Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Anhui & 飞机,火车和汽车: 安徽
NOTE: I got a few photos off my film camera so I’m posting them up with this entry, even though they are from the entire 10 day trip.
I had jokingly said to Ruhi that with my luck I would probably get to Hefei (合肥) just to find myself delayed overnight by the weather again. Ironically it almost came true.
Workers at a Xi'an Airport cafe waiting for customers
My plan was to take a morning train from Fuyang to Hefei (3 hours), get my plane ticket at the e-Long office, and then catch my 5:20 flight at the airport, arriving in Xi’an around 7:00, and hopefully home in time to get some dinner and enjoy a bit of rest at home.
And it started out okay too. I woke up around 7:00, cleaned up, packed my things (yay for being a light packer!), and then got a quick bite at the hotel’s free breakfast buffet (nothing to write home about) before checking out and catching a cab to the train station.
It looked like there had been a fresh coat of snow on the ground from the night before. But the snow wasn’t falling very heavy, even though it was overcast. And the snow was pretty minimal so I didn’t think too much of it.
At the train station I waited a few minutes before they let us on. (I don’t really understand the huge rushing of people to get on the train, considering that all the seats are pre-assigned. It isn’t like someone will swipe your seat, right? Maybe it is for the overhead packing space …)
I know why they call them hard seats (硬座) now. They are no gift to the lower back, that is for sure. I spent a fair amount of time playing my Nintendo DS and thanked my lucky stars that I brought it along with me for some entertainment. Thank you Mario Brothers!
Sidewalk eating in Shenzhen
I noticed as we were traveling that the snow level outside was getting a bit deeper. ”How come the farther south we travel, the thicker the snow?” I asked Ruhi rhetorically through SMS. By the time we arrived in Hefei around 1:00 PM it was snowing pretty steadily.
I grabbed a taxi and gave them the address (intersection) of the ticket office where e-Long has their pick-ups. It actually took me a lot of walking around to find the place. If you didn’t know where it was, you wouldn’t know where it was. And that was the case for me. It was purely by accident when I got there and they handed me my ticket. I had actually asked the person at the counter what their address was (bad labeling on the buildings) and the lady next to her handed me my ticket.
Getting a taxi from there to the airport took another 30 minutes, but I still managed to arrived about an hour before the scheduled check-in time for my flight. The guy told me to come back at 3:50. So I had a sandwich and drink at the airport restaurant.
3:50 rolls around and the ticket counter has plenty of customers but nothing is happening. 4:00 .. 4:20 … By 4:30 we’ve been told that the flight hasn’t left the city of origin on its way to Hefei due to weather conditions. Once they know if there is going to be a plane or not, we will know if we are flying out or not.
I got on the phone and ASKED Ruhi to help me book a hotel in Hefei for the night. Just in case.
Bill sticks his tongue out at the horrible tang su li ji
But as soon as I hung up the phone with her there was a flurry of activity and it turned out the plane was cleared to come to Hefei. I stood in line and got my boarding pass. Seat 20A on Tianjin Airlines. My first time to fly with them.
Now, getting your boarding pass just means you have a seat assignment. But until the plane actually shows up, who knows if you will actually get to where you are going. We sat in the gate area for a long time waiting.
5:30 … 6:00 … 7:00 … 8:00 … 9:00 … And the same announcement over the intercom. ”Your flight has been delayed due to weather conditions. Thank you for your patience”.
And all the while other flights were dropping like flies. ”Flight MU3948 to Beijing has been cancelled .. Flight CZ2349 to Tianjin has been cancelled … ” It was like waiting for the worst lottery ever …
At 9:45 we were suddenly told that we could board the plane. We could board? I didn’t even know it had arrived!
We scrambled to the bus which took us out to the tarmac and on to the plane. It turned out there were only about 30 passengers on the flight, which means everyone had some nice room to relax. I spent the time studying my Chinese flash cards and playing my Nintendo DS. Oh .. and a bit of sudoku during take-off and landing …
My hotel room in Fuyang, Anhui
Now, this whole time I hadn’t told Ruhi that I had gotten on the plane. Part of me, I admit, was scared that as soon as I said “I”m coming!” they would announce that the plane had a case of the measels, or it had colided with Santa Claus, or that gnomes had hijacked the airport and we were all going to be auctioned off as slaves in an underworld blackmarket operation.
The other part of me wanted to surprise her. She was expecting me to possibly not be showing up at all that night. Especially considering how late it was. Before we got on the plane I said that I was turning my phone off to conserve battery and that I would call her back when I got more information.
Then, after we landed in Xi’an, I called her again and told her that the airline was going to put us up in a hotel for the night and asked her to cancel the other reservation she had made for me. (That could have been a signal right there, since airlines in China don’t really do that unless you are flying international and missing a conneciton, especially not Tianjin Airline on a 2 hour domestic route.)
I walked pretty much straight from the airplane, through the airport, and in to a taxi which drove me the 150 RMB (about $22) trip home (!!!!). That might be cheap in the U.S. for 45 minutes in a cab, but here it feels pretty pricey. As I was entering our building and going up the elevator I tried to call her but didn’t get through. But she called me back and as I got off the elevator I said “Oh, hold on … I need to use the restroom. I’ll call you back.”
Then I came in the front door and said “Excuse me. I’m looking for a restroom?”
She was pretty surprised.
Train-side snow on the way from Fuyang to Hefei
And I was pretty tired. Still a tickle in my throat, but for the most part none too worse for wear. What was originally supposed to be a 2 day trip to Hong Kong ended up including a week in Anhui, a brush with the swine flu and the storm of the century.
The best part of the trip was that I pack well so I was prepared for what happened. I had warm enough clothes, I had the ability to get food and lodging, and I even had flu medicine in my emergency travel kit (never leave home without it!).
Of course, the worst part of the trip was missing a week of wushu, being stuck in the middle of no-where (no offense Fuyang fans), and being the sickest I’ve been in a few years. But these things happen and it isn’t anything that you can control. Sometimes you just have to take things as they come and make the best of the situation.
Especially living in China. Where you never know what is going to happen.
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