Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Touching down at a little after 2:00 am local time in Guangzhou, China, we disembarked and loaded on to a shuttle bus to the terminal. From there we went through customs, were lead to where our baggage was held (in case we needed something out of it), and then were taken by bus to a hotel for the the night. This is an advantage of a layover longer than eight hours, ours was twelve – personal service and a free hotel stay.
The bus ride to the hotel was longer than we expected, about half an hour. We actually wondered if the driver was lost at one point, but I’m sure he wasn’t, we just assumed the hotel would be close by. At 4:00 am we checked into the hotel, and I was amazed at the size of everything – large! The country that had provided me with such tiny size-L thermal bottoms sure had a contrast to that when it came to construction!
We were told to meet the bus at 11:00 am and that breakfast was provided in the morning. I was noticing the room numbers being assigned to people ahead of me, and they were fairly low floors (ninth, etc.) so I was surprised when I was assigned to the 23rd floor!
When I got up to my room, I decided “room” wasn’t the word for it, “suite” was more fitting! It was actually five rooms, including two bathrooms. It was huge! Everything in it was electronically controlled. The culture shock between there and Nepal was immense, way beyond flush toilets, in fact it would have been a culture shock between there and my home in the US! I took a quick shower and crawled into my gigantic bed with the alarm set for 10:00 am.
When I got up in the morning I caught up on email with Adam and Nora, both of whom had been wondering where in the world I was for a couple days! (Interesting note: China blocks Facebook, so no posts happened there.) Next I explored the balcony (required removing one bolt, he he) and took a quick documentary video of the suite before hurrying down to breakfast. Even rushing it, it took over two minutes to show everything…
A tour of my suite on the 23rd floor.
Getting down to the lobby for breakfast I discovered it to be three stories high, with huge marble pillars. Breakfast was on the second level, where I was seated and given a menu. I expected a little better English capability at a hotel used by the airline, but we muddled through, and I ordered dumplings and water – so she brought me tea (that’s water, right?). I was surprised that smoking was allowed, fortunately it wasn’t that close to me. The people eating there were all very well dressed and I felt pretty out-classed.
None of the others I had been traveling with were there, so I was concerned about the time, but the dumplings finally arrived and I quickly ate them. The next thing to arrive was the check. Check?! Uh-oh… I tried to explain that I was to be comped by the airline but that didn’t work. I wasn’t about to hand them my US credit card, which hadn’t been working internationally anyway, so I pulled out a US $20 bill and hoped that would cover the fancy dining. But they couldn’t make change there and I was escorted down to the front desk. Apparently there was a complimentary breakfast buffet in another area, the rest of my had eaten there, but I never saw that and ended up in the main dining area. Oops! How was I to know that…? So I handed the front desk the $20 and hoped it was enough. They didn’t have enough US currency to make change and handed me Chinese juan and some coin. I had no idea how I had come out on the deal, but I took it and got on the bus to go back to the airport. Later, in the airport, I had someone at a shop convert my Chinese change and, to my surprise, the breakfast had been only $4.00!
On the bus ride back to the airport.
Once inside the airport I again realized the Chinese affinity for largeness. I joined up with four others who were also heading to the Pacific Northwest, a single guy from Seattle, a woman from Nepal who lived in Alberta, Canada with her husband and children, and a couple from (I believe) the Seattle area also who had been trekking in Nepal. I dubbed us “The PNW-5.”
We went through the process of finding our gate, getting boarding passes and dealing with red tape since we were off schedule. Some were getting upset and a little freaked (earthquake trauma?) because things were messed up, but I knew it would be ok. The Nepali style “make it work” attitude kicked in and before long we were boarded and ready for our twelve hour flight to Vancouver, Canada.
Once I sat down on the plane I didn’t get up again for the next twelve hours! I don’t know why, but through two full meals, and all of that time, I never once had the desire to get up, or even go to the bathroom. The later was a huge blessing from God because I still had an intestinal bug of some sort, but it took a 48 hour vacation while I was traveling!
The flight over was very turbulent! The captain kept climbing higher and higher in an attempt to get above it, but to no avail. It was kind of fun though, watching the entire fuselage of the plane flex as we bounced along. From my seat near the rear I had a very good perspective on that. I also enjoyed the view of the clouds below us.
Flying over the Pacific.
We arrived in Canada at about 10:15 am local time, which was really strange since we had left China at 2:00 pm the same day! Even stranger was that (again) at 2:00 pm the same day I would be leaving Canada for Portland, Oregon. Gotta love the time zones!
Dealing with Air Canada was a pleasure because they sorted out the ticketing and luggage mess that China Southern had created. They said “that always happens with them” and they kindly got me and my baggage back on course, without any additional charges.
Once aboard the small turboprop for Portland the length of the trip began to really hit me. It felt like the end of a marathon (though I have never run one) where you are exhausted but know you are so close you will definitely make it. I bobbed in and out of sleep the whole hour plus flight.
At 3:16 pm, my own home time, the wheels hit the tarmac in Portland, Oregon!
After collecting my baggage, and taking the “carpet pic,” I called Eileen, the Maucks (my ride and where I was staying for the night), and posted my arrival to Facebook. Once at the Mauck’s house they fed me an amazing meal (thanks Bonnie!) and then we talked… or I should say, I talked! The excitement of the month, coupled with very little conversation over the past two days, caused me to spill until about 1:00 am!
So, from 4:00 pm Nepal time on the 26th until 3:15 pm on the 28th, with the time zone corrections, I had been traveling for exactly 60 hours!
…and I went to sleep.