China Trip – 2018 – Prolog
October, 2017 my trek to Mogao Caves was suddenly shortened to return to the US. JoAnn had broken her leg and I returned to take care of her. I was in Beijing at the time, and packed and returned to the US. Training at Mogao was postponed. They were very kind and accommodating to postpone at the last minute and I was not certain we could reschedule the training. Fortunately they kindly rescheduled and so I am again leaving for China for five weeks in Mogao working with the English speaking guides.
China – 2018 Departure
This time I decided to take United Airlines even though there is a connection in DC, Dulles, because I was returning with a stopover in San Francisco and United had a more convenient Beijing to SFO flight.
The sequence was Boston to Dulles on UA 525 at 0935 to make the connection Dulles to Beijing on UA 807 leaving at 1250. Then an overnight in Beijing to make a 0640 Air China flight to Dunhuang.
The DC to Beijing segment was quite filled in economy and I upgraded, at quite a premium, to a row which was not filled. On boarding, the window seat was now taken, but there was more leg room and with the middle seat empty, it was less claustrophobic. Departure was delayed due to unspecified issues which the pilot continued to update us with less than usual information and more of “they are working on it.” This is the second consecutive time I have taken United on an Asian flight and had it delayed.
My priorities on flying are get out my books and magazines, settle in, find the earphones and the In-Flight entertainment and put on some music. I found there was no music channel on the onboard entertainment. The Flight Attendant told me that it was because the licensing fees were too high. Too high for United with their financial and Management issues. OK, I had lots of reading material. I monitored progress with the In-Flight route map. I noted after an hour that we were taking a different route from the usual North West over Canada. In fact, we were headed due north. The Flight Attendant confirmed, that this was true and in fact we were going to pass over the North Pole. Over the top and then turn right. Following up with the app www.flightaware.com, the route was mapped out. In fact, from the data reported we were about 1600 miles from the true North Pole before we turned more eastward.
There must be a reason to fly this route, because it is longer and takes more time. Not knowing the details, I would guess there are fees that United can avoid with this route. Flying this route, the left, west, side of the plane has continuous sun while the right or east side of the plane was in continual darkness. Flight time at 13 hrs. 34 min.
Arrival in Beijing with United means a gate at the terminal. Hainan, with the shorter western route stops on the tarmac and you transfer to a bus to be delivered to the airport.
Overnight at a nearby hotel in Beijing allowed for six hours of sleep before a 4 AM wake up call to catch the 0640 flight to Dunhuang.
Arrival in Dunhuang at 1010 and Lucy was there to meet me.
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