sweaters.
I longed for the luxury and comfort of the Singapore airport with its movie theaters, spas, saunas, sleeping pods, and climate controls.
I am on my way home via a 12 hour layover in Beijing. Duped by the seasons The Great Wall was going to remain out of my reach; at least this time.
For photos of Cambodia click here