It was at 04:00 this morning when the wake-up call blasted in our ears and jolted us from sleep once more. We had 45 minutes to be ready and down in the hotel foyer to collect our “breakfast box” (as the dining room wasn’t open at this unearthly hour) as the bus was due to leave at 5.00am to take us to Beijing Airport.
Bleary eyed and semi-somnolent, we waited downstairs with the others, some of whom were a little worse for wear, having left the hotel bar long after midnight. We picked up our bags and our breakfast boxes, and made our way across the darkened street to the waiting bus. A peek in the goody box allayed our trepidation as to what we might find; there was some bread, ham, a couple of hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, some cake, a banana and a carton of orange juice; not too bad. We decided to wait until we were at the airport before eating it. There wasn’t too much traffic around at this time of day.
At the airport, we checked in for our 07:40am flight to Shanghai, then ate our boxed breakfast, washed down with some Red Bull. I wondered how many hours the flight would be late this time, but, amazingly, we were called to board on time. 🙂 We settled into our seats and it was only with the minimum of delay that the aircraft was soon soaring off into the wide blue yonder.
Once again we sat through the aircraft safety briefing which was followed by Shaun the Sheep and the Top 10 Celebrity Divorce Settlements (!!) Don’t they have any other in-flight movies?! The meal was the ubiquitous noodles-or-rice concoctions served with water, sweetened orange juice (yuk) or sweetened coffee (yuk). Needless to say, we didn’t eat the meal.
After a couple of hours the plane touched down at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, and our party of 37 saw the parting of the ways with some of us flying down to Hong Kong, and the rest (including Robert) going back to good old Blighty. I took a final photo of Robert cheerfully waving his Union Flag; I have to say he is probably the best travel rep/courier we’ve ever had, and we’ve had many during all our trips. 🙂
As we had a couple of hours to wait until our connection to Hong Kong, we decided to try the Executive Lounge. However, when we got there, we saw that they only serve booze from 11.00am onwards, and since we’d have to leave to go to the boarding gate at 12.00, we’d only get an hour of the freebies. We therefore decided just to look around the shops then go and have a beer at one of the many bars/cafés dotted around.
We found a place that did Heineken beer (instead of the crappy Tsing Tao lite beer), so we relaxed and enjoyed a couple before we were called to board. It was a two and a half hour flight, once again on an A320 Airbus. We felt as though we’d spent half of our holiday in Chinese airports and on China Eastern Airlines aeroplanes. Yet again they were showing Shaun the Sheep followed by the Top 10 Celebrities Divorce Settlements (yawn). When they came round with the meals we discovered they were serving fish this time and, as it was a long time since breakfast, we decided we’d try it.
Our flight MU503 touched down (on time!!!) in Hong Kong international airport. But it was at this point where Trevor and I, once again, broke away from the rest of our party as we were going to stay with my cousin Alan and his wife Margaret in Shenzhen, across the water in mainland China. It seemed daft going from China over to Hong Kong just to come back to China again, but that’s the way it was.
Once we’d disembarked the aircraft, we followed Alan’s advice and headed for the ferry terminal which was over in Terminal 1. We had to wait for the shuttle bus to take us there. It was utter chaos; crowds and crowds of people who have no conception at all of queueing. We were hot, sweaty and tired after our early start and waiting around in airports/planes all day, so we were a bit disgruntled. Also, I just wanted to get there as I was looking forward to seeing Alan and Margaret and spending some time with them.
The first shuttle bus that came along filled up quickly and we had about 10 minutes to wait until the next one. When it arrived, we took a leaf out of the book of the locals and just pushed and jostled our way onto it. When we got to the terminal we found the ferry ticket office and gave them our luggage tags. What happens is that they then collect the cases from the carousel and load them onto the ferry for you, then you pick them up at the other end.
We’d just missed one ferry (typical!) so we had an hour to wait for the next one at 4.30pm. We sat around yet again, then joined the lengthy queue to board the boat. You had to take a train to take the ferry and we ran on board thinking it was about to leave any second. But as ever, it was half an hour late (does nothing leave on time here?!) so it was nearer 5.30pm before we eventually arrived in Shekou.
On disembarking the ferry, we found one of our cases straight away, but the other one was nowhere to be seen. We looked all over, getting tireder and hotter and sweatier and grumpier by the minute, and eventually Trevor showed his luggage receipt to one of the officials and he tracked it down for him. Phew.
Then off we went, through immigration and passport control, until we saw Alan smiling and waving at the other side. Finally we were here. 🙂 We got a taxi to their sumptuous apartment at Coastal Rose Garden II (what a picturesque address!) where we greeted Margaret and dumped our bags. It was now 6.00pm and all we’d done all day was travel; buses, planes, trains, ferries and cars.
Then Alan uttered his magic words “Do you fancy going for a couple of pints in Frog’s?” [Señor Frog’s, their local pub]. Did we ever?! A freezing cold beer was just the ticket. In a flash all our lethargy left us, as we followed them along the road to this friendly and colourful pub, where we met the rest of the locals, including a Sunderland lad and a bloke from Newcastle – it’s a small world. 🙂
After a couple of drinks we went to a restaurant that served Western food and we enjoyed chilli con carne and some good wine; made a change from Chinese food.
Then it was back “home” to Alan and Margaret’s for a nightcap and bed, after a very long day. We had the luxury of a lie-in to look forward to in the morning, as well as whatever fun the day would bring.