Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Aug 18 2015

Beijing again, but not

I packed badly this time around. Instead of taking things out and getting ready well beforehand, I left it til the last minute and spent the morning dumping things into my suitcase and backpack before hauling ass over the bridge and onto the train to catch a bus to the airport, constantly feeling like I must have forgotten half of the things I was supposed to remember.

I didn’t feel much of the excitement that ordinarily accompanies travel; there was no feeling of departure. With luck, that trip on the airport bus will be my last, as the airport MRT line is supposed to be up and running soon-ish. It was supposed to be done this year, but yet another delay puts it into next year. We’ll see. Our bus was full of mainlanders, but they behaved for the most part. I did get a good check-in at the Air China counter in Terminal 2, formerly the Good Terminal and now the one relegated to mainland flights before they redid Terminal 1 into a swank 70’s Lounge. The automatic passport control machines had trouble identifying me, which is a first. How quickly they forget. Fortunately my fingerprints still matched.

When I looked out at the plane we were to take to Beijing, I was in for a disappointment. I have nothing against wear and tear, but the Airbus that waltzed lazily into the gate 20 minutes late was smeared with grime, and the departing crew looked like they needed a hug. What had happened? Nobody was saying. Taoyuan Airport apparently treats Air China like crap, because we waited for 27 planes to land on our strip before we could take off. That was meant to be hyperbole when I wrote it in my notebook, but it soon became the literal truth. Finally, after a big lumbering 747 cargo conversion floated down in front of us, we were able to take off. I began to suspect severe turbulence had been the reason the previous crew had been so glum when the plane started to shake as we flew north. Nothing terrible, but I suppose it could have been worse on the way down. The interior was as grungy as the exterior, but the lunch wasn’t bad. Then again, I’ve always been partial to airplane meals, just because I like the novelty of eating anything mid-flight.

My spirits lifted somewhat at the sight of the clear blue sky, but soon we were flying inside a featureless grayness. Why so low? Why were we zigzagging? No idea. The woman in the seat behind me pointed out that a ticket was on the floor under my seat. Was it mine? No, it was from the day before. In Beijing, I got into the Chinese line, was told to go to the foreigners line, but I was tired and didn’t want to line up, so I showed them my taibaozheng and they let me through. The airline was putting me up in a hotel for the night before my connecting flight to San Francisco the next day, but when I got to the service counter all I got was a card and the command “Wait over there.” I did, for quite a while. Nearby a group of what looked like a wrestling team made jokes as I sat down next to a platinum blonde girl. When a man came by and they all got up to follow him, I asked him which hotel he was going to. He looked me up and down and said, “Believe me, the hotel we’re going to isn’t the one you’re going to.”

Eventually we were told to follow another fellow to a white van, which took us to a nearby hotel that was completely not the one I was told had been booked. “Look, I was told to drop you off here,” the driver insisted, though the remaining people in the van were also staying at the hotel I was supposedly staying at. So instead of the Hoya, I’m at the Ibis. After looking at the Hoya, I really think it doesn’t matter.

After putting my luggage in my room, I set out, thinking I would stroll over to the subway stop, take a train into downtown Beijing. But I grossly underestimated the distances involved, and ended up eating a club sandwich at a bakery, reminiscent of the club sandwiches I used to eat at the Kaiping Hotel back in the day. I was told the subway takes an hour and a half just to get downtown, so it would have been a wash anyway.

I walked back, taking photos of overgrown billboards featuring happily standard Chinese families. As I approached one shop, a man outside saw me and ran inside. As I passed in front, a middle-aged woman rushed out, calling on me to partake of their “massages”. Further on, a dump truck’s cab was up in the air as it unloaded something in a dark lot. Landing airplanes periodically loomed overhead.

We get breakfast tomorrow, but I’m not sure what I’ll do after. My flight’s not until after 3 in the afternoon. Perhaps more walking around. I don’t like the air here, though; it irritates my throat.

posted by Poagao at 11:38 pm  

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