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Published: August 12th 2019
So here goes, a 3 week work trip to China with a lot of internal travel. I do love Asia, but this will be completely different to my usual dossing about on a beach experience. My trip changed a few times and now all the locations except for Shanghai are inland, bigtime!
To prepare, apart from watching endless vlogs on YouTube and making a photo album of handy pics, such as what to do at a train station, I downloaded some apps. I already have a vpn which I hope will work as well as it does elsewhere, to hopefully allow me to use Facebook, WhatsApp etc. I got google translate as an offline option, another dictionary with an audio and scan function, Bing as a search engine and WeChat, which the centres I’m going to will apparently use to message me. Baidoo is the google map equivalent but all in Chinese, giving it a miss for now. Will try maps.me instead.
Oh, and there is a 37 page visa application to fill in with family details, my brothers’ names and addresses, info on any lost passport, which threw me for a while as it was 11 years ago
but I managed to dig it out after some detective work on laptop and in filing cabinet. Then, after fiddling about trying to take a photo of the right size and scan and send it to the travel agent dealing with the visa, there was the trip to the Chinese Embassy to get the biometric visa. I was going to be accompanied by the agent the company use some to smooth the process, which meant they filled in all the info about who I was working for and the hotels etc. and printed it all off, so there were no mistakes on it. Presumably they will know where I am at all times!
Anyone doing this, it actually looks easy enough to do yourself, but get there early, before 9, as by 9.15 the queue inside was really long, and this was just to get your ticket to go to the first window where they take your photo. Then you wait again for your number to come up on the screen before going to a second window for fingerprinting and they ask a few questions, reasons for your visit etc, all of which information is clearly recorded on the
form the guy is looking at. Then he put the form and my passport in a bundle with an elastic band round it and threw it in a box. I had the express service which meant that after my appointment on a Friday it was ready for collection on the following Tuesday. The request was for a year long business visa but I was given 2 years, great! Apparently if you apply yourself you don’t have such flexibility in when to go for your appointment. I could choose any day and the agent did all the queueing for me, I trailed after her and only spoke when I was spoken to. I’m not sure if the visa office will post your passport to you but the service included collection and then the agent posted it back to me recorded delivery.
Flights booked with Air China, with a nearly 6 hour wait in Beijing, so enough time for my bag to find its way to plane#2 and for me to use an atm. Finding my booking on the website was very difficult. You are redirected and it depends how you actually made the booking, in my case I didn’t. Apparently
if it’s not check in time it won’t appear. I did find it once when I tried seat selection but computer said no. At least I was on the system somewhere. You can check in 36 hours before and choose your seat but I couldn’t print off the boarding passes, and registering on the app was impossible. No problem, you can do it at the airport, although the self check in machines won’t print you bag tags if you have a connecting domestic flight, so just go straight to the very long queue for bag drop and they do it there.
Cabin baggage is really limited. One piece only, 5kg, better wear something with plenty of pockets. It’s not adequate even for my work materials, which I have to have with me at all times. And I read that they weigh everything. Sadness....
This was not exactly the case at Heathrow. I had a coat with my tablet and iPad wrapped inside, a money belt with powerpack and phone round my waist, water bottle in hand. They took no notice of any of it. Some people had 2 or more separate pieces.
Air China was fine, spacious
enough, EXCELLENT foot rests which come up high enough so you can have a really good rest, terrible film choice and there were only a handful of us non-Chinese on it.
Arriving in Beijing there are signs and helpers everywhere. You go to a self fingerprint machine first to get your OK ticket, then queue in the long, green foreigners line after filling in boarding card they don’t give you on the plane. Then I had to transfer to the domestic departures area via a small train and go through security again. One of my bags produced LIGHTER, you have LIGHTER! No, I haven’t! LIGHTER inside. Needless to say there was no lighter or anything else. Power packs must go separately in the tray and they check the size, only up to16000 doodads allowed.
A cup of tea I thought cost me £3 was in fact only 30p. Upstairs there are noodle places, KFC etc. A bottle of water from a machine is also 30p but there are places to fill up with hot and cold water. There is an atm by gate 11.
Now waiting in the pre gate waiting area for my flight to Zhengzhou,
Trying out the camera on google translate. Came up with lots of suggestions, none of which were Air China!
then a taxi to the hotel where my lovely colleague Leslie has already arrived. Quite excited about noodles for breakfast.
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