We recently decided to visit China – not for any particularly burning reason, other than the most incredible deal; so much-too-good to refuse, we joined a group tour. It is not our favourite way of travelling, but for a country that has an incomprehensible language, and an equally incomprehensible government, it made sense to be guided out of trouble, rather than unguided into it. And so we set off – hoping that we wouldn’t get what we paid for.
China Eastern Airlines gave us an interesting flight – not. The inflight entertainment system was entirely un-entertaining. No great panel of movie choices on our personal screens – oh no, we were back to the one-screen-at-the-front-of-the-cabin and locked into what the airline deemed fit viewing.
First up a children’s film. Had I been even remotely interested I would have been disappointed – either it was the earphones or the audio system, but either way sound wasn’t great. Next was a bland Hollywood father and child film , subtitled in Chinese and English, but still incomprehensible.
I buried my head in a book, and when that ran out, entertained myself with Sudoku. Thus passed the first 6 hours. Every now and then I looked out the window, and as always, was struck by the amount of flight time it takes just to get out of Australia! It seems that it takes forever before the red/brown centre gives way to the coast in the north west. The view of the centre from the air is really something – twisting ribbons and branches of dry river courses look like dark veins against the landscape.
The meal service was edible – and the usual two choices. This time, noodles or rice; apt for a Chinese airline. Surprising was the fact that there wasn’t any alcohol offered – one is accustomed to be offered a choice of alcoholic beverages. By the time husband had a yen for a drink, it was gone: the flight attendant advised him that they only had three bottles of wine and a dozen beers to start with.. What the? My cynical thought was that all of the people who signed up for the visit-China-deal-of-the-century had been put at the very back of the plane, and that the rest of the plane had free gins-and-tonic all the way there…
The other thing they ran out of half way through was water in the bathroom. No, no not the drinking kind – the flushing and rinsing kind. The first I knew, I pushed down on the little blue and red rubber thingie on the wash tap, and just got a hiss of air which did nothing to remove the soap from my hands… Now that’s a first – I have never had that happen on any flight ever! Fortunately they didn’t run out of water and juice to drink; not that I used OJ to wash my hands….
After about 6 hours, I had had enough, and without a movie of my choice the tedium set in. Sudoku puzzles only go so far, and once you’ve reached that point nothing helps.
I think they realised that, because shortly before our arrival in Shanghai they played a video of in-seat Tai Chi – much shoulder-, wrist- and foot- rolling may well calm the mind, and at the least will distract you from the fact that there is ABSOLUTELY nothing to help you to pass the time faster.
Is there anything more tedious than a long haul flight? I know I am an ingrate – after all, at least I’m making the flight! There are any number of people willing to exchange their boredom for mine! So I will pay attention and try to keep the grumbling to a low background noise.
It was already dark when we arrived in Shanghai for our onward flight. We had been treated to the most spectacular sunset – though I realise that’s testament to the particles in the air over China- there are some benefits to poor air quality.
The immigration process was painless, and rather sweet – instead of the po-faced border security I am used to, I was processed by a sweet looking Chinese lady. Beside her on the counter, I was offered the opportunity to rate her service by pushing one of several buttons on a counter: from 😦 for awful through :-I for neutral to 😀 for great. You think I’m making this up!!! No siree Well, as hubby likes to say – to cut a long story short, we finally made it to our hotel in Beijing at 2.00 am local time. I was aghast when told that we would have a wake-up call 5 hours later; there goes my beauty sleep….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz