Monday, June 3, 2019

A trip to China - Day 1 continues - Sydney to Beijing

Sydney to Beijing - Every flight is different.

Boarding 11:45, everyone on board by 12:02, for a 12:10 departure.
Pushing back 12:12
Take off 12:27


Airline food is getting better but the fact they serve it up to you in a metal tray with a thick aluminium lid does nothing for the quality of the food inside.
I get what the chef is trying to do but often there is too little of one thing and too much of another and what you finish up with is slop in a tray.
Sometimes it's edible sometimes it's not.  Sometimes the meat is tender and other times it's like boot leather.  As it is today.
I think it's pork, I should have had the chicken.  Or perhaps it wasn't chicken.
The drinks were good.

It's going to take 11 hours and 20 minutes from Sydney to Shanghai, a long time to sit in a plane with nothing much to do other than crosswords or listen to music.
I did bring some with me, and I'm waiting for the right time.

Chronic boredom is setting in by the time we are flying over the Molucca Sea, just past half way to our destination. We are over 6 hours into the flight and there no possible way I'm going to get any sleep.
I've spent most of the last three hours working on what I call the great secret part of one of my novels called the will.  I won't more you with the synopsis, just suffice to say it's finally down on paper, digitally that is, and it's a huge step forward in finishing it.
There is, of course, the end play, the reading of the will but not before there's a few thrusts and parry’s by some of the players, but all in all the objective was to showcase a group of people with their strengths and weaknesses pushing their characters in various directions, some at odds with what is expected of them.
But enough of that.   A quick check of our position shows we’re over water.

Now in order to rest my poor brain from all of the hard work, and believe me it is getting a few thousand words out, I brought along an iPod equivalent any put a whole lot of 70s hits on it.
First of all, I can't begin to imagine how these songs ever became hits, our collective rates in music must have been very different then, But it is rolling out the likes of profile harem, the turtles, Gerry and the pacemakers, Bobby be a, and a host of other long forgotten and probably very dead rock and rollers.
Some still, strike a nostalgic note.
The Turtles, for instance, though I could not tell you how many hits they had, but I do still have what is called a 45 record of theirs.
Then there's The Shadows, an instrumental group t that churned out some rather Interesting tunes.  Not bad that an instrumental could make the hit parade.  What do they call it these days, the top 40?  They did then too.  Only the music, if you could call it that, had changed.
And not for the better, I'm afraid.  Perhaps that one of those bad traits of being old.
Ok here's an old favourite, Jenny takes a ride by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.  Can't you just imagine sitting in the back room with the guys mulling over what they're going to call themselves?  Bet a few drugs were involved in that one.
Then we can move onto Peter Startedt, who seems to have a gift of telling a story with a little name dropping on the side in Where do you go to my lovely  Perhaps he too had a bad experience with oranges and left him in the extreme need to sing about their juice when he followed up with Buy me one more frozen orange juice.
And it's sad the one forget singers like Villa Black and Perils Clark who both had some of the most unforgettable siblings, and particularly Petula Clark who went on to star in the musical version of Goodbye Mr Chips with Peter O'Toole who I for one never thought he could sing.
Perhaps he couldn't, and we were just hoodwinked by the magic of the movies that he could.  James Hilton, it seemed had a talent for such stories, but I'm not sure they turned Shangrila into a musical perhaps a small mercy we should be thankful for.
As I say to the grandchildren, I've got two words for you, e nuff.
Time to move onto something else, perhaps a little more modern.
A few years ago there was a musical show on, most like in an attempt to cash in on the success of Glee, but it sort of limped along in the ratings.
The premise was in putting on a Broadway show about the like of Marilyn Monroe and the casting of two leads.  As much as it was their story it was also that the directory who classes with the people who write the book and scored the music.
If any part of this has any truth to it, then it's impossible to see how anything ever reached the stage.  Of course, there’s always a lot of tangents but the mainstay for me was the musical numbers, and the talented leads, Katherine McPhee and Megan Hilty, neither of which seemed to go on the bigger and better things as is sometimes the case.
But the music, well, it speaks for itself, and it's good to take it all in once again and try to remember where and when the songs fitted.  And yes, you can almost see the numbers again in your mind’s eye.
By this time we’re getting closer to our destination.

Dinner is served 3 hours before the plane lands. 
Yes, another interesting concoction that says what's in it but you can't really be sure of the ingredients.  It comes and it goes.

48 minutes before landing we begin out descent into Beijing.
At 9:56 we touch down on the runway, in the dark and apparently it had been raining though from inside the plane you'd never know.
It took 10 minutes for the plane to arrive at the gate,  the usual few minutes to open the door, and, being closer to the front of the plane this time, it doesn't take that long before the queue is moving.
Then its a matter of following the signs, some of which are not as clear as they could be.  It's why it took another 30 odd minutes to get through immigration, but that was not necessarily without a few hiccups along the way. 
We got sidetracked at the fingerprint machines, who seemed to have a problem if your fingers were not straight, not in the centre of the glass, and then if it was generally cranky, which ours were.
That took 10 to 15 minutes, before we joined an incredibly long queue of other arrivals, and that took nearly an hour from the plane to the head of this line, and when we got to the officer, it became apparent we were going to have to do the fingerprints yet again.  Fortunately this time, it didn't take as long.  Once that done, we collected our bags, cleared customs by putting our bags through a huge x-ray machine, and it was off to find our tour guide. 
We found several tour guides with their trip-a-deal flags waiting for us to come out of the customs hall.  It wasn't a difficult process in the end.  We were in blue.  Other people we had met on the plane were in red and yellow.  Tour guide found, it was simply a matter of waiting for the rest of the group, of which there were eventually 28.
Here's a thought, your bus is the white one with blue writing on the side.
Yes, yours and 25 others because nearly all of the tourist coaches are the same.  A short lesson that doesn't bring you undone for the three days in Beijing, get the last five numbers of the bus registration plate and commit them to memory.  It's important.  Failing that, usually the guides name is in the front passenger window.
Also don't be alarmed if your baggage goes in one direction, and you go in another. In a rather peculiar set up the bags are taken to the hotel by what the guide called the baggage porter.  It is an opportunity to see how baggage handlers treat your luggage.

That said, if you're staying at the Beijing Friendship Hotel, be prepared for a long drive from the airport. It took us nearly an hour, and bear in mind that was very late on a Sunday night.  Once there, if you are not already exhausted by the time you arrive, the next task is to get your room key, get to your room, and try to get to be ready the next morning at a reasonable hour.
Sorry, that boat has sailed.
We were lucky and our plane arrived on time, or fractionally earlier and we still arrived at the hotel at 12:52.  Imagine if the incoming plane is late.
Still, the foyer on our floor looks good, so it’s so far so good.

After 1:30 we finally get to sleep
With an 8:30 start for the first day.
Did I tell you about the bathroom in our room?
The shower and the toilet both share the same space with no divide and the shower curtain doesn't reach to the floor.  Water pressure is phenomenal.  Having a shower floods the whole shower plus toilet area so when you go to the toilet you're basically under water.
Don't leave your book or magazine on the floor or it will end up a watery mess.
And the water pressure is so hard that it could cut you in half.  Only a small turn of the tap is required to get that tingling sensation going.

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