This is the Chinese part of my 4 months long trip to asia, previous parts of it: Indochina Trip 6/9: Vietnam Airlines VN240 HUI-HAN (by EL-AL Jun 18 2011 in Trip Reports) Indochina Trip 5/9: Jetstar Pacific SGN-DAD (by EL-AL May 28 2011 in Trip Reports) Indochina Trip 3/9: Lao Airlines VTE-PKZ+LPQ & LXG (by EL-AL May 9 2011 in Trip Reports) Indochina Trip 2/9: Orient Thai DMK-CEI / MD-82 (by EL-AL May 2 2011 in Trip Reports) Indochina Trip 1/9: El Al B744 TLV-BKK + LY Lounge (by EL-AL Apr 24 2011 in Trip Reports)
My camera broke dead on the departure airport, so not too many aviation pics on this part. Yet, it’s a.net's first photographed TR involving KMG airport.
My lonely planet was confiscated!
Right after my passport was stamped at the Chinese side of the Hekeo / Lao Cai border crossing, my bag was x-rayed, and I was asked to take out the book I had in my bag; It was the PR China lonely planet tour guide, the most popular tour guide in the world. I was told that because the map does not show ROC (Taiwan) as part of the PRC, I can’t bring it inside the country. I offered him to tare off the map and to give me the rest of the book, with no success. Also told him that I did not print this map and it doesn’t show the opinion of travelers - I was told only that the lonely is out – no exceptions. Welcome to China!
After this shock, I used the ATM to get some local money and then headed for the bus stop for the 8 hours bus ride to Kunming, the capitol of Yunnan provice and the largest city in the area (Hekou is nice small town, but no reason to stay there). On the road:
I got to Kunming at night, setteled at what I thought is an expensive hotel but it turned out to be the regular price around there (150 CNY per night), and stayed there throughout my 4 nights in “the city of spring”. The city itself, my gateway to China, was very different from what I expected to see. Instead of polluted, gray, congested, noisy large Chinese city, Kunming is more Zurich then Hanoi – clean, super-modern, organized, calm with a good transportation system. I really loved it, a refreshing change after Indochina. Some pics:
Beijing st’, Kunming’s main road:
In a book store I saw the reason why my book was out – in China, Taiwan Island will always be part of the PRC:
In that very same store, I bought a map and drew a map of my trip till that point:
Flight Background: Well, in Kunming I understood that my original plan, to head west and north to other parts of Yunnan and to Sichuan is irrelevant – it was too cold, while I had clothing for tropical weather (there was still knee-height snow in those areas in early April). Therefore I decided to head east, to Guangzhou, China’s 3rd largest city and on out of the mainland. The fact that I had no tour guide had also contributed my decision to cut short the Chinese part of my trip (finding English tour guides in Kunming is impossible).
Booking: once again, like in Laos, price for flights to CAN was identical on travel agencies and online, relatively expensive price of 1380 CNY (213 USD) no matter which time or day is chosen. Flight booked eventually in ‘China youth travel’ agency, in front of Kunming south railway station. Since the guy working there doesn’t speak a word in English, booking was done in an interesting way: I wrote him “KMG-CAN, 2011.03.31, ~12:00”. He opened his computer, pointed on the screen, I saw list of flights on that route for the day, pointed on the flight I wanted. He wrote “1400” on the page, and took out his ID pointing at me. I gave him my passport and 1400 CNY, and he issued me the ticket. We both smiled and shook hands – flight booked without a word spoken! Now here is a story to tell at home. My ticket:
2 days later, I woke up, checked out wand walked to the bus stop. After a minute I took public bus number 67 (1 Yuan) to Wujiaba airport, a double decker bus and I had the first row in the top for myself. Approaching to the airport, taken from the bus:
Kunming Wujiaba airport located near the city center, and surrounded by the city; therefore, Yunnan province government plan to construct a new airport out of the city, due to become China’s 4th largest airport. External view:
There was a check in line, yet, it was organized and moved fast and within 15 minutes I had my boarding pass. I asked for a window seat not over the wing, and I got 31A, though it’s the last row on the left, thats good enough for me. Check in hall:
Check in line:
The security check was less than a 5 minutes wait, with the airside in KMG being great that gave me an opportunity to see airlines I’ll never see at home like Shandong or Kunming Air. KMG airport is very busy for it size, and even tough I flew at midday the single runway had nonstop takeoffs and landings. KMG’s sole terminal has an extension to the south, with the lower floor is used for remote stand gates. Some views – since China Yunnan Airlines went bust, China Eastern is the popular airline in KMG:
China Eastern B733, Hainan Airlines B738 in the back:
Shandong Airlines B738:
Behind it, China Eastern A320 in special colors:
And just then my camera broke dead. My small pentax served my photography needs for 4 years, and right there in KMG airport it was its end. Sorry guys, just words from now on.
