The flight to Beijing was easy; getting to the pre-flight hotel was a journey.
Train, Bus, and Uber
There weren’t trains early enough to get me to the airport by 8 am so I took Amtrak the afternoon before my flights. It was about 2 hours from Oceanside to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and the fare for an unreserved coach seat was $28.
Once at Union Station, I bought a ticket to the Airport on the Flyway Bus which is $9 each way. The driver had suggested I get off at terminal one for airport shuttles. At this point, I was tired of waiting for transportation and hungry so just decided to just take an Uber to the hotel rather than find the shuttle pickup spot and wait.
The first driver canceled on me (never had that happen before) but the second driver was along shortly after for the 10-15 minute trip to the hotel.
Pre Trip Hotel
I had booked the Hampton Inn LAX/Hawthorne hotel with Hilton points and arrived right about 8 pm. There is a McDonald’s, Starbucks and El Pollo Loco within a block of the hotel. McDonald’s was the closest so that was my dinner spot.
The hotel seems very new. The bathroom is spacious and has a nice walk in shower with a tiled seat (handy for shaving legs). The in room coffee was good and the wifi was good enough to download a video on my iPad.
After relaxing a bit, it was lights out around 9 pm. Tomorrow’s a big day!
I usually don’t sleep well the night before a big trip and last night was no exception. Starting at 1 am I was awake every hour until I gave up at 4 am.
With two hours to kill before the complimentary breakfast, I had in room coffee, showered, repacked and watched a Hallmark movie (christmas ones already!). Breakfast had a lot of great choices and even a robust coffee option (the in room stuff was kind weak for my tastes). Options included:
- Cheese omelettes (preformed)
- pork sausage
- Breads and bagels
- hard boiled eggs
After enjoying a hearty breakfast, I went back to the room to brush my teeth and pack up. I went out to the shuttle spot at 7:25 and there was a couple already seated. No one else joined us. They were Canadians heading to Mexico for the winter and left from the other international terminal.
I was dropped first and had a very short line to check my bag and get a boarding pass at the Air China line. In fact, the business class line was longer than economy at this early hour.
Flight to China
I had ended up with a carry on roller and a backpack to take on the flight. Once I made it through TSA security I put the cpap bag into the roller bag. I had an hour or so to kill so spent some time walking around the terminal.
It is beautiful and has lots of interesting dining venues. Of course, no need for me to dine here today.
I bought a bottle of water for the plane and it was time to line up for boarding at 9:30 am. They were extremely organized and boarding went fast.
What threw me was the very tiny amount of space under the seat in front of me due to a large entertainment system. It’s just as bad in the middle seat.
I was planning to put my backpack there but it wouldn’t fit so I took out what I remembered from my backpack to use during the flight (inflatable neck pillow, iPad, etc.) and got some overhead space nearby before it filled up.
We left the gate 5-10 minutes early and it didn’t take long for take off. The drink cart was to us in about 35 minutes with lunch soon after. Options were beef with rice or chicken with rice. I selected chicken but can tell you from looking at the beef with rice next to me, it looked a bit better.
The meal came with a warm roll, shrimp macaroni salad, fruit salad and strawberry yogurt (I guess for dessert?). The meal was pretty good and a drink cart followed that included wine so I had some red wine with the end of my meal.
After trays were cleared I asked my seat mates to let me out and took advantage of the restroom and then grabbed my bottle of xanax from the backpack. I took one and about 30 minutes later (had to wait for the end of the movie) was able to sleep for just one hour.
I went back to watching movies. They have tons of choices but only a handful of recent English speaking movies. I watched One day (Anne Hathaway),then Captain Fantastic on the plane AVOD. Additionally, I watched shows and a movie on my iPad. About three or four hours after lunch I ate a banana from the hotel which held me until the second meal service.
They turned up the lights about 4 1/2 hours left in the flight and repeated the first meal sequence (beverage cart, meal and then beverage cart). The entree choices were fried rice or pork with noodles.
I selected the pork with noodles and it was very good. It came with a cold roll (wrapped in cellophane, a salad with thousand island dressing packet and milano cookies. The lights were dimmed again after the trays were cleared.
Service on the flight has been far better than what I experienced traveling to Europe on American Airlines and the food is better. The only quibble is the lack of snacks between meals. The flight attendants did come through a few times with water service and would answer the call buttons.
At some point I looked out the window when the flight map indicated we were over Russia. All I saw was snow, snow, snow. It was endless!
After another hour nap, my seat was hard to tolerate. I decided to entertain myself with another movie and watched “Little Men”. Air China turns off the AVOD way too early. They had us put our seat backs and tray tables up 45 minute before landing and turned off the entertainment system a few minutes later.
We also had to keep personal devices off so it was rather boring although I tried to look out the window. It was so smoggy that we were pretty close to the ground before I could see anything. The smog is terrible; our guide said it’s the worst he has seen in Beijing but it sounds like he hasn’t been doing tours here for years.
Arrival at Beijing Airport
The flight landed about 10-15 minutes early. With such a large plane it took a bit to debark but went quickly. It was a long, long walk to immigration. The line moved fairly quickly there and took about 10 minutes followed by a train ride to the baggage claim area. I waited about 5-10 minutes for my plane’s luggage to come off the carousel. Then it was basically a walk through customs where random people had to run their bags through X-ray.
I found the Sinorama team quickly and they still had my brother on their pickup list. I told them he wasn’t coming and they asked if he called the office and I didn’t know. (Found out the next morning via iMessage that my brother had notified the office).
That whole process took an hour and then we waited another hour for a flight of people. Then finally, we went out to the bus.
It just so happened that the guide with us was mine (bus 5) and so was the bus. He told us to meet him at 8 am in the lobby ready to go. Breakfast is served from 6 am on and we’re going to the great wall tomorrow — dress warm.
Okay. I wanted to grab a bite to eat at the hotel but couldn’t find anything appetizing so just had a bottle of the water, pistachios AND a protein bar. Off to bed after an extremely long day!
If you missed the other parts of the recap the links are below.