People always talks about BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) for those strong economic growth and investments. The company I work for has a factory in Tianjin, China and somehow I get to go there. Because I am not high ranked employee, I had a budget ticket which is less than $2,000 including taxes. Other people get to use Japan Airlines so the price of ticket must be around $3,000 but they get a free shuttle bus service to Tianjin from the Beijing Airport... Oh well.
(Note: the following articles includes a bunch of dumb mistakes I made, so it is up to you what to do, laugh, sympathize, anyways...)
I woke up at 6:00am. Left apartment around 8:00am so I can get to the airport by 8:30am. The parking lot was much more clouded than regular weekday. I had to look for my place for about 10 minutes. Arrived and checked in at the counter, They issued me "SSSS" because I did not have frequent flier miles so I had to go through all the security things. The lady right before me began cursing at the TSA person so I had to calm her down. I only wished I already signed up for the frequent flier club for United Airlines. The inspector was a nice guy so I was just talking and joking with him while he was conducting the search. It was fun. I arrived at the gate, but there seems to be a delay in the schedule, no sight of airplane. Oh well.
I saw an old lady walking around to look for a seat at the lobby so I waved at her. She was complaining that TSA searched her, because she could not find any ID. She must have forgot it at a hotel. She was from San Francisco, CA and bound for Chicago for convention. The plane was late, we finally got on board around 11:00am!
United Airlines UA7782 Indianapolis - Chicago O'Hare 10:32AM - 10:41AM Seat: 8A
UA7782 Bound for Chicago O'Hare
It was cloudy almost all the way but finally cleared as we are passing the Midway Airport. The plane landed okay, I just had to walk fast since the terminal was not the same. The boarding for the flight to Beijing was already begun. I was looking for a noise suppressing headset. I always need one for intercontinental flights. The last time when I traveled to Japan, I found out my pair was broken so I needed to buy a replacement badly. I also purchased batteries. Checked at counter for the seat. They kept changing the seat so my seat assignment was, 37J -> 35C -> 46C. I was talking to a professor from University of Maryland for a while because they double booked my seat. Oh well. It's been a while I use a B747, and found the seat was a bit tighter that B777's and there were no LCD display, not because I was sitting in a exit row.
United Airlines UA8851 Chicago O'Hare - Beijing, China 12:03AM - 2:25PM Seat: 46C
UA8851 Going to Beijing Airport
I think the padding of this aircraft is a bit easier on my body (or simply because I have lost some weight?). However, the lady next to me was huge and seems taking over all the arm rests on both sides. When I was sleeping, I felt a very sharp pain on my left arm. (Agh!). My arm was inside of the armrest, but she was so big and used my arm as a support to reposition herself in her seat. I think I will fly with American Airlines next time...
I have received a bunch of pieces of papers, customs form, some kind of health thing, and immigration form. The good thing about being a Japanese is that I don't need anything to go to China. My coworker from Mexico needs an invitation paper and some countries eve requires visa. The bad thing was that they did not have enough paper written in English, so I had to guess Chinese characters based on what we used in Japan. They had a noodle for night snack but otherwise I was just sleeping.
The plane took a path over north pole and arrived to China by flying over Russia and Mongol. The location where is the airport is like Narita in Japan, there are some farming places around. The plane landed okay, and taxied for a while, I get to see the new (huge) terminals under construction. Maybe for the 2008 Olympics.
Walking out of the plane, went though some checks without a problem, not even a question. I exchanged $300 to Yuan. I had 4 $100bills but one did not work. I got about 2,400 Yuans and I feel like I am a rich person. They made me count (I don't know why but I guess both Japanese and American culture made me a person always entrust other persons...) I picked up my baggage and headed outside. Yup, I am in China!
Since the airport is not my final destination, I needed to find a way as I am getting out. I saw a guy coming from the hotel I am going to be staying but he was waiting for some other person. I guess the company did not arrange me a ride. So, I need to proceed with the original plan. I need to take a bus and go to the train station. I found a ticket office to buy the ticket, and I can see all of them are 16Yuans but I don't know which route I need to get on. I asked the staff that I want to go to Beijing Train Station. She got confused (I should not use English...) and tried to get a person from inside of airport lobby. Another staff there told me it is a route #3. so I paid and got on it.
