Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Wednesday, February 07, 2018 01:02:23|
China, Thailand to Singapore 2018: 1 - Preparations and getting there
Sunday, February 4, 2018
This is a trip Marilynn and I have been looking forward to since we visited Harbin in the summer of 2012. There is a huge warehouse kept at minus 30 degrees C with are ice structures, statues and other ice art. It gave us a small idea of just how spectacular this would be when expanded into an entire ice city. As a bonus, Harbin has a brewery that produces great beer! Google “Harbin Ice Festival 2018” to see a lot of photos.
The travel arrangements were a little more complex this time. Both Marilynn and I will have 5 plane changes, and a total airport and flight time of about 40 hours. Marilynn was in Victoria, Canada with her mother for the month of January, so she will fly Victoria to Vancouver and then on to Los Angeles, and I flying San Jose to Phoenix and on to Los Angeles.
From there we fly to Seoul, Korea for a plane change to Beijing, China where we will meet our good friend Lifeng Liu, who was also keen on seeing the ice festival and so will join us for the rest of the trip. She was able to arrange the Harbin flight and accommodations through CSITS (China Sea International Travel Service), the travel company she manages in Beijing.
The flight to Phoenix on an American Airlines A319 was comfortable, arriving in Phoenix early, where my Nexis status sped me through the customs and immigration process. There was a tiny lounge where I got the last seat, however it was near the departure gate for my flight to Los Angeles. That was just as well, as three times I went to the gate only to find the flight was delayed, then delayed further. Apparently they cannot fly without 4 fight attendants, and one was not available, so they were flying one in from another city.
The delay didn't matter much, I had to wait two hours for Marilynn to arrive in LA. She arrived at terminal 1, and I was miles away at terminal 5, but a friendly fellow showed me where to catch the free airport shuttle that transports people between terminals. Westjet has an office in the baggage area where I sat for two hours reading a book. Her flight was on time, and her checked baggage made it.
We caught the shuttle to another terminal to check in with Asiana Airlines. They were quick and efficient, but it was through security again, the third time today. Because my knee replacement sets off the alarm I get the full treatment with pat downs, scanners and so on - it gets pretty tedious.
The huge Asiana A380 boarded on time for the 13 hour 20 minute flight. Fortunately there were people on board to help carry our bags and parkas up to the top deck. It took some time to load the hundreds of passengers.
Marilynn was hungry, having had no food on Westjet, so we ate in the Star Alliance lounge, which was very nice and had a well stocked self serve bar with a good selection of wines. We were both tired, so skipped the on board meal and tried to sleep, which proved difficult with the dinner service going on around us. Once the lights were turned down and I got a couple of scotchs into me we made good use of the flat beds.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
We arrived at Seoul at about 5 AM local time on Tuesday, having lost Monday to the international date line. We;ll pick it up on the way back when we have Monday twice. Once more I had to go through their quite efficient security. I waited in the very nice Asiana Lounge while Marilynn shopped the vast array of stores. She doesn't sit well, and I don't walk well so is a great way to satisfy everyone.
The 2hr 15 min flight to Beijing was comfortable and we had our second big breakfast of the day. The flight was late leaving, as it waited for passengers on a late inbound flight, but after going through easy and friendly China immigration and customs we met up with Lifeng exactly at the time predicted. Lifeng used her ID to change money at a bank that does not deal with non-residents but has good exchange rates.
Together we checked in with Air China for the last leg of our flights. Lifeng had already made all arrangements and tickets were ready for us. The 5th and last security screening was a dandy. They inspected everything down to part used tubes of toothpaste, and hauled all kinds of stuff which has never been questioned before off to special examination Marilynn's camera and loads of other idem were taken from her carry on bag and her purse. It took a long time to make sure everything was returned. The attitude of the employees at security was decidedly unfriendly and rude.
Having survived that we boarded the A321-200 of Air China for the 2 hour flight to Harbin. We were surprised that there was no snow in either Seoul or Beijing, in spite of cold weather, but the ocean was frozen near shore off Korea.
Lifeng had arranged a van to pick us up at Harbin Airport, so we were quickly transported to our hotel. Various ice structures and sculptures decorated open spots in the city. Once settled in we walked the main pedestrian street to the river after dark, stopping to take photos or have a beer.
Just before the river is a major traffic thoroughfare where an underpass is necessary to cross, 3 flights of stairs down and the same up. This killed my replaced knee that had been doing so well until then, so after looking at the river we took a taxi to a restaurant he recommended.. Once he left, we found the eating area and washrooms were three floors up, accessible only by stairs. Their was no way I could do it, so we returned to the hotel for an unremarkable hot pot dinner accompanied by the very good Harbin beer. Everyone was tired, so it was an early night, although sleep didn't come easily has our room was very hot.
Early efforts to send this were defeated, as China blocks all email from Google coming in or being sent, including gmail, however I finally figured out that Yahoo would work, so it is going out that way.