31 hours and several modes of transport later, we made it to Beijing! Not without a few mishaps, but what fun would it be if everything ran smoothly? There was a lost purse before we had even left home, which was found in the bottom of the wardrobe (obviously someone’s attempt at tidying!).
Our journey to Gatwick was pretty straight forward. We managed to navigate our backpacks through the London Underground and got to the airport in plenty of time, in fact, almost three hours earlier than necessary to be precise! But this meant we had time to browse things we couldn’t afford in duty free, douse ourselves in perfume and aftershave, and have a free shot of cosmo! Winning before we even flew!
An uneventful journey on our first flight soon changed. Somehow, I managed to get myself admitted entrance to Ukraine upon our arrival. So whereas James was able to stay airside and just go through transfers I had quite an eventful time whilst many border control officers chatted in tongues about what to do with me. I was sent through to exit the airport so I waved James a slightly concerned goodbye and went to try and communicate with security about the situation. Luckily I found a Ukrainian woman who was a passenger that helped to translate a little and pointed me in the right direction. I went through the airport security again, explaining my dilemma several times until they apparently stopped caring and just let me leave – with an exit stamp. So I now have two more stamps in my passport and have officially visited Ukraine. 👍🏻
Our stopover was 6 hours, which turned out to be a good thing considering the passport dilemma. We settled ourselves near the departure gate and to be honest I mainly just slept! Very uncomfortably but asleep all the same. James however didn’t have such a lovely time. He was freezing because I was wearing his jacket as well as my own, and he couldn’t sleep so kept just wandering around departures and cursing the loud tannoy announcements. It seems my ability to sleep anywhere has served me well so far – I slept the majority of the 9 hour flight out to Beijing other than watching Zootopia – amazing film, its a Disney film about a bunny and how I haven’t seen it already is beyond me! James struggled again and at one point woke up and couldn’t comprehend how he had barely been asleep an hour and we still had 6 left to go! Other than its length, our very cheap flight was quite impressive – we got fed twice, got plenty of tea, and are now the proud owners of two Ukrainian Airlines blankets.
Arriving in Beijing was altogether terrifying if nothing else. Their border entry looked like a war zone with the amount of army personal manning it, and we were ordered when are where to go. The taxi drive was equally as worrying. The driver had no idea where he was going and although he rang the hostel and also had a sat nav he decided neither were necessary and just drove us down a little alley and asked a local what they thought. They pointed, so he repeated the pointing to us and left us down a dark alley at 3am. We wandered, checking behind us at all times, until we randomly came across a lady selling dumplings in the street. We kindly declined and then noticed our hostel opposite her! It’s cheap and cheerful, clean, has warm showers and sells pint bottles of beer for the equivalent of £1.20. Lavly!
All in all, we are having a pretty good time so far. I’ll do a separate post on the crazy, smog filled city of Beijing, but for now we have beers to drink!