Our flight to Beijing was codeshared with Air China meaning that the flight was an Air China one that was organised on the passenger’s side by Cathay Pacific. Having been on an actual Cathay Pacific flight a few days before we were severely unimpressed with Air China. The aircraft was pokey and we actually felt airsick despite a relative lack of turbulance which we attributed to the large number of small turns the pilot appeared to be making. The food was the most dubious thing I’d had on a plate in the trip so far and one passenger near us went without because he’d ordered vegetarian to keep hallal and there was some kind of who knows what, possibly some kind of seafood, in his meal. We eventually arrived in Beijing to our relief and after a ridiculously long taxi were unloaded onto the tarmac where a series of busses filled with passengers and then carried them to the terminal. At the terminal we lined up in the huge section marked “Foreigners” enviously eyeing the tiny number of people passing through the smaller “Chinese nationals” gate. The passport inspector had a small electronic feedback box on the travellers’ side of the glass with the options “excellent service (Smiley)”, “good service (Smiley)”, “line was slow (frowny)” and “staff was rude (frowny)”. Despite the actual slowness of the line and brusqueness of the person behind the desk, it appeared that the only button that had ever been pressed and pressed a lot was “excellent service” which is an interesting indicator of the country’s reputation. We then had to board an internal train that took us some several kilometers to another terminal where we picked upbour luggage before emerging into the main arrivals collection area to hunt out our names on a sign like in films. The person holding the sign was Sophia our tour guide for the few days in Beijing that weren’t on our own. We then phenomenally squeezed ourselves into an elevator down to terminal 3 carpark which had it’s own service guarantee before being taken in a private car down the huge long straight surprisingly congested road from the airport to the center of Beijing and then the few blocks to the hotel. When we were arrived we entered through a whirly door and were greeted by women in long red cheongsams as our bags were taken by bellhops in purple silk. As we approached the main desk the people doing Tai Chi in the lobby packed up and another woman began setting up a kind of traditional Chinese harp which we sat and listened to while they tried to work out what was wrong with our booking. In the end they let us stay but requested a huge deposit for the privilege as they wouldn’t be able to contact our travel agent till the morning. Having had a large portion of our spending money absorbed into the htoel deposit we retired to our room and ordered rice and vegetables from room service for dinner, rang home for a loan of some spending money that could be repaid when we got the deposit back and reflected that so far Beijing seemed rather standoffish before planning the next day and heading to bed.
The second was a travel day. We arose bright tailed and waggly eyed, all our stuff packed back into our cases and headed down to the hotel foyer and checked out. After a brief wait in the lobby our bus arrived, in the most literal sense of the phrase. A huge eighty person coach turned up outside the hotel and as our luggage was stowed we were ushered onto the otherwise empty vehicle. The busdriver somehow managed to navigate the tight streets with relative ease despite the size of the machine and about two thirds of the way into the journey we picked up two other passengers bringing the occupied seat ratio up to nealry one in twenty. When we arrived at the Hong Kong airport in the daylight I got a better understanding of it’s scale and was very impressed. The airport was orderly and well laid out considering it’s vastness. We grabbed some snacks and waited to board our flight.