Arrival day!

28 Aug

I woke up somewhere above Inner Mongolia, about half an hour before we would land on Beijing Capital airport… My eyes were a bit painful, I had a headache and still felt very tired, although the flight itself had been very smooth (Unlike the first flight from Brussels to Frankfurt…), but I couldn’t sleep any longer, and so I started putting everything back in place, and I also adjusted my clocks to “Beijing time”, which is 7 hours earlier then time in Belgium, although now – in summer – it’s only 6 hours, due to the daylight saving time in Europe… (China doesn’t have that…) (My mother hates daylight saving time, so she should love that aspect of China… ;-) Hahaha…)


When we were above Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, we started our descend, and to my surprise we flew exactly over the FengSha line! (The railway from Beijing (Fengtai) towards Datong, over Shacheng, hence the name Feng(tai)Sha(cheng) line… ;-) Shacheng literally means “Sand City” by the way, so it’s really no surprise that you sometimes get duststorms over Beijing, mostly in spring!) (The railway is really spectacular, with more than hundred tunnels and even more bridges on only about 100 kilometers (!), but more about that later…) We flew over Guanting, where there is a big – probably artificial (?) – lake with a dam, from which the “Yongding He” (River) flows towards Beijing. The Fengsha Line follows this river most of the time… (Near zhuwo, Luopoling and Sanjiadian there are more dammed lakes along that river by the way…) Then I saw the valley of the Fengsha line until Zhuwo (The various camera views on the A380 were very practical for that!), from where we took a more southern route towards the Chinese capital… :-) Then we finally landed on Chinese soil… :-)


It was a smooth landing, but I was disappointed that it was “Greyjing” again, that I got to see…



In Beijing, there are only two types of wheather… One is clear blue sky with wind, and then the city is very pleasant and colorful, or grey, with a lot of smog and without any wind… On those days, you can only see a few hundred meters far, and everything looks grey and beige, grim and depressing… Many people say it’s simply the pollution, but I think it has more reasons than only the pollution. Of course, Beijing’s traffic is a disaster, with way too many cars, but so is the traffic in cities like – say – Paris, and yet Paris doesn’t have that smog problem? So I think it’s a combination between the pollution (Road traffic and coal fires!), the lack of rain (Although the humidity can be rather high during summer…), the fact that the beginning of the desert is so nearby (Only 100 kilometers to the Northwest, near “Shacheng”, the landscape gets very arid already…), and the lack of wind on some days! In case the wind is strong enough, the smog is quickly blown away, and then pollution levels can be lower than in Belgium! (On a certain, very windy day when I was there in October 2008, the levels of PM10 (Fine dust) were even considerably lower than the average in Antwerp/Belgium!) but not on this day, is was such a grey day again, without any wind… :-/



We had landed on Terminal 3 in Beijing, a superb building designed by Sir Norman Foster for the Beijing Olympics, which was nice for a change, because most flights from Europe still land on the older terminal 2, with Terminal 3 running far below its maximum capacity… (Maybe the airport tax is lower for T2?) That T3 is an enormously big building complex by the way, with a kind of subway running back and forth between both extremities of the complex! Luggage pickup was on the other side of the terminal, which means that the luggage is also transported very quickly from one side to the other. (Indeed, Terminal 3 supposedly has one of the most advanced baggage distribution systems in the world…) The checkout procedure went very smooth again, and shortly afterwards I was in the arrivals hall… Fan would come to pick me up at the airport, but she sent me a message that she would be later, due to a traffic jam… So first I got some Chinese money from one of the many ATM’s in the airport with my credit card, which is the most practical option today (Our Belgian debet cards are blocked for use outside of Europe since last year. No doubt because they could be used for free, whereas you have to pay a service fee to get money from an ATM with a credit card, making the second option much more lucrative for the banks…) (Although they blame debet card fraud… Just as if there is no credit card fraud!?), it’s at least much easier and cheaper than going to an exchange agent… And then I went to a place called “Lei’s Café”, in the middle of the hall (Easy to find!), where I had a nice drink… :-) Coke with chocolate ice cream! Bizarre maybe, but it successfully refreshed me! :-)


Welcome in China! ;-)




Half an hour later I got another message on my Chinese phone number (I have a phone with two SIM cards, so I had already exchanged my Belgian “Mobile Vikings” card for my Chinese one earlier…) from Fan, asking me where I was.. I told her I’m at Lei’s Café, in the middle of the hall. She answered that she was there too, but that she couldn’t find me!? :-0 Strange… One phone call later we found out that Fan was searching for me in Terminal 2, where there was a “Lei’s Café” too… ;-) So I had another drink, and half an hour later we were on the airport shuttle bus to “Fangzhuang”, not so far from her house, so upon arrival we summoned a taxi to her parents’ house, which costed 16,- RMB… (Around 1,75 Euro) The house is located at “Caihongcheng” (“Rainboy city”), in the south of Beijing, in Fengtai district. (a few kilometers south of the “Temple of Heaven”…) It’s an apartment building, and we’re on the 8th floor… :-)


To be honest we didn’t do much anymore in the afternoon… I was getting rather tired already again, but as I didn’t want to sleep too early yet (The perfect recipe for a more severe jetlag, as you will wake up in the middle of the night then, not tired anymore and so unable to sleep any longer…), we still had a short walk outside. Fan went to the bank (The “Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, or simply ICBC…), and so I simply walked along, while killing some time… :-) It was warm outside, but not too hot… It was around 28°C degrees, but the high humidity (84%), still made it a bit uncomfortable… But in China, there’s air conditioning everywhere, recently even in most of the busses and taxis! I only hope that the filters of the air conditioners are exchanged regularly enough, but to be honest I doubt it… ;-) In public places it should be fine, but in small shops, guesthouses or private cars I’m far from sure that this is the case… (But in China, it can be very unpleasant in summer without air conditioning, certainly in Southeast China, where temperature can remain well above 30°C in the middle of the night (!), with a very high humidity… You’re sweating continuously there, and sleeping normally is almost impossible this way…)


Either way, it was nice to walk in the streets of Beijing once again… :-) It’s nice to observe the street life here, certainly if you’re outside of the center of the city. Here, people are still hanging their clothes outside for drying, women washing their hair above a plastic tub, also in the street, another guy welding a metal fence on the pavement… Some other guys trying to load an enormous amount of boxes on a bicycle, an old man passing with two birdcages on his bicycle, just coming back from the park… :-) They walk to a park with their birds, hang the cages in a tree and read something… :-)


In the evening we ate some nice homemade Beijing style food at home, prepared by Fan’s parents… :-) And then, a nice, early sleep… :-) And that really didn’t come too early! ;-)

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