July 4th-6th: LA > Beijing > Kunming
My trip began on July 4th with a noon’ish flight from Tucson to LA where an 8hr layover awaited. Instead of spending time in the international terminal, Christine and I looked at a map and decided the 4 mile trek to the beach was a much better plan. Unfortunately our walk was cut short by a “No Pedestrians” sign and we wandered back to LAX where we met up with two Canadians with similar aspirations. So we hailed a cab and the four of went to beautiful Manhattan Beach with plans to meet up again in the evening to share a ride back.
Christine and I went straight for the pier, excited about enjoying our layover at the beach. We walked two miles South to the Hermosa Beach through the splashing waves and got as soaked as we could while keeping our carry-on luggage (mostly) dry. From Hermosa we meandered back through ‘The Strand’ watching the hordes of party goers enjoying this perfect 4th of July weather. Back at Manhattan Beach we found two stools at a bar on the main drag and struck up a conversation with a local. He bought us a few drinks after his tragic story of escaping pyramid scheming friends over dinner at his girlfriends place. Around 9pm we met back up with the Canadians and managed to find an extremely energetic/aggressive cab driver who sped us back to the airport in no time.
Our flight to Beijing left on time and we were able to secure emergency row seats which helped make the 12hr trip tolerable. We landed in Beijing on the morning of July 6th (July 5th did not exist for me this year due to crossing the date line) where we were met with infrared heat sensors at every turn. Each of us was zapped/scanned in the forehead when we landed and walked through at least three more checkpoints where infrared sensors monitoring our temperature levels. They are clearly serious about keeping out Swine flu and we were told high temperature readings could get you quarantined for testing. Luckily we were all healthy and allowed to wander through this brand new massive airport where we caught a glimpse of the red sun through thick Beijing smog. We ran across the rest of our group in the waiting area (their earlier flight had been routed through Mongolia) and made our introductions. The 3hr flight was uneventful and we arrived in Kunming to find our guides and bus awaiting us.
In Kunming we went straight to lunch to enjoy a mammoth bowl of noodles with various meats and vegetables to cook in it. This first meal caught my stomach by surprise and I felt a bit uneasy as we went on to explore the Cha Ma Shi headquarters / tea shop. My stomach and I were still not on good terms at dinner, which was a shame since we had an incredible spread of delicious food to choose from at our restaurant across the street from Cha Ma Shi.