Ticket for the bus...
A shuttle bus to the railway station.
The bus took me to the Beijing Railway Station. I was watching outside as it cruises. The bus moved from one side to other side to keep the pace, it was something we don't see in the U.S. when the highway ends, the bus jumped in the middle of traffic. So many cars, cars, and more. I have seen some of the cars take electricity. There were about 4 other stops to make on the way to train station. I did not know what the driver was saying but I kinda know that the station is the very end so I just sit there. The bus finally stopped but seems to be there are a few more meters. I had to wait in a car for 10 minutes before driver opened up the door. At the exit, there are a pack of people wanting to sell me stuffs or put a bunch of advertisements of travel agencies in my back pack. I did not know which way to the station but I just guessed and was right.
Beijing Railway Station
I have arrived at the station, which I could recognize because I have seen picture of it on the internet. First thing I needed to do is to buy a train ticket. There are a place I can line up at the outside of station but I was not quite sure what to do. It's frustrating if I have lots of money but cannot buy a single ticket. Oh well, this is very first time when I buy a train ticket in China anyways. I needed to something fast so I found a place where I think it says express ticket. I wrote "Tianjin" in Chinese character, and the lady showed me the time, which was almost one hour away but I think it was fair enough, so I bought the ticket.
My train, T549 shown, K27 is going to Pyongyang (I was very curious...)
To get inside of the station, you need to put your bags in a X-ray machine. I was more concerned on whether my bags will come out... The inside of train station was kind a dark, and the bookstores, gift shops, and other places are very much look a like from side to side. I was wondering if some kind of code governed by the government make them do that.
I did not know which platform I needed to go so I showed the ticket around and somehow figured out. As I was waiting an old lady showing his one hand to people, I guess gesture for spare change. One guy pulled his pants pockets inside out and showing them to her. My case, I just don't understand the language. The gate opened and I was allowed in, and went down to the platform.
The train to Tianjin. Looks cool but taking 1.5 hours for 120km trip...
The train must have about 10 cars, which double deck. Getting inside of the train, I was able to relax but not comfortable because I am the only one who does not look like a local people, and I cannot communicate with them. I see people around me taking nap or reading newspaper, magazine, and doing some other stuffs. There were many times sales people going back and forth. Some even had a pot containing tea... I did not want to eat, I did not want to drink... The way to Tianjin was quite boring, the scenery look like the place in Mexico. There are roads which are unpaved, some trees, farm land, people lives in a brick walled flat house with roof made out of some gathered up materials. The whole trip was not much fun for 1.5 hours... The A/C was not working good enough, some windows of the car are cracked, a TV mounted on the train showing some bootlegged joke materials from the U.S. (One of them must be form MTV...) The train made a stop at Tianjin North station, then the staffs shut the curtains, and even cut the A/C... For another 15 minutes or so, the train moved slowly toward the destination. I could see some roads, people, and people on bicycles.... At last, I am in Tianjin.
Okay, here I am. I need to find a taxi to the hotel. I did not know the cost to the hotel was around 20 Yuans, so I very much agreed on 30 Yuan deals. The taxi went on the street, which was pretty dark and made me a bit concerned because I just don't know where I was going, some streets are very disordered, I see people driving on the other side of the lanes to pass and stuff, even the public bus system. Oh my...
Anyways, after about 10 minutes ride in a car with no A/C, I arrived at the hotel, I am glad I got here safe without being robbed of anything. I paid 30 and the driver gave me a kind of receipts.
A receipt for the Taxi. You will get one of those for each 10Yuan...
I checked in the hotel. I had to fill out a bunch of things, not like the stuffs in the U.S., but went smoothly. Since this is a 4 Star hotel, I am not supposed to tip employee there. I guess and so said on the paper.
Well, I guess there aren't many things I can talk about it here since it is a company business. I just needed to be at hotel lobby at 6:50am, and a company van takes us to the plant. The location is called TEDA (Tianjin Economic-Technical Development Area). The road on highway is pretty wide so people drives between the lines, meaning three cars in two lanes often. Some even drive on the shoulder at high rate of speed. It is about one hour ride from the hotel.
