China 2019 – Once Again

               An inauspicious start.  Short form, I missed my flight.  Did I not get modern technology quite right, or do I need to slow down.

Thought I had scheduled a car pick up (Bless them, Uber) at 4:30 but no one came so scrambled and finally got a car at 5 AM.  Still time to get to the 6:24 flight, but alas, really damn, a major accident on 93 delayed me further.  At the airport check-in; less than one hour to departure they do not accept luggage.  Redirected to a later flight through LA and a connection on Saturday.  One day delay.  More on the implications of this redirect later.

               Modern technology at its best. Immediately on my cell phone contacting the hotel in Beijing that I was delayed a day and not to cancel the room and too reserve a room at LAX.

               Life full of plusses and minuses. 

Flight from Boston to LAX was on an Airbus A321S. Registration number N138AN and serial number 7009. It was delivered to American on April 1, 2016.

               Arrived at LAX fairly refreshed.  Exit into LA weather.  Warmth, a concept net yet arrived in April in Boston.  Fleece and jacket shed stored in luggage, warmth quite a relief.  Surprisingly short wait for Hilton at Airport bus and short ride to hotel. 

               Asked for a room with view of airport runway and got my wish.  Still fascinated by planes flying and coming in to land.  A few molecules of air different between top and bottom of the wing and it is absorbed upwards, more grace than birds, no flapping, seemingly effortless.  Descending, quite linearly, but then  wheels hit ground and a large puff of smoke, friction and it is a large truck screeching to a halt, brakes full on.

               Inside the tube you do not realize the brand design on the outside.  Cigarettes, cookies and airplanes have external designs and passengers, like cigarettes are packaged.  In the brief time, Qantas, how wonderfully colorful and intricate, Korean Air, less artistic but a nice blue, Alaskan Air with mages on the tail and US Carriers American and United with their logo. 

               Next morning, up early and off to LAX at 7:45 for 10 AM flight.  Not going to be late this time.

Stretch your body : Expand your mind

On to Kuqa

On to Kuqa

               Another early wake up call, today at 5 AM to catch the flight to Kuqa at 8 AM. 

               Cab was waiting at 6 AM and he first asked for 80 RMB for the trip.  When we arrived the ride was 30 RMB I knew he was high so I countered with 50 RMB which he accepted.  Arrival at the airport terminal I gave him 50 RMG and he said I owed him 80 RMB.  Not to be intimidated, and with enough Chinese to argue, I told him he agreed to 50 RMB and if he did not accept I would call the police.  This went back and forth for a bit and fortunately my loud voice can be very unpleasant even if my Chinese is not perfect.  Finally, I offered his 10Y more as a way to conclude, for a total of 60 RMB.

               Security in China is much tighter than in the US and in Urumqi and maybe all over Xinjiang, it is quite tight.  The line at the entrance to the terminal took us 30 minutes to complete.  The crush of people may have been due to the end of the National Holiday and we were part of last minute returnees.  This security step also included baggage X-Ray.  Check in was faster than anything I have witnessed in the US.   They just buzzed through check-in.  The airline, China Southern really had this under control.

               The security before boarding was a nightmare.  That was at least 45 minutes.  Long lines, very thorough screening of baggage and individual pat down.  I had the usual tourist quota of camera, lenses and flash with lots of batteries.  I had to unpack my knapsack to locate all batteries and then when they were sure that it was camera equipment, the bag was then rescanned. 

               In comparison, arrival in Kuqa was a breeze.  It is a tiny airport.  We were the only plane on the tarmac.  One luggage carousel.  One exit door. 

               The itinerary had changed since through a contact we were allowed to access Kumtura, a Buddhist cave site not often opened.   Our driver was at the door and after a brief phone call confirming that we could access Kumtura we were off.     :     Expand your mind.  Stretch your body. 

On To China

On To China

               The flight to Beijing was almost routine except for Anthony, my seat mate. 

               We were seated in the first row of coach, a wonderful place with no seats in front and good stretching room.  JoAnn and I were early, as usual, and seated aisle and middle.  Getting close to final boarding the window seat was empty, every long distance travelers dream.  But then comes the flight attendant leading….mother and infant.  Every travelers dread.  The thought of the screaming infant for 15 hours sent tremors.  Further, the bassinette was hung on the wall at eye level and Anthony could sit up and stare at me with wonderment.  

               The story has a nice ending.  Anthony was very well behaved infant.  Mom, however, was totally exhausted and frazzled and Anthony was a big boy at the squirming and pushing back stage.  Mama was really beyond exhaustion when she boarded.  OK, maybe I have a big heart and am a good grandpa type.  It didn’t hurt much to hold Anthony once and a while, help feed him, watch him when Mama needed a break or when she took forty winks.  Not much reading accomplished on the flight but did collect some karma credits.

               Arrived in Beijing about 15 minute slate for a total flight time of 13 hours and 49 minutes.       

               Guess my karma credits didn’t completely help because I had problems with both credit cards trying to withdraw some cash, Renminbi, from machines.  It is never faultless and always have different problems.  Fortunately JoAnn’s cards worked so we had some cash.     :     Expand your mind.  Stretch your body.