By 5 a.m., I couldn't take it anymore. The “quiet hallway” turned out to be one of the main corridors that led through security. It just happened to be closed when I first had seen it. But now it was open, and there was a constant chatter of over-caffinated travelers, dragging their luggage across the floor.
The sound of suitcases rolling past my head woke me. My flight had landed in Melbourne, Australia in the middle of the night. After clearing customs, I walked outside to get my bearings, then I quickly scampered back into the airport. I had flashbacks of my night in the airport in Miami, which I wrote about in 1000 Days Between. Unlike in Miami, I found a few other backpackers, sleeping in a quiet hallway. I blew up my air mattress, crawled into my sleep sheet and joined the others in their quiet slumber.
It's amazing to think how quickly this city has grown. I met one woman who lived here in 1989. She told me that at the time, the Third Ring was the outskirts. Taxi drivers refused to go beyond it. Wolves were occasionally spotted in the nearby forests. Even Katie's Beijing guidebook, which was published nine years ago, shows the Fourth Ring as the edge of the city, and it only lists a couple of the central subway lines. Now, the Third Ring is downtown. Thirty-story highrises encompass it, and far beyond. The core of the city ends at the Fifth Ring, but a large population (including Katie and me) has spilled beyond even its reaches.