Exploring Asia Overview
Cathay Pacific B777-300ER Business Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge Review: The Cabin at HKG
Cathay Dragon A330-300 Business Class Hong Kong to Beijing
Lodging Review: Regent Beijing Hotel
Beijing: Dongcheng District
Beijing: The Great Wall
Beijing: Run-ze Jade Garden
Beijing: The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
Beijing: The Legend of Kung Fu
Beijing: Tiananmen Square
Beijing: The Forbidden City
Beijing: Hutong Tour via Rickshaw, Tea Tasting, Flying to Xi’an
Lodging Review: Hotel Shangri-La Xi’an
Xi’an: Qing Dynasty Terra Cotta Warriors
Xi’an: Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
Xi’an Wrap-Up, Flying to Lhasa, Lhasa Home Visit
Lodging Review: Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa
Lhasa: Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Market
Lhasa: Canggu Nunnery and Sera Monastery
Lhasa: Potala Palace
Leaving Lhasa and Flying to Chongqing
Cruising the Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam
Jingzhou City Walls Tour
Wuhan: Hubei Bells Performance and Provincial Museum
Shanghai: Shanghai Museum
Lodging Review: Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai
Shanghai: Old Shanghai and Yuyan Gardens
Lodging Review: The New Otani Tokyo Hotel
Tokyo: City Tour
Mt. Fuji and Hakone Tour Returning by Shinkansen
ANA Suites Lounge Review, Tokyo Narita
All Nippon Airways B777-300ER First Class Tokyo Narita to Houston
It was another travel day but we had a late morning flight so we could sleep in a little, the weather was gorgeous so everything should be perfect. With an intro like that you know what’s coming, right?
At all the other airports the porters had handled our luggage and Jack had taken care of checking us in as a group. Not in Lhasa. As we had noted at the airport when we arrived and on the way from the airport to the city, security was a bit tighter here in advance of the annual Communist Party meeting in Beijing that would be occurring in the next few weeks. So we had to get into a line with our luggage for check-in. That was fine except since we’d arrived more than two hours before our flight time we were apparently “too early” to check in. So we had to just stand there waiting until we were allowed to proceed.
After the first person checked in, their bag was scanned while the second person was checking in. So the first person had to hang around and then if something needed closer inspection, they had to go to the back to open the suitcase, etc. It made for an extremely slow process. But eventually we all made it through and proceeded upstairs through security. That didn’t move briskly but was not really a problem.
At this point we’re in the main area of the airport. You can’t really call it a concourse because it’s just one giant room with the five airline gates spread out against the wall. There’s a little store in the center but it’s very small. There were a couple of stores at each end but I heard they were fairly expensive for what they were selling. But there was plenty of seating throughout the airport, thank goodness.
As I mentioned in the post about our arrival, there’s no wi-fi and unless your phone was issued by a Chinese carrier you couldn’t get a cell signal so we just chatted and read until it was time to board. That’s when Jack broke the news. We had noticed several military planes taking off and landing but knew that the runway was shared so that was not a big surprise. But the military was doing exercises and thus civilian planes were prohibited from taking off or landing which meant not only would we not be boarding on time, our plane had not yet arrived and worse, there was no estimate of when we might be able to leave.
While this flight in general does not have a great on-time performance record, since we weren’t connecting to another airline being a little late was not a huge deal. Turned out that was a very good thing because we were stuck. A meal was eventually provided but to Western taste buds it wasn’t that great. But at least it kept me from having hunger headaches. With no wi-fi and no cell service we quickly understood what Tom Petty (RIP!) meant when he said “the waiting is the hardest part”, because that was all we could do. For nearly five hours.
When it was finally time to board, we stepped up to the podium to have our boarding pass scanned. The next step was to cross a hallway that’s used when passengers are deplaning. That hallway was blocked off so we could take the three steps across it and be on the jet bridge. But wait! A uniformed military guy – with a rifle slung over his shoulder – had to inspect the boarding pass we were issued literally 2 steps earlier before we could cross the the hallway. Talk about overkill! We were just so glad to be finally leaving that we didn’t care.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 11:35 local time and didn’t actually take off until 16:21, 4h 46m late. And because it’s a relatively short flight at just over two hours, “flying faster” doesn’t really make up much time. We landed at 18:30, which was 4h 35m late so we gained 11 minutes.
This flight was on Sichuan Airlines and wasn’t much different from our flights on China Eastern. At least this time I didn’t have a seatmate dying to exit the plane. However, a guy on the row behind me reportedly spent the entire flight with his face glued to the window and we could hear him moaning (at least, that’s what it sounded like to us) quite often during the flight. Once we finally reached Chongqing and his seatmate stood up in the aisle, we heard him hawk a loogie and spit on the floor behind us. I was so glad to get away.
Once known in the west as Chungking, Chongqing (chong-ching) is a major municipality in China. The population is listed at 30 million but that’s for the entire municipality, which is more like a province or state at 31,816 square miles. That’s about the size of South Carolina. The urban area is 182 square miles with a population of “only” 8 million or a mind-boggling 45,000 people per square mile. By contrast NYC, the most densely populated US city, has the same population but in 304 square miles.
We didn’t really get to see much of the city as it was dark by the time we arrived (and the porters collected our luggage, hooray!) but one thing that was actually enhanced by our late arrival was our view as we approached the Yangtze River. The whole riverfront area and beyond lights up at night. It’s almost like Las Vegas except that it’s not flashing signs so much as entire buildings lit up. Some do display messages but most are just colorful. We were glad we had a chance to take pictures while we were stationary because not terribly long after we finally boarded the boat took off and we began the river cruise portion of our tour.