The check-in in Copenhagen went well, I even managed to sneak in 8 extra kg with no problems, I would have been in serious trouble if the check-in guy had weighed my hand luggage….
In the airport I took out 1000 yuan (140 euro) for “just in case”.
My trip schedule was as following Copenhagen –Stockholm-Beijing airport – Beijing train station – Xuzhou train station- Maling shaolin kungfu academy.
If there is one thing I have learned in all the years I have travelled it is that the 100 euro/dollars you can save by adding 15 hours to your travelling time including 2-3 extra changes is NEVER worth it. No matter how poor you are (as a student I am still in that category) the entire trip will be pure agony and you will end up spending more money than you saved on coffee and food and the jetlag will hold on to you forever. Every few years I forget this and book the cheapest trip and I ALWAYS regret it.
Luckily this was not a time I forgot. I had a short flight to Stockholm and there I had to wait for 2 hours and 40 minutes for my connecting 8 hour flight straight to Beijing. I could have taken a connecting flight where I only had to wait for 50 minutes in Stockholm but experience and the increased chance of my luggage (and probably also me) not making it to the next flight was too high for me.
I ran into a small Danish family also travelling to Beijing (with 3 kids, respect for that!!!) and spent the waiting time talking to them.
I may have recruited at least one new student for the academy for in about 10 years. One of the kids was very fascinated by the fact that I was going to do kungfu and that I could fight with a kungfu fan, I had brought it with me in the backpack in case Beijing would be insanely hot (and it was).
I am terrible at flying, again another indication that I should not be going to China, but I have never been very good at listening to the “hints of life”, I am much better at consciously ignoring them. The flight sickness in my case was handled by some special band aids for transportation sickness that works for 72 hours (I love medicine can do that) the only side effect is that I get more tired which is a win since I am (like most people) terrible at sleeping in a plane.
The plane from Stockholm to Beijing was with China airlines, this means tiny seats and crappy entertainment system, but still better than an extra connection and it was an overnight flight so I was supposed to be falling asleep naturally.
Well, it didn’t really work out like that, either I have become more fat than last time (quite possible) or my memory is bad (quite possible too), because the seats were even smaller than I remembered and it was 8 hours of 90 degree torture. I think I managed to get like 2 hours of something that resembles sleep.
I arrived in Beijing in the morning far from rested but I was as happy as hippo when I, after a 35 minute trip, including a train ride (then you know it’s a huge airport) arrived at the baggage claim and saw my suitcase coming towards me.
I was less happy when I opened it to put in my now completely unnecessary jacket and scarf and realized that one of the containers with chia seeds had exploded. I decided to quickly close it and pretend it didn’t happen.
Next step was figuring out how I could go from the airport to the train station in less than 2 hours before my train was to depart. I had booked a train ticket a few days in advance but on the day of my departure from Copenhagen I realized that they had put on the wrong date on the ticket, the ticket was one day prior to my arrival in Beijing, when talking to the school about the issue they said I could get the ticket changed with no charges if i got to the ticket counter less than 24 hours after the departure.
The easy solution would have been to take a taxi straight from the airport to the train station, no hassle, no time issues and very expensive. Somewhat worried about the price and that the lady at the information counter said that it was rush hour (at 12 noon??? Didn’t really get that) I decided to be adventurous (still waiting for my common sense to develop) and take the train/subway.
It actually went a lot smoother than I had expected, I found the ticket office for the first train part and paid the fare with no issue, I also found the second ticket office when changing to the subway and got that fee paid.
All with a huge suitcase, a heavy backpack, very tired and in 35 degrees , I was quite proud of myself when I arrived at the station after having changed trains 3 times and not getting lost a single time.
But that was also where my luck ran out, the station was insanely crowded, the ticket office turned out to be closed so I had to find a Chinese employee who could guide me in direction of a second ticket office, kind of hard when you don’t know the word for any of these things in Chinese and none of the people speaks English.
After an hour I finally found an open ticket office and had to stand in line for another hour, I can proudly say that only 3 Chinese people cheated in front of me, their idea of standing in line is slightly different than back home.
When I finally got to the counter it was 5 minutes after the 24 hour window had closed, but even if I had managed to be there 10 minutes earlier I am not sure it wouldn’t have made any difference. The guy didn’t speak English and the “translator” he finally got just said that my train had left (I kinda knew that) and that was the extent of her English capabilities.
After some time I gave up and bought a new ticket, luckily they had a seat available in a train a few hours later in first class.
Most times you have to book your train ticket a few days in advance otherwise they are sold out but not as many buy the first class tickets so I spend the money I had saved on the taxi (and some more) to buy a new ticket for 509 yuan or 70 euro (good thing I took out cash in Copenhagen).
I borrowed a phone call from a friendly Chinese (I was not clever enough to get the payphone to work) and informed the school of my progress and delayed arrival time in Xuzhou. Then for the first time since my departure from home I could relax a little, I found some food that didn’t really do the trick so I found a Starbucks instead and enjoyed my last frappe for a long time while reading in my book and trying not to fall asleep.
1 hour before my train was to leave I went to find the platform, and good thing I did, turned out that the number on the ticket was not the platform but something else (never found out what) so after a few attempts on asking around I found the right platform and started standing in the Chinese version of a line, push around until you get there.
I was let on to the platform, found the train and found my 1st Class seat (pure luxury). The plan was to enjoy the ride and look at the landscape but I think it took me about 5 minutes and then I was fast asleep (my alarm was set, based on experience).
I woke up 30 minutes before I was supposed to arrive only to find out that the train was 30 minutes delayed. I used my own phone to make an extremely expensive call to the school about the delay and they told me that some Dutch guys were going to be driving with me but their plane was delayed because of the storm (the train was so nice I hadn’t even noticed it was storming).
I end up getting off at the right station (Jay) and have to wait for an hour on a bench before being picked up. It is stormy, rainy, insanely hot and humid but I actually managed to get all the way by myself and the rest of the trip would be somebody else’s responsibility (I love that).
I talked with the three Dutch guys, which I could not see in the darkness, all the way to the school while the storm had almost passed and the remnants of it could be seen by the fallen trees we had to drive around on the highway. We arrived very late evening dead tired, but so ready for training at 6 in the morning –ish.