And when I say a bite, I mean it. You'd have to stay for weeks, maybe months, to have a proper meal.
We were forewarned that it would be nippy, and that people from warmer climates would have to bundle up. In fact, the day we left for Beijing, China, the weather reports indicated a low of 1 degree Celsius! We would practically be in a freezer! Gloves! Boots! Oversized coats! A baggage problem waiting to happen!
A 6AM flight meant that we had to be at the airport at least by 4AM. You can imagine what that does for my sleep cycle. But the prospect of missing the flight - as part of a packaged tour already prepaid for - was much more disconcerting. That singular thought, more than anything, kept me up all night.
Seeing the area where we boarded gave me a dismal, sinking feeling: The carpets were even dirtier than I remembered, and we were asked to line up along the stairs, as the person checking the boarding passes was seated at the foot of the stairs. I felt like a college student back in Diliman all over again.
Thanks to some of our credit cards having "aerial" benefits, we were able to stay at the MIASCOR lounge before departing. It had a comfortable seating area (though not really suited for sleeping if that was what you wanted to do), and a spread of canapes, cereals, sandwiches, rice, chicken, as well as coffee, juices and other soda drinks, that you could keep going back for over and over - I guess we'll go with the description of "buffet".
We boarded our Air China flight on the dot. It turned out that every Filipino on that flight was part of our tour group, and when a get together like that comes to pass, you'd have to be prepared for the decibel levels, snarky asides and gales of hilarious laughter. Already, you could feel the involuntary body jolt, as if we were holding on to a live wire: This was a trip to remember.
Breakfast from the airline took a long time coming, so Arthur suggested that we take a look at some movies stored in my iPod. And that's when we discovered - I must have left the iPod at the boarding area, where I was looking at weather reports and any last minute news about China.
I was determined NOT to let this tragedy color the tone of my trip.
Breakfast consisted of an omelette that would make plastic goods manufacturers proud, some fruits and yoghurt, as well as a choice of drinks. When you add the snotty flight attendants to the mix, you could have thought all of these things to be a bad foreboding of the trip to come.
The moment we landed, things changed - all for the better.
Where else in the world did you have to take a train just to get your luggage?!? To say that Beijing Capital Airport was "huge" would qualify as one of the year's grossest understatements. Someone from our tour group reprised us of the fact that all of the glitz and beefing up of their airport was really fast tracked in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
I wonder how we would fare should the Olympics be held in our fair islands.
As with most modern airports, the theme was sleek and modern. Shades of silver and grey, a smattering of white, metallic furniture and automatic gadgets - all of which lead to a frame of design that screamed "future".
One question kept popping up in our collective minds whenever we would drop in on the sights in Beijing, which was started in their airport terminal: Where does it end?
Whether it was Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, or the Great Wall, they all looked like they were stretching into infinity. While our lovely tour guide Laurie kept peltering us with facts about how many square meters each site was, my mind could not wrap around their metric measurements, as the visual landscape continued to stun and amaze me, one of the few times in my life where I am left in awe, my jaw dropped to the floor, and my mind was abuzz figuring out the amount of work it took to achieve these monuments and feats that can only inspire joy and wonder.
By the end of the trip, I had concluded that the Chinese were really size queens.
(More of these adventures in the next post.)