Boarding was called at 12:35, one bus drove on and I was on the second bus that waited a few minutes for no-show passengers and then drove on. Our airplane was a brand new A320-200, less then a year old at the time. Some passengers took photos during boarding with no problem. My ride:
Photo © Xu Zheng
Photo © M Radzi Desa
Airline: China Southern Airlines
Airplane: A320-200 B-6623
Route: Kunming Wujiaba Yunnan -> Guangzhou Baiyon Guangdong (Both in PRC)
Date: Thursday, March 31st 2011.
Gates: 24 -> 209
Runways: 21 -> 2L
Wheels off: 12:25
Full stop: 14:00
Airborne time: 1 hour 19 minutes
Gate to gate time: 1 hour 49 minutes.
Once onboard, I walked automatically to the back only to understand that I was given the first row – the bulkhead rows in the front – CZ counts YCL row from 31 and on. Nice surprise. Next to me there was a Chinese man in his 40s who didn’t say a word to me during the flight (not rare to find people who don’t speak English in Yunnan). I was the only non-Chinese on board.
Taxi 4 minutes ahead of time, we were number 4 to depart (on midday!) followed by a long takeoff run on RWY 21. YCL was pretty full, JCL load was 1/8. Entertainment was news and other TV programs in Chinese, with audio (no headphones). Food service included drinks and full hot meal with entrée choices of chicken or pork (on rice, of course – we are in China) so as salad, fruits, bread and butter. Everything was pretty good. Heard that, US airlines?
We landed on RWY 21L and arrived at our gate right on time. At baggage claim we waited for 20 minutes till the first suitcase was out – it was the JCL passenger one, separated from the rest. I think that on those flights it pretty stupid to separate it from the rest, since obviously the organization of bags took some time, while if all luggage was out at once most passengers, including the JCL one, could have left the airport sooner.
Again, the airport information employees did nothing but try to sell me overpriced taxis (300 CNY, didn’t expect that in such a large airport as CAN) but the metro and bus employees assisted me very professionally, and directed me to a bus (17 CNY) that took me right near my hotel (Xinyuexin, a dump, stay away; Wrote review about the place on Trip Advisor).
Guangzhou (Canton), 3rd largest city in PRC, is super-modern and clean, yet expensive and pretty boring. 24 hours is enough, in my opinion, to see all attractions in the city and indeed I spent just 2 nights in Guangzhou. Yet, I did find a bargain on a new camera. Few pictures:
Guangzhou’s metro is the most modern one I’ve ever seen:
Canton tower. Completed in 2010, at 600 meters high it’s the second tallest tower in the world (after Burge Khalifa). Even thought it’s the number 1 tourist destination in Guangzou, it was pretty empty when I was there:
Views from the top:
Conclusion: while I was expecting crowded noisy flight, I got a new airplane, good legroom, full and good meal with excellent service and arriving right on time. Weak points were the luggage issue and the price, of course. Yet, I will be happy to fly China Southern again anytime.
Thank you for reading, comments and feedback are welcome as always.
Please take a look at my other trip reports: Indochina Trip 6/9: Vietnam Airlines VN240 HUI-HAN (by EL-AL Jun 18 2011 in Trip Reports) Indochina Trip 5/9: Jetstar Pacific SGN-DAD (by EL-AL May 28 2011 in Trip Reports) El Al Independence Day Flyover 2011 (by EL-AL May 12 2011 in Trip Reports) Indochina Trip 3/9: Lao Airlines VTE-PKZ+LPQ & LXG (by EL-AL May 9 2011 in Trip Reports) Indochina Trip 2/9: Orient Thai DMK-CEI / MD-82 (by EL-AL May 2 2011 in Trip Reports) Indochina Trip 1/9: El Al B744 TLV-BKK + LY Lounge (by EL-AL Apr 24 2011 in Trip Reports) Flying The Box: Ayit Shorts 360 SDV-RPN-SDV (by el-al Oct 10 2010 in Trip Reports) Nightmares And Thefts: Air Malta TLV-MLA-TLV (by EL-AL Oct 22 2010 in Trip Reports) EL-AL Inaugural Domestic Flight 1.8.2010 TLV-ETH (by EL-AL Aug 2 2010 in Trip Reports) 2 Countries, 1 Dollar: TLV-LCA-TLV Arkia E195+B753 (by EL-AL Jun 3 2010 in Trip Reports) Inside Israel: SDV-ETH-TLV; Israir & Arkia (+pics) (by EL-AL May 19 2010 in Trip Reports) Special TR: Preparations For El Al Ind.day Flyover (by EL-AL Apr 20 2010 in Trip Reports) LCC In Spain: TLV-BCN-SVQ-REU With UX, VY & FR (by EL-AL Apr 18 2010 in Trip Reports) Y Viva Espana! TLV-BCN-TLV; EL-AL 'basic' (+ Pics) (by EL-AL Jan 29 2010 in Trip Reports) EL-AL At It's Best: TLV-MXP, FCO-TLV (+pics) (by EL-AL Oct 12 2009 in Trip Reports) First Sun D'or Pax TR TLV-BOJ (new Link To Pics) (by EL-AL Sep 12 2009 in Trip Reports)
[Edited 2011-06-18 05:00:40]