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Velvet

Chinalog (in honour of Bradm)

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Anything that happens at 5am comes pretty early (though in my younger days I would have said that anything that happens at 5am comes pretty late), and feeling at least as old as I am (which is rare) at 5am this morning I dragged my carcass into the shower, put on my last set of clean clothes and joined Heather in checking out of the hotel.  The hotel staff hailed us a cab right outside and $6 later we were at the airport express train.

It felt pretty early.

Man, was it a good decision to take a taxi.  The amount of effort it would have taken us to drag ourselves and our luggage to the station at that time of day was unfathomable; the ride was well worth the money.  We bought our train tickets and did something I’ve never even heard of: we checked into our flight and dropped off our luggage right there at the train terminal downtown.  No lugging our stuff onto the train, no lining up once we arrived at the airport, we just checked our bags, watched them roll along the carousel and out-of-sight, and got on board.  It was so utterly convenient and sensible.  I hope this won’t be the last time I do it.

We made it onto the first train of the day, which departed at 5:50am.  In exactly twenty-four minutes (how can stuff run so perfectly on time?) we were at the airport and as we already had our boarding passes in hand we cruised security (I had to pound my last can of beer in the security line but I was pretty fast and didn’t really hold anyone up for long) and made it to our gate with plenty of time to spare before our scheduled 8:30am departure.

We actually had more time than we thought.  Our plane sat idling on the tarmac before finally lifting off a full hour late.  It is amazing though how the pilots can make up for lost time if they really want to; we sure didn’t arrive an hour late.  Also, during the last half-hour of the flight the stewardesses squeezed the half-dozen or so of us who were making the same tight connection into the front couple of rows of economy class so we were ready to bolt when the doors opened.  Despite these measures our already tight seventy minute connection in Beijing was tightened up considerably.

Heather and I ran when we could and were fast-tracked through three different security/immigration lines and made it with five minutes to spare (unlike most countries, China checks your documents as you leave the country, not just when you are coming in).  

Our flight home is on a brand-spanking new Dreamliner 787 with plenty of entertainment options (I’m listening to The Grateful Dead live at Cornell 5/8/77 right now) and as luck (and strategy) would have it, the seat between Heather and I is unoccupied.  That should make the twelve-hour trip to Montreal that much more enjoyable.  Then we will board a bus for Ottawa and our vacation to China (and Hong Kong and Macau - or is that redundant?) will come to a close.

Heather and I both agree that we would love to return to Hong Kong and spend more time exploring China too - Macau not so much (nothing personal Macau - it’s just that you’re pretty small and we saw most of your highlights already.  Plus you are very gamble-centric, something Heather isn’t interested in and I can’t afford).  Everything was really interesting, people were quite friendly and helpful, it was clean and inexpensive, travel was pretty convenient across the board, the food is great, and we felt safe everywhere we went.  Plus our visas are good for ten years.  Never heard of that before.

It’s hard to believe that not only did we fly there for $500 return, if we had waited a few weeks we could have got the same flights for $400, and from Ottawa taboot.
 

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