The journey from Hong Kong to Shenzhen Bao’an Airport was a breeze. A short walk from our apartment to the cross-border bus pick up point at Tin Hau, and within an hour we left behind the vast land of the New Territories and entered Mainland China proper. Custom clearance at Huanggang Immigration was pleasantly smooth sailing, and 35 minutes later the bus pulled to a stop outside the domestic terminal.
Not wanting to risk the unexpected, we arrived 3 hours ahead of our flight. The self-service check-in procedure at China Southern counter was simple enough. After an early dinner, we whiled away the rest of the time at a bookstore. Everything was right on schedule. So far so good.
A confusing scene at the boarding gate greeted us when we eventually made our way there. Instead of “GUILIN”, the electronic sign showed “HANGZHOU-DELAYED”.
Airport staff were busy handing out dinner packs to weary travelers; a flat screen TV at a corner was showing the Denmark vs. Netherlands game; a sense of listlessness hung in the air. From out of nowhere, a woman let loose a tirade of complaints and threats. The cause of her outburst: she and the rest of the Hangzhou bound passengers had been kept waiting for 3 hours with no end in sight. A quick check with a bored looking staff confirmed our fate. 90% of the flights that day had been delayed as a result of poor weather conditions in the eastern coast area. Our 8PM flight to Guilin — delayed indefinitely. We were told just to WAIT.
The next hour or so passed by easily. The match had Alvin fixated while Mom and I were kept entertained by people watching. Every so often, our attention would gravitate towards the infuriated female passenger who would let out intermittent protests to get her money back or to get on the plane. Had her scream not drowned out the PA announcements, I would have found the whole situation rather amusing. Somehow, something, somewhere just didn’t feel quite right. During the entire time spent at the waiting area, not once did we see nor hear any information regarding our flight.
As it turned out, there had been a last minute change of boarding gate. We were told that we might still be able to catch our flight if we move now. Heck, of course we are moving! Missing an already delayed flight was not an option, even if it meant bolting up 3 flights of stairs and making a mad dash to the other end of the airport.
Finally we are flying! Or so we thought. As we stowed away our luggage, settled back into the seats comfortably, and congratulated ourselves on having made it thus far, the captain broke the news gently to everyone on board. There were possibly another 20 to 30 flights ahead of us waiting for takeoff. Of course, there was nothing anyone could do but WAIT. It wasn’t another hour later that our turn came. The total time spent in the air? A grand 55 minutes, only.
Coming back wasn’t quite as action-packed but equally memorable. From being feasted by mozzies inside the Guilin airport to the change in boarding gate yet again, and the classic conversation between dreamy airport staff and vexed passenger below.
Scene: outside gate 2A where the ground staff was standing directly below an electronic sign flashing “SHENZHEN”
Airport staff : 去深圳，13号登机口。。。
Airport staff (nonchalantly): 不，是13号登机口。。。
Passenger (in exasperation) : 我一共跑了三趟， 你查一查啊!
Airport staff (lifted his phone slowly and dialed a series of numbers…): 去深圳的登机口不是你哪里吗? (pause) 哦，改成我这儿了吗, 飞机呢？ *FAINTS*
Was the hassle and wait worth all the trouble, you may wonder. From an economic point of view, a resounding yes. Flights out of the HK SAR are considered “international” and levied higher airport tax. The total savings for 3 person came up to a substantial SGD750. Which essentially covered all the expenses for our 5D4N trip.
Money talk aside, part of the fun about traveling is getting out of one’s comfort zone and trying new things. And what an eye opener this experience had been.