While there was an option for a group flight, it was $800 more expensive so I decided to go it on my own. Mind you, this was my first flight alone anywhere, and everything turned out fine, despite some hiccups. The flight from Detroit to Beijng was 14 hours long, but it went by rather quickly. I met my best friend Mary Grace on that flight, and it turns out she and I were in the same program, and would live three doors down from each other in our dorm.
Being the travel rookie that I was, before the flight I downloaded a bunch of movies and books on my tablet, thinking I wouldn’t have anything to do during my 24-hour travel day. When I boarded the massive plane (three aisles all three seats across), I was SO excited to find that there were screens in the head rests of every seat. I would choose a movie or TV show to watch, curl up under my little red Delta blanket, fall asleep, and wake up, and it would be time to eat. I did this four times or so and suddenly we were there. I was in Beijing! The first thing I noticed when we descended into Beijing was the yelllowish dust, and the foggy air. The dust, I’m assuming, was blown across the country from the Loess Plateau.
I was delayed twice (once in DC and another time in Detroit), but surprisingly there were two Chinese airport employees waiting for Mary Grace and I when we got to Beijing. They waited with us at baggage claim, and then things got urgent. Mary Grace, two Chinese women and I sprinted from one end of the Beijing airport to another, which I’m sure was quite a sight. I was sweating like crazy, and you know…black with long box braids, looking frantic at the thought of missing the flight to Chengdu. The airport employees rushed us through security (and no one else really seemed to care) just in time for the shuttle to the plane.
The flight from Beijing to Chengdu was the most comfortable flight I’ve been on to date; China Southern Airlines. The restroom was the cleanest I’ve ever seen on a flight, the seats were extremely comfortable, the flight attendants were so attentive, and the food was the best I’ve ever had on a flight (Chinese food, of course). It must have been a combination of the time of day and the angle at which we flew, but the horizon was a very pronounced rainbow, and then nothing. Blackness. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It looked something like this, but at an angle, and much more vivid:
Now, some advice. When you get to the airport, hail a real cab. You will be able to tell which ones are real and which are not. The real cabs were almost all green in color, and if they are for hire they have the characters 空车 (kong che) lit up in red on the top; it just means “empty cab”. They are very persistent, but do not go with any of the random people trying to give you a ride from the airport. Mary Grace and I had had a long day and were very tired by the time we arrived in Chengdu, so we made the mistake of just going with one of these freelance drivers. He charged us twice what a real cab would have cost, but at that point I didn’t care; I just wanted to get to the dorm building, which we finally did.