The Beijing Narrative: Dream Skywards

When my alarm pierced through the silence at 4.40am as scheduled this morning, I woke up without a fuss. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, did some hasty last-minute packing and got changed, and tugged my luggage out of the room. Once I collected my 100 Yuan deposit, I walked out to the main road in my summer attire (short-sleeved shirt and skinny jeans), albeit with my coat in the 3 deg C autumn dawn. Now that I was freezing to death, it occurred to me that it wasn’t a very good idea. Fortunately, within 10 minutes, a cab offered me salvation.

After a whole hour later, the taxi dropped me off at Terminal 2. When I entered the terminal, it was already a hive of activity, with many people already checking in for various flights already. The check-in agent was especially kind, and not only acceded to my requests for window seats, but as I’d find out later, very good seats indeed. Making my way towards the international end of the terminal to clear immigration, I noticed a airport staff supervising a long line of products at the “Oversized Baggage” counter all tagged to “FNJ”. The things ranged from European-styled tables to Samsung LCD televisions and I caught a brief glimpse of what looks like an Apple product box. I wanted to whip out my iPhone to snap a picture, but decided not to since the airport staff there were eying me with suspicion. I thought of taking a picture from the Delta Air Lines check-in area, but when I looked back, to my horror, they were looking at me, so I decided not to, and just head for immigration.

At this point of time, I was feeling absolutely famished. So, once I cleared immigration, I dived straight into the first F&B place I saw – Starbucks. When I finished my Egg Cheese sandwich and Hot Mocha, and walked to the gate waiting area, the sun was already well on its way up, and it revealed a very foggy airport. From Terminal 2 where I was, I could not see the famous Sir Norman Foster dragon scales-inspired Terminal 3 across the runway, which was a real pity because the terminal was after all, one of the modern wonders of the world.

Hong Kong Express operated by Hong Kong Airlines
Flight: UO 305/HX 8305/HU 8159
Scheduled: Beijing Capital 0740 – 1100 Hong Kong
Actual: Beijing Capital 0740 – 1144 Hong Kong

A330-200

To my utter surprise, passengers starting queuing, and in a rather civilized manner a whole ten minutes before the pre-boarding announcement, which I thought was nice. One thing I love about China so far, is that they get “passengers” or “commuters” involved. At subway stations, they’ll tell you to alight quickly and board fast, and prepare to alight to avoid unnecessary delays. And there are real consequences like when I was in Shanghai, my train had to skip stations because the commuters were not “cooperative”, so everybody does their part, and most of the time, it works. Some may try to portray it as a communist ideal thing, but hey, at least it accomplishes what needs to be done. I myself, was one of the last to board. Entering the aircraft, I noticed that rather unusually, the crew and passengers were largely in good spirits. There were cheerful banters, laughter throughout, but once we began our take off, everybody hushed, and it made the flight real pleasant.

Beijing is the world’s third busiest airport, so the wait to takeoff took a really long time, but overall, nobody seemed bothered. I can only imagine that the airspace is so saturated with aircraft because we continue flying north towards Russia for a whole 100 kilometres before turning south towards Hong Kong. The inflight entertainment took a long time to be switched on, but I was satisfied by looking at the scenery below – rough looking snow-capped escarpments and ridges stretching into the horizon… Simply amazing.

With my stomach still rumbling, I was glad that the meal service started early (the inflight entertainment was turned on, and I immediately began watching Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). This time, I went for one of the biggest no-nos in inflight food – eggs. To be honest, it was the total opposite of what I had expected, and was actually, pretty good.

As we approached into Hong Kong, I was once again fascinated by the urbanization of the Pearl River Delta. From Shaoguan, past Guangzhou, to Hong Kong, there was just continuous human activity, be it roads, housing, buildings, and to be honest, it was just crazy. When I finally turned on my phone, I noticed that it was already 11.44am. With my connecting boarding pass placed at the overhead locker, I wasn’t too sure what time was my flight but I surmised that since I’m due in Singapore at 3:50pm and the flight takes about 3.5 hours, my flight would have to leave at noon, which made me a little panicky. I was like, please wait for me, I don’t want to fly on the evening flight to Singapore – it’s a narrow body aircraft with no inflight entertainment. Once the crew gave the all clear for the Economy Class passengers, I scrambled to the transfer area, go through security (even they saw my boarding pass and didn’t wand me as stringent as I know them to be), and “jwogged” to my gate only to find the flight delayed. I mean seriously, Hong Kong really needs to have more flight information displays; they could cause a heart attack here. I made a mental note not to choose Hong Kong Airlines if I was connecting.

Hong Kong Airlines
Flight: HX 751
Scheduled: Hong Kong 1205 – 1550 Singapore
Actual: 1300 – 1700 Singapore

A330-200

One of my favorite things about my next flight was the fact that the passengers were mostly Chinese and Hong Kongers. No Singaporean would ever choose this flight as it incurs an extra night’s stay, and there’s no time to do any last-minute shopping. On the contrary, it’s perfect for holiday goers because you arrive just in time to go to the hotel, freshen up, then enjoy the rest of the evening. Even before I was fashion conscious, I was always utterly embarrassed by the way Singaporeans dress for vacation, particularly for weekend getaways. The fact that I had no access to that, was just perfect.

The South China Sea, particularly at its southern end, always seems to be a hotbed for bad weather and turbulence, so it wasn’t that surprising that our flight to Singapore took longer than expected. Occasional jolts and monstrous charcoal-colored clouds got progressively violent and darker as we neared the Peninsula. The final approach into Singapore in particular, was particularly frightening as high altitude rain, snow and lightning filled the windows, causing the wings to flap violently and the elements viciously trying to slice the flaps off the plane. In fact, a mother had to close the window shades despite being ordered to open them because her son was traumatized by the views outside. For me, I just enjoyed my ride. I was watching Transformers: Dark of The Moon, so all of the jolts and all added a dimension, and I probably enjoyed the film much more because of the unintended 4D.

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