Bent But Still Silly-Happy

17 Jul 2013

Sitting in the terminal lounge of the Beijing International Airport after an eleven and a half hour flight direct from Sydney. Current feelings are a mix of inexplicable excitement, relief, and a bit disappointed. All of which are tempered by feeling generally quite manky after being in a plane that had the air condition set to REFRIGERATE ALL THE THINGS and then walking out into a balmy non-air-conditioned airport lounge. Ew.

Not helped by my deodorant being in my checked on luggage and the only anti-mank things that are on sale are from Gucci or Dior priced roughly in the “well I could smell amazing or I could service my Ferrari” price bracket.

The sweating wasn’t helped by the fact that the kind and extremely forgiving Chinese Customs Officers found my pocket-knife in my carry-on luggage. Nice work Sean. I honestly forgot I had it in there and it failed to be noticed on my flight from Brisbane to Sydney, and then again when I went through the security check for Sydney to Beijing. Needless to say I promptly wet my pants and apologised. I was politely but sternly advised that it was not allowed and it disappeared into the customs bin, never to save the day again. It was a gift from my parents so I’m pretty bummed about losing it, especially like that, but that was the end of it so I guess that goes in the pro-tips section and we’ll leave it at that.

The flight wasn’t too bad for the price though, the seats were comfy enough, we all had individual screens and access to eighty odd movies from The Hobbit to Moby Dick starring Gregory Peck. Plus a stack of TV shows and some music. We had dinner and breakfast and drinks in between. Plenty of duty free goods were on offer, if you were in to buying boxes of smokes on a non-smoking airplane.

Also this is probably standard fare, but they didn’t let a single person on board until all of the parents with children were accounted for and seated on the plane. If you’re running an airline, DO THIS. Some entitled little prat behind me was complaining but it makes so much sense it hurts. It seems to me that it would save an incalculable amount of frustration as the people with the potentially most complicated seating arrangements (I call it that because they’re trying to seat something that is liable to just run off to see what’s behind a curtain or in a cupboard) can just get on with it, without the hassle of 150 other people trying to throw luggage around and get comfy around them.

We were also provided with a nose cam for the take off and landing so if anything went horribly wrong we’d get to see what we were about to run into. Bonus? The flight proceeded uneventfully, we were given pretty decent meals for the cheap seats. What we had for breakfast (Chinese or Western) was decided for us by the attendants as they just gave us the latter if we looked like a westerner, can’t really fault them on that. The ommlete looked a bit shifty but was a welcome treat after the 7ish hours of terrible broken sleep and dehydration. The constant supply of fruit juice was pretty awesome, and watching people deal with the giant piece of pink grapefruit was hilarious.

Just a tip for anyone flying Air China, eat with haste. There is another pass made by the attendants that occurs not long after meals have been handed out that collects the various pieces of detritous and it’s hard to get the attendants attention to come and collect it afterwards. It’s possible, but just make it a swift meal and be ready then everyone wins.

Though the demand of all mobile phones being off regardless of having an airplane mode makes me sad, since that’s where all my music is.

boarding soon…. yay! That guy has been cleaning the check-in desk for forty minutes, seriously.

One of the things that struck me as I entered the Beijing airport was the sheer size of the place (photos will be provided). This place is truly vast. This starts to sink in when you realise you’ve been walking for ten minutes after getting off the plane and you’re not at the transfer desk yet. After that is the security maze, through one set of passport stamping doors down through to the security area where you have to traverse various belted pathways to the scanning station. Before wandering past about 30 empty customs desks to the other terminal where it’s another ten minute walk to my boarding gate.

Everything talks to you here too, the advertising, the travellators, the lifts, coffee machines. Everything. Remember the sign boards in Firefly that notice when you’re walking past and starting talking to you? Yeah, the escalators and travellators do that. They politely ask you to be safe in Mandarin (I’m assuming that from the tone), then yell at you in English to not be a dick. It’s pretty hilarious.

Still, for my first ever foray into a foreign country, sitting in the terminal waiting for my connecting flight is a bit of a let down. But I’m glad I’m in here, I’m not prepared for China. Not even a little. Also it would feel disengenuous to wander into town for two hours, not know the language, try to do something, then have to rush back to hopefully make my flight. This country deserves more than that. I’m looking at you, climbing tours.

Almost time for me to start boarding so I’ll stop now. If I remember anything else of interest I’ll add it in. But for now, I leave for Hong Kong! Woo!

Sean Chalmers

Software Engineer - Lisp & Haskell Neophyte - NERD of Clan Emacs!

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