Now that I'm back in chilly Cape Town my plan is to blog about the experience I had in more detail. Things were just too intense up in China that I didn't get enough time to jot everything down. But that's a good thing. :)
We had an early morning flight leaving Cape Town for Johannesburg on BA. They're starting to build like mad at Cape Town's airport, so our gate was a temporary marquee which was something new to me. It was a short 2 hour flight, followed by 3 hours in OR Thambo International Airport. The building at Cape Town's airport in minuscule in comparison as they've been building for the past 2-3 years here. Luckily we weren't affected much by it, but as much as I travel this place looks new to me every time I pass through!
The remainder of our flights were all with Emirates, which I had previously heard only good stories about. I've flown many airlines before so I was all too eager to test them out. We already had a good experience with them giving us excellent accommodation rates in Dubai, but they also tried screwing us over after cancelling our Dubai to Shanghai flight by trying to give us a 21 hour stopover in Dubai, which we blatantly refused in favour of passing through Johannesburg.
During check-in for our flight to Dubai I could immediately tell who from our group were infrequent travellers. Some were all too eager to go to customs to register their laptops and such, something which I have only ever done once before. As you will discover towards the end of this post it was pretty useless even under extreme conditions. Finding a place to eat was also an interesting endeavour as no-one could make a decision as to where to eat. We finally ended up going through passport control to the gates and ate there, where the food was limited to a single cafe and hence expensive. I stocked up on some snacks which later proved useful.
When we finally got around to boarding the next flight I was amazed at the size of the engines on the new Boeing 777-300. Being a new plane it was nice and clean inside, but best of all was the on-board entertainment system. It was by far the best I have ever experienced with over 500 channels to choose from, and best of all was it was turned on before we boarded the plane, while other airlines usually only boot the systems up after take-off. The 7 hour flight was extremely comfortable and by flight standards the food was decent.
We landed in Dubai just after midnight on Saturday morning. Compared to the weather we left behind in Cape Town, the heat here was intense even for daytime weather (and this was at midnight!). It was a taste of what was to come for us when we were to return here 10 days later. The airport here was one like I have never experienced before. It was so packed with people, many of them sleeping, that it looked like a refugee camp. Remember that this was now 1 in the morning. We had a quick bite to eat before boarding our next flight. I had chicken wings which had some crazy spices I had never tasted before.
Our next flight to Shanghai lasted about 8 hours and wasn't as comfortable as the previous one. The seats were designed for use with leg rests, but they had to since remove them as it was discovered they would amputate both feet in a crash. With the feet of any reasonably sized person dangling above the floor, our feet were completely swollen by the end of the flight. At least the entertainment system was the same as on the previous flight, even though I slept through most of the flight.
After the trainee customs officer took a while to inspect my passport we finally went through to collect our luggage and met up with the RoboCup volunteers who organised a bus to Suzhou for us.
Continue reading Arrival in Suzhou, China.