For some reason I had it in my head that the flight from Vancouver to Beijing was only 8 hours, 12 hours after leaving we touched down in China. Even before leaving Vancouver the culture shock was beginning to set in. I have never been on such a noisy bustling plane. Even my seat mate, a Chinese born Canadian academic, who makes several trips a year to China was a little taken aback. Things got off to a bit of a rough start while leaving the airport. Very tired and disoriented I was fleeced by a presumably unregistered taxi driver. To be fair to the driver, he was open about the rate from the beginning and I was delivered approximately to where I wanted to go at probably twice the speed I would have in a regular taxi. The drive in felt a little like playing Grand Theft Auto. All the other vehicles obediently stayed in their lanes while my driver swerved, rocketed up the shoulders and generally drove like he had little concern for his vehicle, passenger and other drivers. My hotel though very modern, was a little shabbier than expected, but is even closer to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square than expected. Its roof top patio restaurant/bar overlooks the vast compound with its pagoda roofs poking just above the massive walls and lush trees. On arrival I went for a walk to the edge of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The presence of soldiers in dress uniforms was ubiquitous marching through the parks and other gardens around the Forbidden City complex. The biggest surprise to me was the number of dogs. Everyone seems to have a pet dog, and the walkways around the Forbidden City moat are a popular gathering point for dog owners. A little more unsettling was the number of fishermen fishing the moat. There was the odd dead fish floating in the water, I hope they don’t eat their catch.