Japan & China, Day 7: The Day We Traveled to Beijing Without a Visa

Day 7 - Wednesday, 9/17/14

We were up by 6:00 AM for our last few hours in Japan. We got our luggage mostly situated, and then headed downstairs for breakfast. There were a few different restaurants at the New Miyako Hotel. There was a Japanese restaurant, we had eaten at the Western restaurant the previous morning, and we decided to try the Japanese/Western restaurant for our last breakfast. We grabbed some food that was labelled 'Tofu Nuggets', but it tasted like seafood, so I only tried one bite. On my next trip up to the buffet, I saw that some of the food items had pictures and additional details about the ingredients. The Nuggets had seaweed, which would explain the seafood flavor (but I just don't like things that taste like the sea, vegetarian or not), but they also had pork. Sheesh. Asian food and its misleading tofu dishes. ;-) There was one person from our original tour group who would be traveling on to China with us, so Judy joined us for breakfast.
We went downstairs where there was a shopping center in the hotel basement to do some last minute browsing - I'm glad we did because we didn't end up with much time at the airport later.  Our departure from the hotel was scheduled at 9:55 AM, so we boarded the airport taxi then. We were charged 1,000 yen for "extra" luggage - we only had one carry-on and one one larger piece of luggage each. :P It was over an hour and a half drive to the Kansai airport.
We got in line to get our boarding passes and had to explain why we didn't have Visas. You can only visit China for less than 72 hours without a full visa.  We only planned to be there for two full days, and we had arranged everything with our travel agency ahead of time. We didn't have any issues, but things didn't start off as smoothly as I'd expected at first. She gave us some documentation to present once we got to China.

We saw that the Starbucks was featuring a Caramel Pudding Frappuccino, so we tried one of those while we waited to board our plane. Francisco makes fun of me, but I love trying the foreign menus of traditional Western chains!  This was really interesting to drink because it comes with actual chunks of custard pudding.
We were scheduled to depart at 1:50 PM and arrive by 4:00 PM, and we actually ended up boarding a little early for Beijing.
And then we were served even more bad airplane food. I've gotta say that one of the perks of being a vegetarian is we generally get our food before everyone else since they distribute the "special meals" first.
Making our way to Immigration and Customs, we saw that there was actually a special line for 72 Hour Visa Waivers here, so we were able to bypass the main lines and collect our luggage a little quicker. We met our new tour guide, Sandra, and waited for Judy to make it over to us.
The drive from the airport to the Doubletree Hilton took about an hour and a half. It was rush hour, but we soon learned that it was basically always rush hour in Beijing. The smog surrounding the city had been obvious even from the airplane, but we definitely noticed it as we drove through the city.
At the hotel, we munched on our complimentary cookies and we were again asked why we didn't have visas and explained we were only staying a couple days. This is still a relatively new rule, so I guess it caught some people off-guard. Some Chinese man came up to the front desk and was screaming at the employees behind the counter. We had no idea what was going on, and I discreetly asked Sandra if everything was okay, but she didn't really offer an explanation as to what he was so upset about.
We finally made it up to our room, munched on some leftover snacks and went to bed. Traveling is exhausting!


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