I can’t believe I’m actually here. I’m here! After so many years thinking about it, and so many months planning it. And I’m in a Holiday Inn Express, so it feels like I could be anywhere…
Yesterday, several time zones away, Matt took me to Heathrow Airport. Originally he wasn’t going to take me the whole way but he took pity on me and my incredibly heavy bags (in total, 50kg luggage…). It was really strange to wave him off and I can’t wait until he gets here next week.
I called China Eastern a few days ago to reserve a vegetarian meal but was told they couldn’t promise anything. But at check in they said I had a special meal, and didn’t kick up too much of a fuss about my visa (a non-standard port visa).
I went for dinner and then wandered over to my gate, where they were keen for everyone to board immediately. With half an hour to go I was in my seat and felt quite teary.
The flight itself was uneventful. Long. The in-flight entertainment didn’t work very well. I tried to sleep but couldn’t sleep properly. I had both of my special meals. For the final hour I stared out of the window as we flew over China. This is it! I wanted to take one of those clichéd “wings of a plane” photos but the cabin crew had already made me put my Kindle away, so I didn’t think they’d take kindly to me taking out my phone.
On landing, I went to get my visa. First I had to get some passport photos, as I hadn’t got any before leaving. This is why you don’t get passport photos taken after a 12 hour flight:
There was a lot of activity behind the desk but eventually I was asked to pay 168 RMB (less than £20) and was handed back my passport. The last time I got a Chinese visa it cost £55, and Matt’s recent one cost £151!
As I walked over to border control, I was stopped by two guards who said my temperature was too high. They made me stick a thermometer in my mouth and write down my address and phone number. I don’t actually feel totally well but I think I was overheating due to all the clothes I was wearing.
Finally, passport stamped, I picked up my bags and went out into arrivals to look for my driver (yes, second time this year I’ve had a driver pick me up at the airport!). We missed each other initially, and when I found him he dragged me over to the other terminal to collect two other teachers, then on a long walk to the carpark, where we waited for another driver to atcually take us to the hotel.
The two other teachers are very nice (one South African, one Canadian) but after waiting around for the driver and then sitting in traffic for nearly an hour I could feel myself flagging.
We drove past the railway station and then did a casual U-turn in the road to get to our hotel. My room may be a little faceless but it’s huge, clean, quiet and comfy. I’m off to shower!