Until Next Time, China!! - The Beijing Experience: Day 7

Thursday, September 4th

Our flight home was scheduled for 10a.  Considering the traffic in Beijing, we knew we had to give ourselves extra time to get to the airport.  So we started counting backwards.  Our math took us away from our hotel at 6a.  Which means we are up around 5a.  And of course, I was up once an hour since about 2a.  Because I was petrified I'd oversleep.

In our wine-based haze from last night, Danielle and I did do 90% of our packing before falling asleep.  So I didn't have to do much this morning.  Shower, light packing, I was done.  This is always recommended.

Because every key should have a Gumby keychain.
Yesterday, when coming back from the Summer Palace, I went to set up a car service from our hotel to the airport this morning.  The front desk person explained it was actually cheaper if we just called a cab.  As we discovered the other day, the price for a taxi is based on the kilometers driven, not the time spent in the car.  Which works better for us.  Definitely.  Instead of paying ¥400 ($65), we were paying about ¥120 ($19).  We asked the hotel to have the cab arrive at 6a.

Our hotel had slippers.  And you can definitely see how my ankles swell up on vacation.  Awesome.
About 10 minutes before the cab was to arrive, Danielle and I left our room to check out and wait closer to where the taxi would be.  We made our way out of the room and decided to knock on Adele's door.  We were just going to let her know we were waiting outside.

*knock, knock, knock*

*silence*

Danielle was the first one that quietly muttered, "Do you think she's still asleep?"

*thump*

*groan*

Adele opened the door slowly.  Her eyes were still almost completely closed.  I can only imagine her moment of terror as she realized that yes, she overslept.  The taxi is here and she's not ready.  "Give me 10 minutes"

Danielle and I checked out and hung around the front desk for a while.  When Adele came out (about 10 minutes later...she was happy she had packed just about everything last night), Danielle and I went to find the cab.

I said it before, but my god, I love the rules for taxi fares in China.  A few Yuan for every kilometer goes a long way.  And the "no tipping" thing happens...love.  We drove mostly quietly through Beijing.  The last time we'll probably see the city.

It was about this time when I came to the horrible realization.  I left my Fitbit in the pocket of the hotel robe.  Dammit!!

We were dropped off at the airport terminal and tried to figure out where to check in for our flight. At home, you can show up just about any time, and you can check into your flight and head towards the gate.  But other countries have different rules.  The line snaking around a series of posts was our clue that we were in the right place.  It was right around 7a.  And the line was not moving, but was getting longer and longer, curving around the main thoroughfare of the terminal.  The airline workers were congregating near the desks.  But no one was actually working.  Our flight was scheduled for 1015a.  I mentioned to Danielle, I figured the line would start moving about 715a.  And I was right.  Woo Hoo!!  I love being right.

It took us a while to get to the front of the line.  Adele was flying First Class, so she was in a whole different line.  Danielle and I were back in steerage, so we had to wait.  And it was a little fascinating to see what was going on in the line.  People were packing and unpacking.    Serious packing.  And there were so many bags.  Danielle and I had one bag to check in.  Apparently, we were amateurs.  Leaving China, you should have multiple bags and should be packing them in line.

The original plan was to get through Security, then go directly to the Admiral's Club.  Adele had passes to get us both in.  So, cool.  We could hang there for a while.  But because of a One World situation, she could only have one pass.  Now I don't entirely remember what was going on...maybe there was no Admiral's Club, but there was a Cathay Pacific Club, but because we weren't flying on Cathay Pacific, she could only get one pass.  Either way, it didn't entirely matter.  Our flight left at 1015a, so we were going to start boarding around 930a.  By the time we got through Security, it was around 830a.  Our time in the airport wasn't long enough to worry about not being able to hang out in a Club.

Adele made a beeline to the Club.  Danielle and I wandered for a bit in Duty Free.  We both made a Mooncake purchase for sharing at home.  But we mostly hung out at the gate.  It was there that the guy came up to us asking if we had any kind of Tylenol or pain reliever.  He had wrenched his back the other day and hadn't been able to find the right kind of pill to help.  This poor guy did nearly hug me as I dug in my bag for a few Aleve pills.  I gave him as much as he wanted, cause lord knows I understand a back issue.

Before we knew it, we were ready to board.  Adele came back from the Club just in time to get called in for First Class.  Now I had an early boarding as well, because I had reached Gold Status somewhere on the flight to China.  This should not be a surprise as I traveled a lot this year.

