A Travellerspoint blog

To Beijing and Beyond!

Ok, so as I said in my general e-mail, I made it safely to Beijing. The flight was long, tedious, and generally unpleasant. I had thought that because I had purchased my tickets on a discount sight that I would without doubt have center seats with no redeeming value. However, I was wrong. I sat next to the window on both flights. While that was singularly unexciting on the first flight, it was almost worthwhile on the second.

Two things about O'Hare airport in Chicago--wonderful bathrooms with automatic seat covers that are activated with a wave of the hand, and horrible seating arrangements in the airport. There were several hundred people waiting for the flight to China and maybe fifty seats at the gate.

Moving on, thirteen hours on a plane is relatively horrid, unless you are in an exit row, and then it doesn't matter if you are in the window, aisle or middle, there is plenty of room and you don't have to harrass your neighbor in order to get out and use the lavatory. Otherwise, you are stuck in a seat the size of any normal airplane seat, with a bag under the seat in front of you keeping your legs from stretching out. At least with a window seat, you can lean against it to sleep. I certainly did a lot of that on the flight, interspersed with meals, snacks, and movies.

Now, I said that sitting in the window seat was not without redeeming value (aside from the leaning ability). Last time I came to China, the plane I was on crossed the Pacific, so no scenery to speak of until the plane made it to Japan, and then, by the time we arrived in China, it was too dark to see anything outside. This time was significantly different. We left Chicago and flew up, across Canada and out over the water to the north of Alaska. We made an arc and ended up over Siberia. Then, we came down over Eastern Mongolia and then to Beijing. Siberia from the air is beautiful. At first, there as a portion of the land that was essentially nothing but lakes and rivers. While they did not appear to be frozen over completely, they were frozen around the edges, and the rivers were winding snakes among the lakes. As we went a little farther west and south, we entered a mountain range, I forget the name, but at the edge of it, it looked like there were thousands of tiny streams coming off of larger rivers, but they all appeared to be frozen, making the ground look embroidered with silver threads. It was certainly impressive and I wish that I had had my camera available to take pictures, but unfortunately, I did not.

So, the plan from here is to catch the flight to Lhasa tomorrow, shipping my second suitcase, since only one checked bag is allowable on domestic flights in China.

I'm off to go see if my roommate here at the hostel is awake yet. Yes, it is after 2pm here, but what can you expect if he stays out until 4am? Well, regardless of whether he is up or not, I need to repack so that I can get my suitcase to the post office so it can be shipped. I'll write again soon.

Posted by michab3 22:53 Comments (1)

Finally!

All right, I finally got my visa in the mail this morning and everything is in place. All I have left to do is actually go. I just have to cross my fingers that nothing else is problematic before Tuesday.

My next entry will probably be from China!!

Posted by michab3 14:01 Comments (0)

Will the obstacles never end?

All right, so I called the visa agent this morning and he told me my package was in a DHL drop box. As of now, 9:59pm est, DHL has no record of it. WHY?????? I swear, I am going to really freak out.

Next, the good news is that I bought my ticket, my travel insurance, and I thought I had booked a room at a hostel. I made the reservation and then e-mailed them to find out how much airport pickup would cost me. The people that I e-mailed said that they weren't taking any more guests. Well, after some hours of e-mailed correspondence, they tell me that they are no longer affiliated with the hostel, and while they were sure my booking was fine, I should get in touch with the hostel owner directly--like that information was readily available. If I was e-mailing them thinking it was for the hostel, what other information is available? So, I finally e-mailed the booking company and have yet to hear back from them. In the meantime, I have a ticket, but my visa is still in limbo somewhere between Houston and Cape Coral. Those people are going to hear from me in the morning.

Posted by michab3 18:58 Comments (1)

DHL let me down!

Wonder of wonders, I received my paperwork on Friday! I got on the ball and had it shipped DHL by 4pm on Friday, to be at the visa agent's office by Monday morning. Well, I waited anxiously all weekend, and Monday morning, I was online a ridiculous amount checking to see if it was delivered. Ok, so I bring up the tracking page, and it says "Delivery Attempted". I freaked out--attempted? not delivered? So, I called the visa agent, and he said that he would call DHL, find out what happened and call me back. An hour later, I called DHL to find out what happened. The customer service rep I spoke to said the address didn't exist. Well, I got on the phone with the visa agent pronto and told him what the DHL guy said. The visa agent said that was ridiculous, they get packages every day. So, he called DHL and called me back and said that the courier couldn't find the address on the map, so it would have to be delivered in the morning. I wasn't having any of that, so I got on the phone again with DHL and they said they had rerouted the package, it would be there later that afternoon, and did I want a call with an estimate of the delivery time? I said I did, he said I would receive a call in the next one to two hours (by now it was about 3pm) and I got off the phone with him. A few minutes later, I get a call from the visa agent saying that they had called DHL and asked them to hold the package at their station and they would go pick it up. I don't know what happened in the end, whether DHL actually delivered it, or if they picked it up, but they got it and my visa was processed yesterday. So, now, I am waiting to be sure that it is in the mail on the way back to me.

I suppose the situation could always be worse, but seriously, how much delay can possibly be accommodated at this point? I have to be in Tibet before the 25th in order to register with the university. I guess the train is out. By the time all my plans are finalized, there probably won't be any tickets left. <sigh> Hopefully I will be able to post some good news later today.

Posted by michab3 06:37 Comments (0)

Hmm...I am still waiting...

All right, they said sending the papers would take two weeks, well two weeks passed yesterday. Yes, I know it sounds quibbly, but this is so frustrating! Also, they want to mail my Tibet travel permit to my hotel in Beijing--I never planned on staying at a hotel. I hoped they would be mailing my Tibet permit with my paperwork. My plan was to fly in, hop on the train that night and be in Lhasa two days later. No such luck. This is so--GRRRR!

Luckily, the semester doesn't start until the 25th, so there isn't quite so much panic as before they told me when the semester starts. I thought I was going to go insane. I still think I am. Ah well. I just have to be patient and wait for the papers to get here.

Posted by michab3 15:45 Comments (0)

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