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Reiland: Beijing airport, round two

BY JORDYN REILAND | JULY 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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HANGZHOU — I’m not Beijing Capital International Airport’s No. 1 fan.

My first time was less than enjoyable, and without much time to prepare myself I was sitting in that familiar taxicab on my way to the place in Beijing I feared most: the airport.

Now don’t get me wrong — when I was invited to accompany two of my coworkers on a trip to Hangzhou to report on an outsourcing forum, I was thrilled. It was a chance to see a different part of the country as well as something to hang my hat on at the end of the day.

It was just the haunting memories of pacing back and forth for two hours with heavy luggage in the airport that left me a little unsettled.

I realized I had no other choice but to give this mode of transportation another chance, so I was willing to metaphorically kiss and make up.

Our flight was at 2 p.m. but I was informed once I arrived at work in the morning that it was canceled and we would need to take a different one later on in the evening. I quickly reminded myself that travel usually comes with a few hiccups and by now I was used to them. Little did I know I was about to embark on a nearly 12-hour travel day.

We arrived at the airport around 4:30 p.m. and looked for a place to eat because we were considerably early. I was unfamiliar with the sights and sounds, as I was in the departures section of the airport as opposed to the arrivals, and it did look a bit more inviting. People from all over the world bustled about the area, shouting in what seemed like 20 different languages. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.

Going through security was much easier than it was at O’Hare Airport in Chicago, and things seemed to be going smoothly. We arrived at our gate, and I sat on my small, black luggage as I watched the sunset over the planes, but something just didn’t feel right.

Why did this seem so easy? And my initial concerns were warranted and we soon found out our gate changed since we arrived. Luckily it wasn’t much farther away, but it was yet another thing that brought me to wonder why traveling in this airport was such an issue for me.

Shortly after, I handed the woman at the gate my ticket and I was headed to my seat on the small Air China aircraft. The seats were compact, and the pillows built into them were nothing but a piece of thin cloth. The plane filled up quickly, but we had to wait almost an hour to takeoff because of the number of planes that were all trying to leave at the same time.

I guess that’s what happens when one city has 20 million people, and they all have to convene at one location.

Nonetheless, we took off, and before I could close my eyes, we arrived in Hangzhou. I was anxious to see my new surroundings, and once we exited the plane, I was instantly rushed with a cloud of hot air.

It was 95 degrees at midnight.

This airport was much smaller and was almost completely empty. All that was left were a few stray luggage carts and the lit-up billboards advertising Hangzhou’s most popular tourist attractions.

It didn’t take long to arrive at the hotel, but before I knew it, my watch said 2 a.m., and I knew I had to wake up early to cover the first day of the outsourcing forum. However, the sound of WiFi in my room was too much to pass up, and I spent the next hour talking with friends and family, an idea that sounded good at the time but wasn’t so good the next morning running on four hours of sleep.

Before I left my hotel for the forum I stared out my window at the green Hanting Inn neon signs shadowed by the full, green trees.

I wasn’t in the United States anymore — that was determined long ago. And I wasn’t in Beijing.

It was Hangzhou, another place I would shortly call home on this unpredictable adventure.

Daily Iowan staffer Jordyn Reiland is spending the summer interning for the China Daily in Beijing. Look for her weekly columns each Friday in the DI.


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