As we were flying, I was eager to look at what passed below us and was particularly interested in our approach to Beijing. I've heard stories about how big, crowded and smoggy Beijing is and was watching for such a place but we never saw it. We were obviously approaching the city because we'd diminished altitude substantially, but we were still flying over farmers' fields when Tom pointed to an odd-shaped building. "What's that?" he wondered. The building was shaped like two capital Ys connected to each other at the bottom of their stems.
My first reaction was that it was an airport but I couldn't see any planes and none of the supporting industry one expects near a major international airport so when we continued to fly past it, with no indication that we were going to land, and since we continued to see farmers' fields, I concluded I was wrong. I was wrong (about being wrong)! It still seems to be an odd location for an airport and I'm guessing that it was built specifically for the Olympics. Perhaps there's another airport for domestic flights?
The 38C (100F?) heat hit us with a blast. Does this place have air-conditioning? I have my doubts because I was pouring sweat from the start. The terminal is very new-looking and gorgeous--marbled floors, for example--but also utilitarian; there was no attempts to make the place inviting or relaxing such as the lounge in Vancouver's International Terminal with tall trees, upholstered couches and chairs, pools, fountains, aquarium and art.
Instead, there was an army of women in baby-blue uniforms, scattered liberally throughout, with squeegees as their weapons. Seriously! I used the washroom and was followed by one such warrior who took to the counter of sinks with a vengeance, ensuring no drops of water would mar the glossy marble. When there was nothing to clean, they would stand at alert attention, ready to attack whatever might defile the purity of walls, floors and other surfaces.
Our flight had arrived late and we had less than two hours to be processed by Immigration and Airport Security. Would we make it to our connecting flight on time? We weren't sure. We also weren't sure where to go, once we were off the plane (being the last to emerge and then using a washroom before proceeding, so we had no herd to follow) and wound up in the wrong line before being directed to the (much-shorter) right one.
Everywhere we walked, I was racing for fear of missing our connecting flight. Poor Tom had trouble keeping up! But then, he hasn't been walking every day, wearing a heavy backpack like I have for the past three weeks. When I was on the plane, I felt sick and icky, restless, and uncomfortable. I thought it was tiredness without being able to sleep but I was fine once we were on the ground, as evidenced by my fast walking in Beijing. In fact, once we'd found the departure lounge and realising we had another hour before boarding, I insisted on walking more. I still felt sick on the next flight.
Mons promised me that I could find bottled water wherever we would be in Asia. "They're selling them on every street corner, Mom!" But water was hard to find in the Beijing airport and available only in vending machines--not so helpful when you don't have local currency. I had a bottle of water from our flight, but security took it away from me. Combined with the heat and my fast moving, I was drenched. I'm going to have to get used to being constantly wet but I also have to keep hydrated, which means drinking lots of water. This may be more of a challenge than I expected. My two-litre hydration bag is going to be very useful.
Singapore Airlines is amazing. The female flight attendants wear very colourful and much-decorated floor-length cheung sams (Chinese-style dress). The men wear suits. One of the first things they did, once the seat belt sign was off, was hand out hot, wet, terry-cloth cloths to freshen ourselves with. How welcome after all the sweating I had done in Beijing! Our meal was served with metal cutlery and real glass to drink from. And when we landed in Singapore and went to find out how to connect with our delayed baggage, they gave us a substantial amount of cash (without us asking) to buy the things we were lacking. Nice!
The plane wasn't full so Tom and I shared an extra seat. Knowing how horrible I'd been feeling and that I hadn't been able to sleep, Tom (though he was also tired) generously offered to let me lie down with my feet on his lap. Finally I was able to get a couple hours sleep. Thank you, God!
When I was awake, however, I spent a fair bit of time looking out the window. So many (low) mountains! We flew between Guangzhou and Hong Kong after dark and I think it was Hong Kong whose lights I saw from 36000 feet up. I think it would be cool to take a trip whose sole purpose was to fly over many countries (or one large country) to view their terrain and landscape from the sky. I wonder if anyone has thought to create such tourist packages.