We had plenty of space for luggage in our area.  Again, we spent more for Main Cabin Extra (totally worth the cost) and were ready to head out.  But this is where some of the weirdness happened.

The baby came on board with its parents, because that's what babies do.  They don't board planes by themselves.  That's silly.  What wasn't silly was when the baby (with parents) sat down in the row behind us.  Ok, that's not fun at on a normal flight.  But Danielle and I were in a row of two people.  So the family of three behind us was also in a row of two people.  Three people, two seats, 13 hours.  Because that is a fantastic mathematical equation.  

Once we realized this was going to be a disappointing flight, we started really paying attention.  This was when we started noticing that people are the worst.  People were up and down, getting luggage out at the most inopportune time.  The plane has started to taxi out to the runway??  Go ahead and open the overhead compartment and get out the giant chocolate bar.  Wing flaps...flapping, 30 seconds before the wheels are off the ground, this is the perfect moment to stand and attempt to move their carryon from underneath the seat to the overhead compartment.  Granted, this prompted the Stewardess to damn near yell, "SIT DOWN!!"  It was surprising.  I feel like this is a thing that shouldn't happen in the real world.  It was something that you see on TV.  But in real life??  Obviously it happens.  It happened this time.  Even as we were landing (Spoiler Alert - we made it home in one piece), the flight crew had to say several times to stay in the seat...this as people were standing in the aisle, opening up that damn overhead bin as we were still rolling to the gate.  

Horrible people aside, the flight was what it was.  I watched many movies and ate everything they put in front of me.  The only issue was our flight was a morning flight.  Which meant there was a small moment where there was a decision that had to be made.  Wine??  I mean, we really didn't even have breakfast at this point.  Would it be a smart decision to drink wine already??

The answer was yes.  Because of course it would be yes.  But the Flight Attendant was very concerned about us.  They checked on us a few times and had the "are you ok??" voice.  Jesus, people.  Yes, it was very early in the morning, and we hadn't eaten breakfast, and we'd consumed a significant amount of wine the night before.  But we aren't deviants. At least we weren't traveling with a baby on our lap or standing up as we were taking off.  Cut us some slack.

Please notice the water.  Sure, I drank two glasses of wine before I consumed the water, but still.
So, weird flight aside, the end of the trip was upon us.  Beijing was getting further and further away in our rearview mirror.  What'd I think??

The fog/smog/air quality thing is a huge deal.  Yes, Beijing as a city is in a "basin" and it's going to be more likely to have a fog thing happening.  But if there was ever a poster child (um...poster city??) for Global Warming and the need for lower emissions, Beijing would be it.  We had one clear day in the week we were in town.  The remainder of the days, we walked around in a haze.  But Beijing definitely has a "Cautionary Tale" feel to it.  And it's kind of the elephant in the room.

This is food.  I don't know what kind of food, but it is a thing.

Custard cups.  The best thing ever.
Also, we hit Beijing during some kind of rainy week.  And this had a huge impact on the enjoyment of the city.  It would have been nice to have more time outside, exploring the city.  But because the rain was monsoon-ish, and there is a distinct lack of drainage, we were stuck in our hotel for a bit more time than expected. 

Two ducks in a room.  What??
Now, it wasn't all gloom and doom.  Beijing really was so fascinating.  It was so different than anywhere else I have ever been.  And other than the terror of crossing the street, it was easy enough to get around the city.  I'm not really elaborating when I say you are taking serious risks when you cross the street.  Yes, there are Walk signs, but cars, scooters and bikes always have the right of way.  And people will run you down.

The food was legit.  We went high end and low end.  The average meal would cost us less than $5 and everything was super tasty.

This guy...

Yeah, I posted this picture before.  But it is something that should be said often.
There are some very silly things I'll remember about Beijing.  Things like the men wearing the half shirts in public.  We saw a woman walking a squirrel on a leash.  There was not only the guy swimming in the lake on the way to the Summer Palace, but this is also where we saw a man fishing with a trident.  And then there was the woman riding a bicycle in a heavy rain, while wearing a swimsuit and a swim cap.

Just a guy swimming.  No big deal.

Ceiling tile.  I could get used to this.
Overall, I really enjoyed Beijing, but I'm probably not in a hurry to come back.  There are so many other places to visit in China, that Beijing isn't really necessary for a Round Two visit. But I'll never say never.  Because if I have learned one thing, it's that I never really know what's next.

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