Ideally I should have updated this when I was there. Unideally, internet access was confusing and a pain in the arse to work so think of this as a retrospective travel blog.
Long distance travel doesn’t bother me. I’m not an idiot. I’m perfectly aware that China is on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD to jolly old Sunderland, so I’m not naïve enough to think that it would be a short Megabus hop and then I’d be fighting pandas and wrestling dragons etc.
I was more than prepared to travel to the airport myself. I mean, I booked my flights, visa, insurance, place on the trip, pre-departure meeting in Manchester and various other things throughout my twenty years as a citizen of planet Earth myself, so an hour on the Tyne and Wear Metro on a straight route is more than alright for me to manage. Except it would be, if my mother wasn’t Lisa Shepherd who being the sentimental fiend that she is insisted on driving me to the airport herself. I’m not complaining about the fact that she gave me a lift (as lets face it an hour not spent on a public transit system is an hour well spent) but the fact that as soon as she‘ll have seen me go into departures she‘d end up having this emotional fit of “MYBABY‘SALLGROWNUPWAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH“ what she‘s pretty prone to doing, and if there‘s anything I don‘t want on my conscience, a hysterical woman is up there.
Hysterical women aside, when I arrived at Newcastle Airport, for some reason I couldn’t get my ticket for my connecting flight to Hangzhou there and then so had to pick it up at a transfer desk at Amsterdam Schiphol once I’d arrived. I only had an hour and a half transfer time between flights which combined with the fact that my Newcastle flight was delayed by 40 minutes meant that things were looking tighter than Mother Theresa’s chuff so after a short hour and five minute hop to Europe, I rushed to the nearest KLM desk I could find to be told that they’d overbooked the flight to Hangzhou and that there’s a chance I might not even have a seat but I wanted to I could volunteer to wait for the next flight (24 hours later…). Needless to say I fucking declined to volunteer for the next flight and when they checked my ticket details I did have a seat reserved, my case had been loaded onto this flight, and I didn’t have to “volunteer” to do anything (one of the main (but cynical) reasons I give for doing this trip is that it’s time abroad without having to pay a vast amount of dollars help anyone worse off than yourself).
Seat 31G of this KLM Boeing 737-200 to Hangzhou was a mixture of a blessing and a curse. Due to it being the front of a row of seats and next to an emergency exit, I had more than ample legroom, easy access to the toilets (which I took advantage of frequently due to flight nerves), and was served refreshments quicker than others. However, being the front row, I didn’t have an entertainment screen in front of me next to my traytable, and it took me nearly an hour into the flight to realise that it was in my arm rest and had to pull it out before me from which some quality viewing took place. I was more than surprised with the film selection and being the “like oh my gawd, totally cool, alternative hipster” type that I am decided that Easy Rider, Drive, and Curb Your Enthusiasm would be my viewing types. Easy Rider- a classic, Curb- laugh out loud funny, Drive- a film I would have thoroughly enjoyed if I hadn’t decided to watch it 30 mins after the flight food. As you can imagine the Caucasian contingent of this flight was relatively limited and I was positioned alone amongst a large group of Chinese people, that all seemed to know each other very well and get copious amounts of energy from flight food. My oriental neighbours could only be compared to kids on E-numbers after meal times and didn’t hesitate in scurrying about all over the cabin and gathering and chattering loudly and persistently to each other right in front of where I was sat. So Ryan Gosling, you were great… I think.
That was going there, coming back was just as interesting. As a student at a British university, I engaged in a long standing tradition of British students on trips abroad and that is the tradition of getting spectacularly fucked on local firewater on the last night before departure. 9am on the morning of the 17th I rolled into the lobby with my case for the 45 minute drive to the airport. 45 minutes seems ok, but no-one had prepared my shochu addled stomach for just how bumpy the roads were going to be. I didn’t even make it into the airport before I was wretching a heady mixture of bile and possibly lighter fluid on the tiles outside of Hangzhou airport. Once I stopped spewing there, I made my way into the airport and before I could locate the check-in desk, the whitey waves had hit me again and I casually strolled to the gents, convulsing into my hands as I tried to walk as if I were some professional business man. I couldn’t find the cubicles in time so dove into the nearest urinal I could find. An empty one with two urinating Chinese business men either side. I didn’t look up, or care how I must have looked or was representing the fucking country. I just wanted this stream to stop billowing out of my mouth, and in a garbled attempt at mandarin apologised to the two confused chaps either side of me. I then realised I was covered in sick, and an 11 hour flight covered in vomit is just cruel for whoever would be sat next to me so I got changed into a shirt I would say was quite smart. I slipped the fake Ray Bans I’d bought on as well and made my way to the check in desk. I’m not sure this was because I was dressed quite smartly but for some reason I was given a free upgrade from economy class to economy comfort (which in the state I was in, I wasn’t going to protest) so relished in the presence of slightly more leg room and seats that went just that little bit further back.
Upon descent into Amsterdam airport, it dawned on me that I had 15 hours until my connecting flight to Newcastle and then realised that I felt like I was going to drop down dead. As far as I was aware I had no money at all having spent it all on fanny packs and visors so had to resign myself to 15 hours of starvation and sleeplessness however I thought there’d be no harm in seeing if I could get transferred to an earlier flight to Newcastle or Durham Tees Valley. I couldn’t so resignedly decided that there was no harm to check that I had no money in my bank account. HOW FUCKING GLAD I WAS THAT I DID THIS when I discovered that Student Finance had been saucy minxes and came up with the goods. With that behind me, I grabbed some pizza and checked myself into one of the coolest hotels I’ve ever stayed in (http://www.yotel.com/Hotels/Amsterdam-Schiphol/All-about-YOTEL) and showered myself and indulged in some South Park (the queefing episode, now you ask me). Up bright and early for my flight back to Newcastle and touched down in Newcastle at half 10. I was reminded by just how much I hate elements of the United Kingdom when I got on the metro back to Sunderland by the sight of a Geordie Metro worker talking down to a Chinese guy as if he was an idiot for bringing a massive case on to the Metro and not taking into account the fact that I had a case equally as hefty and I wasn’t being spoken to by him like I was some sort of Special Needs Student… cunt.
So this is my first in a series of retrospective blogs in regards to my recent jaunt to Asia, hope they grab your fancy and I know what blog you’re all looking forward to reading so that’s going to be the next one for you to read. Coming soon… FOOD.