Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Bumbling Beijing Adventure

I had no idea a stop in Beijing, China was on my itinerary...But, apparently my trip was going a little too well, and an adventure needed to happen.

Although my flight itinerary was technically a straight shot from Paris to Shanghai, there was a little asterisk that noted a "technical stop" in Beijing. Ok. No big deal. We stop in Beijing. I'll chill on the plane. Maybe hop off and grab a quick snack, and jump back on.

That would've been too easy.

When I de-boarded the airplane in Beijing, there was a Chinese lady asking passengers in a thick Chinese accent "transfer Shanghai?"

Me: "Ah, that's me!"
Agent: "Ok, go up through immigration and come back. Hurry!"
Me: "Ok, but should I go through domestic or intern-"
Agent: (now yelling at me and shoeing me away) "CHA-CHI-BY-BOW!!"

I have no idea what that translates to, but I assume it meant "You need to move your ass you amazingly good-looking man!"

She then put some special transfer sticker on my shirt. I thought this sticker would assist me in moving through the airport quicker and facilitate everything (silly Arun), so I hustled my tushy up the stairs. This is where I started getting confused. I had to go through either the International transfer area, or the domestic transfer area. I asked around, and I'm not sure if they understood me, but I was pointed towards the domestic transfer.

Makes sense since Beijing to Shanghai is a domestic flight, but then again, should I really be transferring anywhere since I'm supposed to be on the same flight?

I proceeded as told, went through immigration and asked somebody else where to go. They pointed me towards the tram. Hmmm...this didn't seem right, but if that's what they say...

I took the tram, and when I get off, I realize that I'm now in the baggage claim area. Wait...why am I at the baggage claim?

I go to the information desk and tell them I'm supposed to get back on my flight...and FAST. She had no idea what I was talking about and pointed me to another employee all the way across the baggage claim area.

And the dominoes begin to pick up speed.

At this point, I'm starting to get a little nervous because between immigration, the tram, and now not knowing where to go, this is all taking awhile, and the gate agent yelling at me in Mandarin to hurry is still reverberating in my mind.

This person tells me that I need to wait for my bag, then re-enter the gate through customs. I thought my little bag was checked through to Shanghai, but she insisted I have to wait.

So I waited...and waited...all the while praying that my plane doesn't leave without me. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. 20 minutes. No bag.

I jog over to the Air China baggage claim office and ask them what I'm supposed to do because my plane is about to take off. I show them my ticket stub and confusion breaks out. Three people are looking at each other talking in VERY animated Mandarin.


The guy goes back to check on something and comes out exclaiming, "What are you doing here!? Your bag is going Shanghai!"


They are confused and say I need to go through customs right now and get to my plane. Now I'm booking it across the terminal over to customs. Good thing I'm wearing running shoes.

I get to customs, hook slide under the line rope, plead with everyone to let me get to the front of the line, and try to explain the situation to see where to go. Of course, the customs official speaks little English and needs to get help. All the while I'm pleading with people and pointing at my transfer sticker to explain an apparently confusing situation.

The transfer identification sticker the gate agent gave me is doing NOTHING.

Finally, a lady comes to try and help me (I found that during this whole ordeal, the female Air China employees were much more helpful and sympathetic to me. I'm sure it helped that I was putting my hands together and desperately pleading with people to help me.

She ran with me out and up to the Air China ticket counter took me to the front of the line (much to other customers chagrin) and dropped me off. I made her stay because she seemed to be sympathetic to my cause.

This ticket agent, after about ten minutes of me pleading and my new customs official friend yelling at him to hurry up, told me my plane is about to take off.

Discovery of the century Sherlock.

Then he said I have to go back to the baggage claim and get my bag, then come back to the counter to get a ticket.

"YOU SON OF A !@&^%$ MOTHER #&%*@!! NO GOOD %$#&^!." Ok, well I didn't say those words exactly, but I was thinking it.

I sprint downstairs, but the problem now is, you have to be on the other side of security to be in the baggage claim area. I plead with the security official randomly pointing to my ticket stub and transfer sticker (now barely holding on to my sweaty shirt due to all the running) and he lets me through.

I never knew someone could actually go backwards through security!

Still no bag.

I run back to the baggage claim office, sure that I've missed my plane, and the guy looks at me like I'm the biggest idiot in the world, running around the airport for 40 minutes, ending up back here.

"What you doing here?!?"

He sees my expression, and realizes and should stop asking me questions. He grabs my ticket stub, types on the computer, writes down a gate number and tells me "J Terminal! 51C! RUN NOW!

Here we go again.

I confusedly run around, looking for the terminal, FINALLY find it, and book it over to security. When I finally get to security, I have to go through another passport checkpoint. They won't let me through though because I only have a ticket stub and not an actual boarding pass (which they ripped off when I initially boarded the plane in Paris).

What else can go wrong here?

After more pleading, and people calling managers, somebody finally escorts me through. Now I'm at security, and unloading all of my crap onto the x-ray belt. Of COURSE, every time I go through the security screener, I set it off. Once. Twice. Third time. (this NEVER happens!) Now I have to stand on the damn pedestal and get radar wanded. Once that's through (and because I have SO MUCH time to spare) they also decide to search my backpack.

I've lost all patience at this point.

Then, this very important looking lady shows up (an angel) and tells me she is escorting me to my plane. Thank GOD.

We hop on this cart-thing, and cruise though the airport, siren and lights on, bobbing and weaving through traffic. We get to an elevator, and I INSIST that she comes with me. I finally found someone who seems to know I have a plane to catch and LATCH ON!

I finally get to the secondary gate where she leaves me with a guy who I made promise to get me on the plane before she could leave. He looks at me and asks me for my transfer ticket. I tell him all they gave me is this sticker. He looks at the other agent, says something in Chinese, and they both erupt in laughter, looking at my sticker.

I am not amused.

They escort me on to another tram which drops me off on the actual runway area where I climb the stairs into the plane. Luckily the plane was delayed due to mechanical issues, which is the ONLY reason I was able to make the flight.

Good Lord, no one should ever have to go through that. All in all, I think no fewer than 20 different airport employees were involved, and I spent about an hour and a half running around Beijing International.

I would love to see the airport security cameras of me running all over place, pleading with everyone, jumping up and down, frantically pointing at my dumb useless transfer sticker (damn that first gate agent!).

But, in the end, I made it to Shanghai, and it all worked out.

Just another adventure ;)

1 comment:

Bill Riddell said...

It's these travel nightmares that make us appreciate the remaining awesomeness. Plus they make great stories.