I wrote a dozen postcards to my friends, and hotel was available for sending those out. However as I described in above, I could not find any of those cards. The place I found them was at the Palace Museum.
The first night, I used a Japanese restaurant at Hotel, For the second and third nights, I used Japanese restaurants outside. There are many of those available
Oh, because the 2006 World Cup soccer was on the TV, I get to watch the program in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and I think Spanish. No English, though.
The view from the 13th floor was pretty cool, I get see all the commotions in the night, as well as groups of bicycles in the street in the morning.
There supposed to be a trail by the river which I could
I woke up at 6:00am, I wanted to go to Beijing's Palace so I already had my plan, but I would never know what was going to happen. I used a taxi from the Hotel and got to the bus terminal where I can get a ride to the airport, for 12 Yuan. Got in a bus leaving Tianjin at 8:00am after paying 70 Yuans. Arrived at the airport at 10:30am. I checked my bag at a place where I can leave my stuffs there. Picked up a ride to Beijing Railway Station for the second time, the bus left at 11:15am. Arrived at the train station again.
So many bicycles waiting for the signal to change. The car in the center is a Taxi.
A shuttle bus to Beijing Airport. First came, first served.
Subway Station at Beijing Railway Station
Subway ticket Only 3 Yuan.
Subway Train. The door tries to shut many time to scare people when the people are getting in not fast enough. I got my butt caught once.
Admission Ticket for the Palace; 60Yuan
When I was waiting to buy a ticket, there was a couple of girls talking to people around. The first question was, do I understand English, then she started to telling me that she came from a far way and has no money
Tiananmen Gate Stone floor Gate to the palace Bridge and reflections
Palace under repair Palace photo Palace photo Looking at modern part
Emperor's chair? Lion Palace Photo Emperor's chair?
Palace photo Dragons...
UA8850 Waiting for me to take me back to the U.S.
When I get back to the airport, they were very close to shut the border for the flight. I even had to have a supervisor's permission at the check in counter. Without a time to waist, I picked up some water bottles before go on board, and arrived at the gate. Since I had SSSS again, they checked my baggage.
United Airlines UA8850 Beijing, China - Chicago O'Hare 4:20PM - 4:22PM 48J
The flight back to the U.S. was okay. I was sitting in a seat 48J, which was in the middle. I was talking with a girl wearing a T-shirt saying "Beijing University" and found out she was taking an architect class there for a month. I was curious because my good friend studied at University of Wisconsin, which is not so far away from Chicago. I guess was right. The guy on the other side was bound for Columbia, South Carolina. He was studying electrical engineering for his Ph.D. Good for him. He told me that he got to visit his family once a year, which is more than I did.
I arrived in Chicago Airport, just as I expected, the guy at immigration started to ask why I still have my old I-94. Oh well, the lady at the airport did not take it out when I left the U.S. though. I did not have much trouble, so I re-entered the U.S. After getting out of immigration, picked up my baggage, pass though the customs and got out from the gate. I gave my bag to the handler, and walked toward the train. The international arrival at Chicago airport is located far away. I had to help a passenger who needed to find the connection flight, I suggested them by referring the terminal by the airlines they use, worked. I already had my ticket so I just lined up for the security. It took me a while, maybe about 20 minutes lining up. Then I proceeded to the gate.
United Airlines UA7660 Chicago O'Hare - Indianapolis 6:45PM - 8:47PM 11A
Oh-My-God! McDonald's is CLOSED! (must have made some people cry!)
Nothing happened anyways, and I was able to catch a flight back to Indianapolis. The aircraft used was EMR-170, which is larger than 145. They have 4 seats in each row and have engines under the wings. The returning flight was okay, arriving to the airport on time. The captain was announcing that Indianapolis airport has one of the longest taxi way, and I feel the same way, especially when I am tired. The baggage came out okay this time. Not like the last flight I took from Chicago on United Airlines. I drove back to my apartment. I felt tired so I went to bed.
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