East meets West, for 2 hours.

Trip Start Mar 30, 2010
Trip End Dec 13, 2012

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Flag of China  ,
Monday, January 10, 2011

Now as I left the airport in Germany, I had to check in at the Air China counter.  No big deal, right?  Well those stupid little lanes they have don't quite take a bike in a box through them.  I had to jump ahead into the business class lane, even though I was flying economy cattle class.  When I arrived, I found out that I would have to pay per kilo for the bike to come with me.  33.50 a Kilo, and the bike package was nearly 20 kilos!!! AHHHHHHHH!  I was starting to regret this complicated plan I had come up with, but to be honest, there was no turning back at this point.  Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.  Luckily enough though, the sweet lady behind the counter could see my eyes bulging out of my head when she pulled out the calculator to tell me what I would owe them.  She lowered the cost by more than half.  It was an extremely kind gesture to a complete stranger.  I kept thanking her for "bending" the rules for me.  
      Once the bike fiasco was delt with, it was time to go and deal with my bigger concern.  German customs officials.  Now I had heard from some people that they would literally have to sit there and count the days that I had been there, but I thought it would be a little more complex than that.  Knowing the Germans with all their advanced technologies, I expected red lights and sirens to alarm on the computers.  As I was called forward, the officer didn't seem to be in a good mood at all.  He glanced at my passport and then he looked up to give me a good stare.  Then came the questions.  How long have you been here?  What was the purpose of your travel?  Where did you spend most of your time?  I thought I was busted, and this was just his way of almost torturing me.   I swear I almost dribble peed in my pants.  Then, he gave me my passport back, told me to enjoy my flight.  I was home free!!  Score!!  I went and chilled in the terminal, and made sure my underwear was all good.
     Hours and hours of flying later, I ended flying into Beijing.  Flying over China was pretty wild.  I don't really know anything about China, other than the rumors and things you hear on the news.  It was a mssive and seemed to be quite open, a far different picture of what you would imagine consider its population.  As we got closer to Beijing, the factories began popping up.  It seemed like an endless sea of manufacturing industry.  Perhaps we didn't fly over the most scenic route, but it was still fascinating.   I never thought the day would come when I would be flying into China, even if it was for just a 3 hour stop over.
    Right away as we landed, everything felt "chinese."  The little carts that drive around the airport hauling luggage, the buildings, the cars you could see.  I guess that isn't so surprising considering it was China, but it was a bit overwhelming after a 9 hour + flight.  Walking off the plane, I headed into the massive airport that just a few years prior held the summer Olympics.   I thougt that my stop over here would have been a simple one, as stop overs usually are.  But China is different, in everyway.  There, I would have to clear customs and get a temporary visitor visa.  That's the communists republic for you.  I swear they just do that so that they have a record of me now.  Either way it had to be done.  I approached the counter to ask for some help.   There I met an Austrian girl who had just come on the same flight from Munich and I, and was also heading to Melbourne.  I could tell that she was a little nervous/lost, so tried to crack a few jokes to lighten the situation.  The two of us got in line to clear customs and made it through after several unexplained delays.  It was nice to have company to spend the time with at the airport.  I was supposed to meet up with a friend from Italy, Claire, that was living in Beijing.  But neither of us thought it would have been possible because I was not sure if I was to be allowed out of the security area.  I sent an sms in hope of having her come to the airport, but with the country codes, german sim card, and who knows what other issues, it unfortunately never happened.  But not all was lost, as Sarah and I wandered around the airport in hope of finding some wifi, but settled on just having a coffee and chatting in the terminal.  
    From Beijing we had a stop over in Shanghai, which wasn't really listed on our flight itinerary.  It said it was a technical stop, but really, it was just a fancy way of saying an second stop over.  From Shanghai, we still had to change planes.  I remember it was the middle of the night there, as the airport was rather quiet.     The last leg of flying was a long one.  Shanghai to Melbourne was somewhere around the 8 hour mark.  I had switched seats on the plane so that I could sit beside Sarah, and have some nice company for the long flight ahead.   On this flight, I remember feeling like a giant, as the majority of the people were Asian, and around the 5 foot mark.  Now I know what my friend Dean feels like on a daily basis.   Staring at the onboard map to show location, it seemed to barely move hour after hour.   At some points, I was ready to open the emergency door on the plane and just jump out.    We both tried to catch some shut eye as we would be arriving in the morning, and to make a little more time pass.   We woke up some time shortly after flying over the Australian mainland, just before the sun began to break through th horizon. The color of red and oranges that came with the sun rise were so different from the sunrises I would see in Canada.  I'm not sure if its because of the location on the planet, the red outback, or some unexplained phenomenon, but it was beautiful.  It almost looked as though the sky was on fire.  
      This was one of the longest transit days of my trip so far, and one that I was glad to end.  I had hardly slept in 28 hours of being on the move, maybe 3 hours at most.  But not all was bad.  I had made it to the other side of the planet, I was going to see some family that was long over due to see, and I made a great new friend out of the travel.    
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