After taking an hour long subway ride (that includes taking three trains to avoid having to carry my bags up several flights of steps,) I missed my airport train by about two seconds. I wait half an hour for the next one, and then finally arrive at the airport. Of course I was excited to see my flight was delayed. Oh wait, no I wasn’t. Sigh.
I was a combination of exhausted and hyper and I didn’t even realize I was making some sort of scene by stamping my feet singing outloud and talking to my cute little stuffed dog. Then an airport employee came over to ask me if I was okay and then I realized I looked like a crack head.
My first flight was seventeen hours. I always read about how Cathay Pacific is a great airline so I was excited to be flying them. They do not have individual air vents at your seats, or at least they did not on this flight. I did not like that. They also didn’t do regular beverage service on this flight. I am not sure if it was because it was an overnight flight or if that is normal. Yes, you can hit the call button and someone will come, but I felt weird after eight hours of nothing, asking for a snack. I don’t even know what kind of snacks they had. It was weird.
My row only had two seats. I was in the window and my seat mate had a seat’s worth of empty space next to her, until some woman decided to start jogging in place in it. I could not stop laughing. I understand the reasoning for the jogging in place on a plane. I do not understand why you would think it was okay to do so, so close to another person.
Descent into Hong Kong:
I need to start bringing a phone charger with me. Oh and a toothbrush. I would have loved to have brushed my teeth at the airport. Or killed time on my phone. But the battery was dead, so I could not take a picture of the guy who was using plastic bags as socks, underneath his sneakers.
I wanted to go to Ngong Ping during my layover to see the Tian Tan Buddha when his head is not completely enveloped in a rain storm like last year, but wouldn’t ya know it. It is storming outside again today. I am sorry Tian Tan Buddha, I am trying here.
Killed the 4.5 hour layover by walking around the airport and using every free internet terminal they have. My Fitbit told me I walked seven miles in the airport! Then it was time to fly to Kunming.
Although this flight is only two hours, I just about lost my mind on it. I handled the seventeen hour flight with grace, I handled this one by having a mental meltdown and GET ME OFF THIS FREAKING PLANE ALREADY.
Descent into Kunming. Look at that blue sky.
I am staying at a hotel that is meant for people with a long overnight layover between flights. I had the idea that I could make my way back to the airport to catch the subway to get to the East Bus Station to go to the Stone Forest tomorrow. I ask a woman at the information desk to call my hotel for me to let them know I am here. She does and I ask where the ATM is. She points me and it will not give me money. It keeps asking me to enter the correct pin. Um, I am? I give up because it clearly hates me. I try another card, nothing. I try an actual credit card, nothing.
It is amusing to me that before I traveled, it took me so long to finally go overseas alone because I was scared of exactly this: not being able to get cash out of an ATM and having no one back home to call for help. Now that it appears this is happening, I really don’t care. I know that I was able to get cash last year, I am sure this is just a dick ATM machine.
When the shuttle driver comes, I follow him. One thing I have noticed about China is that no one will help you with your bags. This is fine because drivers also do not accept tips so it evens out.
I know from reading hotel reviews that mine is very close to the airport, under a ten minute drive. So obviously five minutes in, my driver’s friend gets a text and they have to go back to the airport to pick up more people. So many more people. When we get to the hotel, they all get out before me and now the line to check in is very long.
I tried to pay with a credit card but they do not take them, which is fine, I knew this. The woman walks me outside to an ATM…that will not take my card. I don’t know what to do. I go back and SUPER NICE – the woman asks me what I am doing tomorrow. Stone Forest. She gets excited and tells me that they will drive me back to the airport tomorrow so I can get cash. Then I can go to the Stone Forest and come back at night and pay. So we are basically operating on the honor system here that I am going to pay for my room. Can you imagine trying this in America? HAH.
I had some RMB leftover from last year’s trip, thankfully. I offered to pay for one night. The super nice woman pointed to where there was a store and offered that I want to order food, to be delivered to come downstairs and they will call for me. Also notable: She apologized to me for not speaking English too well. Um, I am the idiot who flew here without speaking Chinese. The last thing on Earth you owe me is an apology.
I head out and basically run to the store to get some iced milk tea. I got so addicted to this last year and the only place I have seen it in NYC was in the hand of a guy on the subway and rather than asking him where he got it, I opted to drool instead.
I went to my room and went online to ask my friend Google where I could find an ATM in the airport that works. This is when I find out my VPN is not working. Oh not today VPN. I had to reinstall it and whew, works. Google tells me that Kunming is a major airport and all ATM’s should take foreign cards. BUT IT WON’T. I find a message board where someone tells the tale of how China ATM’s have six digit pins and if you put in two zeros before your pin, it should work. Although I did not have this problem last year, I am willing to try the zeros thing this year.
This morning I got up and took the free shuttle to the airport. The driver did not speak English, I do not speak Chinese. She tried to ask me something, it did not work. Someone else in the car used her phone translator and I figured out she was asking what terminal. I don’t care, I just need cash. So I just said 1 because it was easier than trying to translate that.
Back at an ATM that actually accepts my card with the double zeros but will not give me cash. The only options if offers is a transfer. I don’t really know what that means, is in bad English for withdrawal? I don’t want to take the chance. So again, I am in China walking all over the airport trying ATM’s that will not take my card. I start getting paranoid because Google told me last night that if you try too many times, your bank may lock your card. Then I spot an ATM that I know is going to work. I just know it. AND IT DID. AND I HAVE CASH. I blew kisses at it and waved it goodbye as I left.
I go back outside and know that there is no way in hell I am going to the Stone Forest now. I am so mentally drained from walking all over the airport and the idea of getting to the Stone Forest at around noon and walking with dense crowds that I would have missed had I been able to go early like I wanted, sounded more like the opposite of what I wanted to do today.
I am sure I could have called my hotel to come pick me up for free but i just wanted to get away from the airport right now. I took a cab back to my hotel, fully knowing I would be ripped off. And I was. He charged me 100 RMB = $16. In the US, this would have been a $20-25 cab ride. So on the one hand, not so bad. But to consider that my hotel is only 156 RMB and comes with free round trip airport transport AND A ROOM, then know I was ripped off. Also the driver tried to drop me at many different places that were not my hotel. Luckily, I had already done the drive and knew where my hotel was. I don’t necessarily think he was deliberately trying to take me to the wrong place. We were on the correct street. But still.
At my hotel, the nice woman who speaks broken English was not there. So it took a bit to explain to a new person that I am checked in, no I am not going to the airport today, I am going tomorrow, etc. But I got my key renewed and I am right now in my room, drinking iced milk tea and preparing for a nap.
This means my trip actually starts tomorrow. Even though I did not make my way to the Stone Forest, I am happy that I had plans to do that or else I would have been leaving Kunming today. I am so glad I didn’t have to deal with the cash thing on a day where I had to catch a bus or plane or train.