Well we have left Cambodia and are now in the air flying from Guangzhou to Shanghai. We had a relaxing morning in Phnom Penh – Terry got her nails done and then got lost in the Russian market before finally finding her way back to the hotel and Geoff lazed around reading in the comfort of the air conditioned room.
When we arrived at the airport, it became clear that we were indeed on our way back to China. There was a couple in the line next to us in the check-in line – sort of. She was in line with the tickets and passports and he was standing off to the side with the cart. On it he had two suitcases and six shopping bags of stuff. Clearly the plan was to carry it all on. When we got to the agent I pointed it out and rather than dealing with it there, he said maybe security would deal with it. Unreal – don’t do your job, let someone else deal with the problem. Then this same fellow gave us our boarding passes. We had prearranged our seats and had two aisle seats assigned to us. When we look at the boarding passes we have been reassigned two middle seats in different rows. We start to walk away and Geoff loses it. “Why bother to get pre-assigned seats if you are just going to give them away?” The guy calls over a supervisor and after some conversation gives us two seats together – middle and window. Still pissed, Geoff reiterates his comments and then is shown that at least we had extra leg room as it was the first row behind ‘premium economy.’
When we arrived in Guangzhou there was a sign at customs inspections: “Remove all turbans and headgear – weapon sensors at work”. Can you see that in little old politically correct Canada working?
Next up is the customs line in Guangzhou. We are in the clearly marked “Foreigners” line next to the clearly marked “Chinese Nationals.” line. This does not stop the Chinese nationals family from splitting in to two so they can get the fastest line, though. We finally get an agent who processes one person for every three the agent next to her deals with. Can you say sssslllloooowwww? Terry observes that often the female agents are much slower
After that we get downstairs to pick up our bags. Now you know how in most airports each flight gets its own carousel to offload the luggage? Not in Guangzhou. The flights from Seoul, Osaka, Kuala Lampur and Phnom Penh are ALL on the same carousel. Can you say MAYHEM?
We finally get our bags and head off to make our connecting flight. We get to the counter, they take our bags and boarding passes (issued in Phnom Penh) and just as we are ready to leave, the guy scanning the passes says “This flight is tomorrow.” No we say, it is tonight at 8:15 (it is now 7:30). We look at the boarding pass and it says 7:20 Thursday morning. We show her our flight confirmation and she says “This flight has been cancelled”. Geez, you would have thought the guy in Phnom Penh might have mentioned that when he issued the boarding passes, wouldn’t you? “Well you need to find us another flight – Terry has a doctor’s appointment in Shanghai at 10am”. “Sorry we are all booked.” “Find us a flight” – so she makes a desultory attempt to call someone over and talks to him. He gets on the phone and talks to someone else. He says he is waiting to hear if we can get on a Shanghai Air flight. And there we stand for about 20 minutes with no apparently doing anything to help us, but helping lots of others (strangely they were all Chinese and we are not…) Every few minutes they cast furtive glance our way – likely to see if we have disappeared and then quickly look away. The Chinese are masters at ignoring you. Finally Geoff says to the guy “What’s happening?” “Oh, I am waiting for one of my staff to come to take you up to Shanghai Air.” Thanks for letting us know, pal. There are 4 people doing nothing but after about 10 minutes a 5th shows up to take us upstairs. When we get there, another surly agent says something to our guy when he gives her a printout of something with our names on it. Apparently that isn’t good enough and she throws it back at him. We figure they have given the seats to someone else, but no he just has to fill out another form.
We finally get our boarding passes and our guy walks us halfway to the gate and points us in the correct direction. We still have our bags to check which causes us some concern since we are about to go through the security check with all sorts of stuff you aren’t supposed to carry on. However, despite all the forbidden stuff in our bags, the ONLY thing taken is the spent shell casing from Terry’s experience with the AK-47. Unbelievable.
We then get to the gate only to find that – here’s a surprise in China – the flight has been delayed 30 minutes, which of course turns into an hour. On the plane I get a woman in front of me who wants to recline her seat into my lap before we even take off. I say something to the flight attendant who points out that I can do the same with the little button on the seat arm.
After take off comes the announcement that they are going to serve us “Refreshments and beverages” This consists of a bag of peanuts, a white bun, 1/3 of an orange and a piece of chocolate sponge cake. Then come the beverages – “White wine please” “Oh, no wine”. All the while the woman in front of me is trying to get into my lap – my knees won’t let her. I’m sure they will be bruised, but I am making my point! “What point?” Terry says.