The journey to Beijing
I flew out from Sydney on the morning of the 22nd of May. My plane departed at 0640 and I had pretty much kept awake the entire night. After two flights, the first of which I mostly slept through as a consequence, and a quick lay over at Singapore's brilliant Changi airport, I reached Beijing at 2300 local time, right on schedule. The flights were pleasant enough. My family had insisted that I fly Singapore Airlines - their service is always above par. I ate and drank well. I tried out a new cocktail - the Singapore Sling, had a beer or two. I watched a couple of films - I watched "The secret life of Walter Mitty" again; I gave this new TV series, "True detectives" a try (It's pretty good); I finished a Poirot, "Cards on the table", that I was in the middle of reading - it's an excellent book.
I was really looking forward to quickly checking into the hotel at Beihang university - to meet the other Fedora folks that had already arrived earlier that day. Unfortunately, the subways in Beijing only function till 2300 and I was forced to look for a taxi instead. This wouldn't have been an issue, were it not for the 50 minutes I had to wait to get a taxi. I had clearly forgotten to take this into consideration when I had booked my tickets.
The organizers, Alick and Zamir, had foreseen that there may be some trouble communicating with the locals in Beijing. For example, my chauffeur didn't speak or understand English. The organizers had put together a quick guide for us foreigners, with important information printed in it in Chinese. I pointed it out to the chauffeur, and he acknowledged it with a cheerful "OK!". He seemed my age. The stereo was blaring what sounded like Chinese rock - the riffs were good. I enjoyed the taxi drive, probably not as much as the driver seemed to enjoy it, though - he had his arm out of the window, and was waving it around in sync with the music. I couldn't help bobbing my head to the beat myself.
I do remember wondering where we exactly were, though. My 3G wouldn't turn on - when you've gotten used to always knowing your location on Google Maps, it's slightly unnerving to be driven around a city as large as Beijing without having the tiniest clue about your whereabouts. I spent the half of my taxi ride philosophising how dependent I had become on technology, and how it had made me less of an optimist - I used to take taxis in India without knowing the routes, just on the basis of an unfounded faith that I'd get to my destination in one piece. There wasn't an option back then. You just had to trust the cabbie. Fortunately, nothing wrong ever happened to me, in the past, or on this occasion. I did have Zamir's number, though, and had messaged him saying I had landed and was on way to the hotel. He had replied saying that he was waiting up to get me checked in anyway. It all worked out.
The taxi cost me 114 CYN. The subway would've cost me only 27 CYN as I found out later.
We were booked in at the Beihang Training Center hotel. By the time I got there, everything had already shut down. Zamir was waiting up, since he had to wake the receptionists to check me in. After finishing up the paper work, Zamir headed back to his room to get some sleep. He needed to wake early the next day to help set up the FUDCon. I went up to my room, 827, that I was sharing with Aditya, who had already checked in earlier in the evening. I hadn't met Aditya since FUDCon KL. We did a bit of catching up and went to bed - we were both quite tired from our respective journeys.
There weren't any Fedora sessions on Day 0. The FUDPub was later in the evening and we had the afternoon to ourselves. We headed out to lunch, looking for a vegetarian restaurant so Aditya could eat. I think we spent about an hour and a half walking around the place and finally gave up. On our way back, we discovered a KFC that I ate at. Aditya wasn't too sure of the oil the fries had been dipped in and didn't eat there. As we got closer to the hotel, we discovered a Pizza hut outlet. Luckily for Aditya, it served vegetarian pizzas. Both Aditya and I got a pizza each and went back to the hotel to rest a little.
We realized we still had a bit of time on our hands before the FUDPub started at 1800. We decided to check out the Beijing Zoo and see some Pandas. We probably wouldn't get the time once the sessions had begun. Luckily, Google Maps still worked. We managed to figure out how the subway worked and headed out to the zoo. The first thing we did was head to see the Pandas:
I think there were three Pandas in three separate enclosures. It was quite hot and the Pandas were quite lazy as a result. There were quite a few other animals too. Check out my album on Flickr to see them all. We did a bit of shopping too - Panda soft toys, key rings and the sort.
We got back in time for the FUDPub which was quite near to where we were put up - Sculpting in Time. I met the other Fedora folks there - Alick, Jaroslav, Jiri, Nitesh, Somvannda and Robert. I met Emily (who was heading the Gnome side of things) Kat and David, who had come down to attend the Gnome summit.
The menu for us consisted of a set of pizzas, rice meals and some dessert to choose from. Jaroslav and I took the pepperoni pizza. Nitesh and Aditya had the Margherita IIRC. Unfortunately, the number of people was a little too much for the place to handle. I ended up eating my rice meal before my pizza came in. There was a bar available - most of us got ourselves a beer.
Once we finished with the FUDPub, we headed back to the hotel. The hotel served a local beer that cost only 3 CYN. Obviously, we had a few before we went up to our rooms. It was quite a bit of fun. We talked about quite a few things, including but not limited to Fedora. At one point of time, the waitress came up to our table and said something in Chinese. We thought she wanted us to use coasters to keep our beer on, to not dirty the table cloth - which was slightly weird. Turned out she wanted us to pay first - it had nothing to do with coasters. She got a nice lady who spoke English to come up and tell us. It was quite funny at the time, and all of us had a good laugh over the episode.
That's all we did. We went to bed quite excited about the conference the next day!