The Tokyo Joint: Air China Beijing-Singapore, A330-300 Economy Class

After a very distressing flight, I was glad to be back on the ground.

Thanks to the windy conditions, it opened up the skies of Beijing, and made it a perfect day for planespotting – something that is unfortunately, not a common sight. China’s unique geography, combined with the resulting effects of irresponsible practices from this rapidly industrializing  fossil fuel-based economy, has condemned the nation to live and breathe in its own fart. So, clear, blue sky days are unfortunately, a rarity, not just in Beijing, but much of the country, which is a pity because China’s a really beautiful country alive with a very rich culture and history…if you can see it. And today, well, it was one of those beautiful clear days. Terminal 3’s floor to ceiling, glass-clad panorama made airplane photography on a sunny, clear day like this almost picture perfect. If I had a zoom lens, and more time, it’d have been perfect. However, instead of just photographing planes, I chose to portray them as a relationship between flight and connecting peoples, which I think is what flying’s really about.

Progress… It’s not the most direct route, is it?

ANA Airbus A320s heading to Osaka.

Asiana Airlines Boeing 767 readying for flight back home to Seoul.

ANA Boeing 737 to Nagoya.

My plane bathing in sunlight.

Air China CA 969
Beijing – Singapore
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Scheduled: 1525hrs – 2145hrs
Actual: 1530hrs – 2200hrs
Load Factor: 95%
Seat: 36A

China Southern A380 heading for Hong Kong.

My outbound flight didn’t have any personal TVs in Economy Class, so I had no reason to expect it to appear either. This time, I was more prepared – with my iPhone well charged to last me the journey, and the somewhat noise-canceling Audio Technica earphones with a freaking amazing bass that I had bought at Haneda airport prior to departing. The crews were noticeably less young than my inbound Singapore – Beijing flight, and took it upon themselves to greet everybody in English instead of a mix of Mandarin and English. The crew had forewarned us about severe turbulence immediately after take off, and advised that the seatbelt signs wouldn’t be switched off for a while, so they allowed a few passengers to use the toilet as we pushed back and taxi to the runway, which was unsettling, but understandable, since the taxiing in Beijing takes ages. Still shaken by my horrifying approach a while ago, I dreaded the take-off and looking the planes taking off ahead of us offered no console – departing into the ferocious wind, each machinery look like they were struggling to keep airborne. Then it was our turn…

The silent Airbus kicked its engines into overdrive as it thundered, ironically, along Beijing’s shortest runway, in the face of the invisible wave. It seemed like we wouldn’t get off the ground until at the midnight hour, the nose was pulled into a sharp ascent – the steepest I’ve ever experienced, and with that, silence… So quiet, that it was numbingly eerie, and we continued in that position – north, instead of south, where Singapore was. As if to test the wind conditions, the aircraft banged left, only to be jerked back into position by the elements. Few of the passengers were particularly bothered by the turbulence, because they were clamoring for a view of the Great Wall which we were now flying over. Whoever said you could see these things from space was spouting a whole load of bollocks, because as it is, while visible, it was already barely a stand-out from 30,000 feet, much less from space. Eventually, we do turn due south-southwest towards Singapore.

The lack of inflight entertainment didn’t quite bother me because the scenery from the plane was just the show I needed. On a clear day like this, China’s geography was something out of the canvas. Even so, I couldn’t ignore the growling of my stomach – starved since brunch on my flight earlier, and “dinner”, as the crew calls it, couldn’t arrive soon enough. My “seafood” cooked in black bean sauce with rice set looked positively appetizing. From reading other travel blogs, I’m aware this is a regular on Beijing-Singapore flights – some people like it, others hate it. It’s not seafood – not seafood per se, but rather, a variety of Yong Tau Hoo. For the first time, there was alcohol on the trolley, so I nabbed the opportunity, and had beer to go along with this which I might add, is a perfect complement to this meal. I also had red wine (which they offered), which I kinda regretted because it was horrid, and with not many takers, I wasconstantly offered refills. Just as well, there was nothing to do, and there was nothing like lots of wine to help me snooze through the rest of the flight.

Delicious meal

Scenery over China

When I came back, I wasn’t feeling particularly warm and fuzzy inside – I had no one, no job and nothing to come back to….

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