A Brief Diversion

It isn’t a good sign when the flight to an eclipse gets diverted for bad weather.  We were about 300 kilometers northwest of Beijing and had actually descended a little bit, when the captain turned northwest avoiding a bunch of thunderclouds and then came on the radio announcing that we weren’t going to Beijing, we were going to Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, because the Beijing airport was closed due to bad weather.  We proceeded another thirty minutes and landed.  I’m writing this as we are parked on the tarmac.  A few guards are standing around and some locals are taking photos.  It doesn’t seem likely that we’ll get off the plane; I somehow doubt that Hohhot has immigration facilities to handle a 747 full of diverted eclipse chasers (we aren’t the only ones on this flight).  In fact, I’m surprised that a 747 can even land here.  Although, you must keep in mind that there are probably 40 cities in China larger than San Jose that you’ve never heard of, and any city you have heard of probably has 2 million inhabitants and a big airport.  And everybody knows Hohhot.

I can actually see the sun through the haze, if that’s any consolation.


After about two hours of waiting, we took off again and got to a very empty Beijing airport.  We rejected a van who would have taken us to our lodgings for about 400 yuan, and instead took a metered taxi and got there for 100 yuan, including a generous tip.  (A yuan was $6.83 yesterday.)

The place we’re staying is known to us as “Michael’s House in Beijing”, though no Roman script is visible on the outside of the building.  It’s delightful so far — a little courtyard in the style of the hutong houses that were all torn down to modernize Beijing, and all the guest rooms immediately adjoining. The bathrooms have a kind of Formule1 feel, with IKEA shampoo in a bottle, so you won’t feel like a Ming emperor while bathing but you will feel refreshed

Time to check out their hotel breakfast.