Today – A short dissertation on travel in China. (1 picture, lots of words)
Well here we are in Beijing – who’d a thunk it? Yesterday in Jiaxing it was quite warm and muggy. When you get on a bus in Jiaxing you never know if it will have air conditioning or not or whether or not the driver just doesn’t turn it on since they all have fans just above their head which keep them quite comfortable. We had just over an hour to get to the train and the bus takes 40 minutes but, due to my penchant for perspiring I suggested to Terry we take a cab. Now the cab normally takes about 25 minutes, but today, no, he takes about 12. So instead of having just a few minutes to wait before we board, we have an hour. (TIC). Our train arrives on time and away we go. We arrive in Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station at 1:46 and have a 25 minute walk to the Shanghai Hongqiao Airport Terminal 2 to check in for a 2:55 flight. So we hustle on over. Surprisingly, there is no one in line to check in for the flight so that goes very quickly and off we go to the gate.
Shanghai Hongqiao Airport is quite large (in fact you need to take the subway from Terminal 1 to 2 it is so large.) Anyway, we get to the gate and decide that we likely won’t like any meal they are serving so we get some McDonalds to hold us (yes, that’s how bad the food on China airlines can be). At 2:30 I say that I’m not sure we will be leaving since we haven’t started boarding. True enough! After a couple of delays (one for “mechanical difficulties” and one for “unusually heavy air traffic” – how does that happen? aren’t all air flights scheduled a long time in advance?), we finally board at 4:00. No problem – one hour late is no big deal. Now, I did see at one point all the luggage being offloaded from our plane, but I guess I missed it when they put it back on. So there we are on the plane and it is about 1/3 full. Now, remember, when we got to the gate, it was still scheduled for a 2:55 departure. When Terry and I boarded, we were among the last of the people to get on from seating area. However, people keep ambling in – 4:10, 4:15 still loading. I say to Terry “Where are these people coming from – if the plane had been on time they would have missed it.” 4:20, 4:25 – more people. Finally, at 4:30 they close the doors and we pull away from the gate and taxi out.
I don’t know what it is called, but we get to the “pre-take-off place” before you get to the runway and stop. The cool thing is that on they have a camera showing the runway from the bottom of the plane, so we can see any action below us. We continue to sit. Finally, at 5:15 we pull on to the runway and take off. Now, the pilot was great. You know how you usually turn that corner on to the runway and then sit? No sir. He made that turn and away we went – and that camera was still on – stayed on until about 10 minutes after take off. Lorna, you would have loved it!!
The Flight – I want to apologize to all 8 flight attendants for being on the plane. Clearly we (and I include all of the passengers) were interrupting their day – and they all made that quite clear. When the plane was still only 1/3 full, Terry had the audacity to ask for a blanket since the air conditioning was blasting full force. After a sketchy look, one went away and came back a few minutes later to tell us that they were all gone. And then, miraculously, one showed up! And as we watched around us, a bunch more showed up! Amazing. Another amazing thing – when they bring the drink cart around you get orange juice which looks and tastes just like water! Amazing.
We finally arrive in Beijing which is the largest airport in Asia, according to our guide John. I wouldn’t disagree. It went forever and we were only in Terminal 3. Took us 20 minutes to get from the gate to the baggage area, and then another 25 minutes to get to the parking lot.
When we arrived at the hotel (it was built in 1919 and was the first hotel in Beijing), we were met by a lovely young lady named Cindy who helped me with my Chinese and us with getting settled in our very lovely suite. There are two buildings which make up the hotel. We are staying in Building 7. Go figure. Sadly, the air conditioning didn’t work very well which made for a long night for Terry,
And thus endeth our journey.