I flew into Beijing from Hong Kong this afternoon. It was strange to get to someplace that is cold and rainy, kinda like going home to Portland. My guidebook said that the taxi people would hound you while you're inside the terminal, but that you're supposed to go outside to the normal taxi queue. A bunch of them came up to me and showed me their "offical" laminated cards. I went over to the Information booth and asked them to write out in Mandarin the location of the hotel I booked. They did that and I headed out to the taxis. I got in a taxi and he nodded when I handed him the little piece of paper with my hotel on it. We cruised into downtown Beijing and seemed to take the long way to get to the hotel. I started to wonder where we were going because the guy at the hotel said it should cost around 70 yuan, and we were up to 100. He stopped at some hotel that had a red exterior (my hotel was called Red House) and I asked the doorman where we were. "Hotel!" Super. I paid the taxi and went in. "Am I at this hotel?" I asked, showing the reception lady my book. "You're at this hotel." "Ummm,, is this 'Red House'?" "No, [some other name] hotel. You want to leave?" I looked outside and it was already dark. "How much?" "380 yuan." I used the calculator and saw it was $50. I debated about hopping in another taxi and trying to get to the hotel I had a verbal reservation at, but it was late and I was getting tired. "Ok, fine." It kinda felt like India, when I was told the hotel I wanted was burned down by the information people and then got an overpriced taxi to a hotel that wasn't super friendly. But I think for one night it's all good. Better to spend the money then wander around Beijing at night with all my crap. The room was a little small and you have to use your card to turn on the lights and the AC (which is a heater this time of year.) I did a little cursing until I realized how to turn on the lights. Then I got my pants on and took off to find a SIM card for my (Moo's phone.) I walked all the way to Tianemen Square and saw a few restaurants on the way. I mosed around the Square until a girl came up to me and started talking to me. I thought she was wanting to sell something so I lied that I didn't speak much english. It turned out she was just a friendly student or something. I found a phone store and went in. No one spoke English, and I don't speak Mandarin (more than saying Happy New Year - which isn't useful.) I used my Mandarin Phrase book to say "to call....USA" A few more people came over to try and help. A minute later there were 15 people crowded around, talking away. I had no idea what was going on. Then another cell phone materialized and I was talking to some lady in English. It turns out you need a Beijing ID card, which I don't have. And it'd cost 1800 yuan to get it all sorted. A lady there told me I should follow two employees to another store and they could help me out. I got my stuff together and took off with these two kids. We walked by Tianemen Square and by the 3rd KFC of the night. We went into another phone store, where no on spoke English. A few minutes later another cell phone was produced and I was talking to another gal in English. Same deal, no card no phone. So that sucks. I thanked them and walked out towards the restaurants. I saw one that looked pretty cheerful and went in. A table of men next to mine looked over and smiled a bunch. As I was ordering my food one guy produced a small cup and poored some white liquid into it and gave it to me. I took a sniff and realized it was some distilled grain alcohol. Not wanting to offend, I swigged it down. They all smiled as I squeeked and gasped. I remember reading that their drink here is pretty strong, either 65% or 65 proof. I think it was 65% alcohol. The guy filled up the cup again and waved. I tried to drink this, but it was too strong for me. So I had a coke. I saw what other people were eating and ordered that. I got a big plate of Kung Pow Pork with peanuts, a huge bowl of Hot & Sour soup, 2 cokes and a plate full of dumplings. All for $9. I got pretty stuffed and didn't end up finishing the soup. The guys at the next table kept looking and smiling. I drank a little more fire water each time. When they got up to leave I thumbed through the phrasebook to say "thank you" and "goodbye" They all smiled and one guy shook my hand. Which was pretty cool. I payed my bill and stumbled out of the restaurant and back to my hotel. I just looked up another hostel to go to and booked it online. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to get there, the address is in English and you need Chinese writing to give the cabbies (usually.) And there is no phone number. Hopefully it'll be pretty painless. I have all day tomorrow to figure it out.