From Hong Kong to Dunhuang

Wednesday 23 September 2009 – Dunhuang, Gansu Province, far western China

Our pick up was as prompt as ever and after a short bus tour of Hong Kong’s various hotels we were on our way across the spectacular suspension bridge that links Kowloon to Lantau Island heading for the airport. Check in was painless and we had plenty of time for a cuppa and to check our email using the free Wi-Fi.

The pilot on our Dragonair flight to Beijing was an Aussie – quite unexpected. Beijing’s big beautiful new terminal did not seem to have sufficient toilets – everyone on our plane needed a pee and there was a queue at the first available. Maria said hers had been a squat-grot, the first of many on this trip. She wasn’t very happy about it, but seemed to cope.

Immigration was easy; a train brought us to the luggage collection point. After a false attempt (we imagined that Air China and China Eastern might have had something in common) we were told to go downstairs and take the free shuttle bus to terminal 2. It was easier said than done, but we managed eventually, with little thanks to the truculent Chinese driver and passengers.

We managed to find the right counter and check in, using a lot of pointing as the clerk had no way of understanding our printed itinerary. Then it transpired that his baggage belt was not working so we had to check our bags in at the oversize baggage point some way across the hall. Lots of elbows and standing of ground were needed to stop the Chinese just pushing in front of us, but we got there.

Naturally the screening point involved lots of passports, unpacking of bags and waving wands at me (Maria seemed to waltz through unassailed) – so I was a bit huffy by the time we finally made it through to the gates. Still, we had an hour or so to kill so found a cafe and ordered an outrageously expensive (by Chinese standards) cuppa each and checked our Blackberries for messages from home.

The flight to Dunhuang, with a stop in Lanzhou, was uneventful but we didn’t get to the airport until 10.30pm. Liu Chen, the male guide who visited the Port Arthur Historic Site in early 2008, was there with a driver to meet us, making arrival much more pleasant and welcoming than Beijing had been.

He took us directly to the hotel and we checked in and went directly to our – very firm! – beds.

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