Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The End of 2008

Time has certainly been slipping away from me since I returned home. Already one week has passed, Christmas is over, and New Year's Day is rapidly approaching. It was only this time last week that I was stepping off the plane at Manchester airport.

My return home was an incredibly long one, part of it being my own doing for wanting to save a few £'s -- the price between direct flights and connecting flights is outrageous. All in all, the travelling from Wenzhou to Manchester cost me over 33 hours; three plane journeys; and five hours in a hotel.

My flight from Wenzhou was a breeze apart from having to say goodbye to Kimi which I hated. It was very quick too, we barely ascended as the captain announced that we were about to descend. In one piece we arrived at Shanghai Pudong airport. Everything was going just as planned, which also meant that I had a wait of nine hours until my 6:30am flight to Dubai (because I flew with Emirates). While walking around the unusually quiet airport I bumped into a man -- I presumed he worked for the airport -- who was asking if I wanted to stay in a cheap hotel until my flight left in the morning. I didn't really want to, but his broken English and my broken Chinese was so bad that all I could do was tell him that I wanted to check the time of departure for my flight. Unperturbed, he escorted me to another terminal and helped me to check the time. I saw there was a bus heading to the hotel with other people inside. Before I could properly make a decision he had put my suitcase in the back and I was on my way to the hotel. It was only when the door slammed shut that I realised there was a small chance that this bus was going to park in the middle of nowhere at which point the £2100 that was stashed in my wallet would forcibly be removed from me. Fortunately the bus did indeed stop at a hotel where I paid a reasonable amount for a few hours sleep. Apart from a call from Kimi which brought all my fears of robbery back to the surface, I managed to have a few hours of sleep. The front desk woke me at 3:30 and I was taken to the airport for check in at 4 am. Worth every penny of the £18 I paid for it.

As I waited in the hotel foyer for my lift back to Shanghai Airport at 3:50am

The rest of the journey home was pleasant enough, although I was very disappointed with the Airbus plane that took off from Shanghai. I have become accustomed to Emirates' usual in-flight entertainment system, but this one was quite archaic in comparison. I actually had to change channels to choose what to watch, just like a television. Thankfully the flight from Dubai to the UK was back to excellence on a Boeing 777 plane -- even the food was nicer. Every time I have taken these flights to China I always have the pleasure of getting my meals before everybody else. It's great, there is always someone around my vicinity who I can hear impatiently muttering under their breath about the location of their meal, or why I've been given mine first. If you would like to have this luxury without having to pay any extra money, all you need to do is tell the travel agent you have a dietary requirement. There is a huge list to choose from, I go for the "Lacto-ovo vegetarian" option (that means I am a vegetarian who eats milk and eggs).

During my trip home I had the pleasure of staying in four airports. They are generally horrible and depressing places which could act as a kind of open-plan prison if one were to ever be decommissioned as an airport. I apply this rule to every airport I have been to apart from one: Dubai. If I have to be locked up anywhere for a day or two in between flights, I would choose there.

The gates at Wenzhou (top left), Shanghai (top right), and Dubai (middle) airports

Why I am rambling on about my trip home last week I have no idea. A whole week has gone by since then. Maybe another reason for the lack of posts here is because nothing too eventful has happened. Christmas was not ideal this year, mainly due to my mum being sick in bed with a flu-type illness. It seems to be slowly clearing up now, just a few days too late. On Sunday I also visited Dave (one of my friends from school). In February he and his girlfriend had a baby boy which they called Joel. I held him when he was just under one week old, he didn't even open his eyes then. Now he is completely changed, he laughs, climbs, crawls incredibly fast, and puts everything in his mouth. I am quite amazed by it all really.

It is brilliant to be home with my family and friends, although I feel like a huge gap is missing without Kimi being here with me. At least we have the incredibly bad quality of Skype to keep our lack of contact to a minimum. I forgot to mention that she bought me a fantastic camera for Christmas (this one), so there will hopefully be much higher quality pictures on here from now on. I had a go at using the macro mode and took this picture of a flower on some ivy in the garden (all of the colourful flowers are dead at this time of year). I am very impressed with it as no skill was involved and it managed to look like this:

So far the camera lives up to all of the reviews I read about it

Anyway, I have no idea where this post is heading so I should stop now. Happy last day of 2008 in the western world, and happy new year in China.


大眼睛熊 said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR baby~!! :D Hope ur having really sweet dreams right now!!
Im glad u like ur christmas gift so much, the pics u've taken with it looked even better than the ones taken by my camara which cost me even more!
I was relieved when i heard u got on the plane from shanghai successfully, i still think it was a risky move to go to the hotel with them! Anyway, have a good year!! xxxxxxx

Ihengsi said...

Chris, I agree with Kimi and can't believe you took the bus to the hotel at the direction of a complete stranger. Btw, there are two short time (hourly) hotels right at the Pudong Airport. Arrival area, second floor. And they are similar to what you paid.

As far as airports, my favorite ones are Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and to a certain extend, the new one in Bangkok. Hong-Kong is pretty good too, especially if you have access to the VIP Cathay Pacific lounge. I've been to the one in Dubai too but that was over 20+ yrs ago and I'm sure it has changed.

Funnily enough, the worse airports I have seen (from 1st world countries) are from the most industrialized countries such as US, Japan, and some countries in Europe, including UK and France.

mabelp said...

Chris! Wishing u a great new year!

Luckily, this bus which was perpared by that stranger didn't take u to a place with robbers. Hope u won't meet them again! Next time, u can pretend to be a deaf, take your suitcase and run away.

Has your mother recovered from flu yet? Hope she is fine! It's nice to know that u have a great time with your family and friends there.
When will u back to China?

Elwin said...

Strangers should be particularly avoided to talk with these days, as there're many cheaters pulling out cons around the Chinese spring festival, it happened a lot near railway stations and airports. Anyway, it's lucky that the bus you took was not of that kind.

Happy New Year! Hope could see U again when you got back in China.

Chris said...

Thank you for all of the comments. Happy New Year to you all!!

Ihengsi, I really couldn't believe I did that either. It seemed to be like a dream, I just don't know how it all happened. I am very grateful that it was all genuine and above board. I feel like I have learnt my lesson even though nothing bad happened. Thank you for the information about the hotel in the airport, I will remember that for next time.

I have been to Hong Kong's airport before, yes, I forgot how nice that one was too. I think you're right, a lot of the airports in the UK that I have visited are horrible. Manchester airport can be included within that!

Hi Mabel, my mum still has the flu which is really annoying and frustrating for her. I will send you an email later, I'm sorry about the delay getting back to you.