I’m back in ‘good, old‘ PRC. After the wonderful trip to Australia over the Spring Festival and my recent escape to the States (a separate post is in the making) I am ready to take a bit of a break from traveling. Not for long, mind you. I enjoy venturing out and exploring far too much to stop for any prolonged period of time. In fact, it looks likely that I’ll spend some of my summer break in Europe but for now, I’m back ‘at home‘, in Guangzhou.As soon as the plane touched down, definitely not after the engines have been switched off, I knew I was back in China. First thing you notice is the gray-ish, beige-ish sky. Unfortunately that seems to be a permanent fixture here. Even on a clear day, the sky jsut doesn’t have the same shade of blue you see in most places around the globe. So you noticed the depressing weather (that’s even before you got out of the plane and realized just how unbelievably damp and humid it is!) when it suddenly hits you-a total chaos inside the cabin! Now, Chinese are known for their somewhat debatable behaviour during travels but you don’t really understand the extend of the issue until you are actually inside that cabin and the plane’s wheels hit the ground.
You know how there are always a few people, who disobey the general rules of staying seated until the seat belts lights sign goes off? Or the ones, met with disapproving eyes of fellow travelers, who dare to reach for the overhead compartment before the plane even stops moving? Well, in China that is what EVERYONE does. I have yet to see a Chinese person NOT trying to get their luggage out whilst the plane’s taxing or one actually listening to the flight attendants reminders about staying seated for the sake of everyone’s safety. Yes, I know that some of the notices we hear during the flight might seem a bit over-protective but I honestly believe there must exist a reason for them to have been introduced. My opinion is clearly not shared by fellow passengers, not the Chinese ones anyway.
The second the aircraft literally touches down, one is surrounded by the clicking sound of seat belts being opened and the tunes of tens of mobiles being turned on/ receiving messages. That’s followed by the life-and-death-like fight for hand-luggage stored in overhead compartments; as with everything in China-EVERYONE has to get their items first. It’s like suddenly every person is on a timer or is taking part in some sort of a ‘Who reaches the arrivals hall the quickest?’competition. I always wonder (at the stupidest things) what could be the reason for such manic rush. It could be relatives waiting at the airport; perhaps you booked a taxi and don’t want to keep the driver waiting in case he, despite his assurances, gets fed up with waiting and leaves with another passenger (happened more than once) or maybe you just want to feel solid ground underneath your feet. It could be many things but either way, it still surprises me how desperate the Chinese are just to put the traveling experience behind them and get back to their normal routines. I’m not saying one should drag their feet, lag behind blocking others and hang unnecessarily around the airport, especially after a long flight and a night-time arrival, that’s just weird.
Once you manage to track your hand-luggage down, grab it and firmly take your place in the queue to the exit of the airplane, the next thing you spot is that not many passengers are particularly open about expressing their gratitude to the flight crew. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of the whole clapping at the end of the flight thing as I’m of the opinion that it is the crew’s job to get us to our destination safely and nobody applauds me at the end of my work day but I always make a point of saying ‘Thank you‘ on my way out as it is simply a polite thing to do. Sometimes, I might even add a short praising commend if the service was particularly efficient (as was the case with Asiana Airlines on my last flight). Both my OH and I noticed that most passengers leaving the aircraft at the same time as us did not bother to even reply ‘Bye’ to the air hostesses that looked after them and met their every demand in the previous 14 hours!
Thing about Baiyun airport in Guangzhou is that there is no public transport to take you to the city proper after 11 pm so once you go through the passport control and get your luggage, you’re at the mercy of a)a coach which only goes so far, b) public taxis, c) a reserved taxi courtesy of apps such as Didi or Uber (normally great drivers turn unreliable and greedy when it comes to airport runs).
I hate this part.
Already groggy after a super long flight, depressed by the thought of dooming return to work and normal life, what you don’t want to do it to queue a bit longer (quite a bit longer in fact) and when you eventually reach the end get shouted at by obnoxious, rough and simply rude taxi drivers! Sadly, that is exactly what happens to us every time we arrive on a night flight. I cannot tell you how upsetting the whole situation can be. Just imagine tens of taxi drivers deserting their cars in order to taunt, abuse and mock the exhausted travelers, in order to extort ridiculous amounts of money from them. I’m not sure if that happens in other places, probably yes, but I should imagine that in most places one is able to simply jump into a taxi waiting outside the arrivals hall without having to ferociously negotiate the price, argue about the driver putting the meter on (won’t happen, give up now) or being told that they must wait for more people to share a taxi with as it’s not worth taking just two passengers all that way! Incredibly frustrating as it is, you have no choice but to go along with these unbelievable proceedings. Unless you’re me and refuse to budge.
I am normally a mild-mannered person, I don’t tell people off on the street (I tend to stick to the death-stare technique), don’t raise my voice in public and most certainly don’t argue with other people around but after 18 hours in the air, in total, even I lose my self-control when faced with the above chaos. I blatantly refused to listen to any drivers shouting (why would you get in a car and pay someone, who abuses you?!), claiming we’d have to share with others (where on Earth would we all fit our luggages?!Local taxi’s boots are ridiculously small) or charging twice the normal fee. It might have taken a bit longer but in the end we always manage to find a bloke, who does not argue, does not treat us like cattle or complete imbeciles and who charges us only slightly extra explained by the fact that it is the middle of the night. Fair enough. Funny thing is that there aren’t that many night arrivals and yet there are tens of taxis waiting so you’d think those drivers wouldn’t be too picky at that point in time. VERY WRONG. As long as people allow to be treated in that shameful way, the drivers will keep it up. These days even the airport security staff don’t intervene any more. Clearly someone made a deal with someone as in the past every time a driver would act in any unprecedented way, he’d be ordered to leave; not any more though. You’re on your own.
What’s really sad is that for many people traveling to Guangzhou for the first time, foreign or Chinese, this is the first impression of the city they get.
How good it is to be back..?
Have you faced such situations?