It’s been a whirlwind of a week, heading down to Portland for several days before coming back up to Vancouver for 18 hours or so and then flying out to Hong Kong. Mercifully, my fight was at a reasonable hour, so I was able to get myself together in the morning. I was reminded of how much I like Vancouver Airport–clean, comfortable and free wifi. After going through enough airports, YVR has its own particular charm. I spent the majority of my waiting time figuring out my new iPad, though I imagine I looked a trifle ridiculous balancing my laptop and iPad on my lap. I had a momentary panic attack while boarding when the announcers said for US/Canadian passport-holders to open their passport to the visa page. By the time I got to the gate, however, I realized the my flight was actually bound for Beijing (where of coursed I would need a visa if that were my final stop).
I’d never flown Air China before, but I was immediately pleased to see a pillow/blanket set on my seat and a TV set in the seat back. I’d almost forgotten the kind of amenities one gets when flying international. We were soon on our way, and I settled in for the long haul. Fortunately, I was able to sleep a good portion of the journey, broken up by the occasional meal (another perk of flying international, they feed you!). I spent the remainder of the flight attempting to figure out the entertainment system. Eventually, I was able to get a couple movies and TV shows out of it. Perhaps the most novel plus about the flight was that it wasn’t completely full. In the four-seat row, I and another lady had the end seats and the middle two seats were empty, so I was able to curl up every so often or stretch out my legs, which makes a huge difference on a long haul flight.
We arrived in Beijing to 32 degree temperatures, and you definitely felt it getting off the plane. My biggest concern, however, was that we landed at 4:45 pm and my connecting flight was scheduled to depart at 5:30 pm. I frantically waited in an international transfer line, with an exceptionally slow-moving agent, before bombing it down to security at about 5:15 pm, only to discover, to my relief, that the flight had been pushed back by an half hour. By the time I got down to the gate, they started boarding. The Beijing-Hong Kong flight was even less full, with entire rows empty. I slept through the relatively short flight (about 3 hours) and was soon drowsily making my way through customs. I found it quite surprising that the customs agent literally asked me nothing–didn’t even say anything to me at all–just scanned and stamped my passport. My bag and, thankfully, my poster tube were already on the carousel. As I was so busy leading up to my trip, I hadn’t had the chance to carefully lay out a trip itinerary, but I did at least look up how to get to my hotel. I hopped on the Airport Express light rail, which was clean, quiet and efficient, getting me into Hong Kong station in about 35 minutes. From there, I took an Airport Express complimentary hotel shuttle bus that shuttled me to the hotel across the street from my own. It wasn’t long before I was checked-in and happily sitting in my air-conditioned room, about 20 minutes to midnight.