| Hong Kong, Shanghai,
from Part 3
Jinhua Hotel (aka Golden Flower Hotel)
Weather: sunny the whole day
the last rain here was four
weeks ago); cold in the morning, the temperature climbs during the day
and in the afternoon I run around with a T-shirt.
In the morning I wake up at 8am, but only leave the hotel by 9:45am.
After some photo shooting on the south wall, I go to a mobile phone
shop to recharge the mobile prepaid card. Yesterday evening the phone
call with Shirley was abruptly terminated, even if it was an incoming
call and I probably had around 70 RMB of calls on the card available.
It turns out that with this China Mobile prepaid card I have to pay
even for incoming calls (1.90 RMB/minute - not sure if this is only for
incoming international calls or also local calls). In any case it's a
shame, as normally you don't have to pay for incoming calls in GSM
networks unless you are roaming abroad (which I'm not). The lady at the
shop suggests to buy a China Unicom GSM card, with which incoming calls
are free, but I'm leaving China in less than a week anyway, and the 100
RMB investment in a new card might not be worth it. So I just recharge
the card with 150 RMB.
After that, around 11 something am, I have a late breakfast/lunch and
check the emails. Then I fetch a taxi to the Three Pagodas (San Ta Si,
entry ticket is overpriced at 55 RMB). Around 1pm I'm done with the
Three Pagodas and I fetch a taxi to the lake (20 RMB). I'm there at
1:24pm and have a look around. There are boats which do a lake tour for
50 RMB (strange enough on the ticket 100 RMB are marked - I'm surprised
that I get 50 RMB back when I pay 100).
The boat leaves when there are enough people, in our case at 2pm when a
group of girls from Beijing arrives (they are students travelling for
days across Yunnan). We cross the lake and reach an island on the
other side, where there is a temple which we visit. The next stop is
another temple on the opposite shore. We are back at the pier
at 4:30pm. A very nice boat tour and it was fun chatting in Mandarin
with the Beijing girls (good pronounciation, easy to understand, much
better than the stuff the local people speak here).
I get a taxi back into town, to the south gate, where I have a walk
along the western city wall (not too great views, despite the sunset).
After 5pm not much happens - I eat some food, check again the emails
and prepare the plan for the next couple of days. I will hire a car +
driver, to go to Zhongdian on the first day with a number of stops
along the way, and on the second day to go from Zhongdian to Lijiang
with stops along the way. Price will be 900 RMB, including everything
(also the accomodation for the driver). By the way, I gave an advance
of 300 RMB to the driver (hopefully he shows up tomorrow). We are
leaving tomorrow at 8am.
06.12: Dali -> Zhongdian
Yunnan Aviation Dioing Guanguang Hotel
simply as "Guanguang
Hotel"), He Ping road, Zhongdian, Tel. 0887-8230698. Modern,
confortable hotel, with heating (after so many days of freezing,
finally a warm room - my room has 23°C, outside it's below
0°C). I have a nice room with good furniture, TV, phone, water
boiler + tea set, bathroom with hair dryer and more for 390 RMB. The
most expensive hotel I've stayed so far in China, but the room is
definitely worth the money. I'd rate it at 4 stars.
Weather: sunny and cool in Dali in
morning, but no clouds. It gets
cloudier during the day, as we drive towards Zhongdian. In Zhongdian
the sky is partly covered with clouds and the temperature ranges from
+7°C during the day and apparently -10°C at night (according to
the forecast in the hotel lobby). It's definitely very cold, and even
windy, but dry (no rain). At the monastery there is ice on the ground,
an indicator that this year it snowed already.
GSM coverage with
Mobile everywhere we've been today - quite
I wake up at 6:30am (!), even before the alarm clock rings at 6:50am
and then take a shower and pack my things. At 7:55am I'm down in the
hotel lobby and surprise,
surprise the driver is already there waiting for me. We then wake up
the hotel lobby employees, check out and leave at 8:00am sharp. The sun
will only rise in the sky at 8:30am by the way.
The first stop is at Xizhou,
about 10-15 km north of Dali,
rated as very interesting in the LP guide due to its well preserved Bai
architecture. Well, the town is sort of interesting, but not too
impressive and actually along the way to Lijiang there are many more
well preserved Bai houses. I might add that at 8:25am the entire town
is still half asleep and most shops are closed.
We then continue driving along the lake. Dali lies in a very large
valley, which is heavily cultivated (but less now as it's winter). The
road is quite good and we soon leave the Dali lake behind us and start
climbing. We reach Heqing, a town 45 km south of Lijiang at 10:25am.
The driver pulls out a cigarette and asks if he can smoke - well no, no
At 11am we reach Lijiang,
whose new town
is quite big and modern (we
don't go to the old town - we'll get there tomorrow). I suggest to find
a restaurant and have sort of a late breakfast (haven't had breakfast
this morning), but we can't find a western style restaurant and I'm not
in the mode for sitting at a Chinese food stall. So I suggest to drive
to the Tiger Leaping Gorge and have lunch there. We should be there by
1 something pm and I would expect a nice, modern western level
The road is in good condition - actually I had expected a much worse
road, as for instance in Myanmar. The ride proceeds smoothly and fast
and we only stop a couple of times, when the driver has to ask the way
(he has never been at the Tiger Leaping Gorge). By the way, the road
near the gorge is excellent, allowing fast driving, and it is still
At 1pm we arrive at the Tiger
Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Xia in Chinese - at
its narrowest the gorge is narrow enough so that a tiger could jump
across it - at least in theory). The gorge is impressive, very narrow
and despite the fact that we are at least at 2000m on both sides of the
gorge there are very steep mountains - possibly they are 4000 or even
5000 m high. This place is something not to be missed.
The ticket to the gorge costs 30 RMB and from the parking it's a 2.6 km
walk to the gorge. After walking to the gorge, getting back and having
lunch it's 3pm. The driver tells me that now it will take three hours
to get from here to Zhongdian.
Actually at 5pm we are already in Zhongdian.
The road between Qiaotou
and Xiao Zhongdian is good, except for a small part which is very bad.
In the last part the road is very good again, almost like a motorway.
It's very cold and a strong wind is blowing. Zhongdian lies in a very
large valley, at a height of 3200m above sea level. The new town has
not much to offer in terms of sights - it's just a collection of modern
buildings. The old town is, well so-so. I saw much better preserved
houses in Xiao Zhongdian (will stop there tomorrow).
We drive to the Ganden Sumtseling Gompa buddhist monastery (Songzanlin
Si in Chinese; ticket is 10 RMB). Very impressive monastery, but the
sun is now behind the clouds and a freezing wind is blowing, so I don't
stay for long there. Will get there again tomorrow. After that we look
for a hotel, and I end up in the above mentioned place.
In the evening after dinner I go to an Internet cafe to check my
emails. Shirley and her sister Sara have finally a confirmed seat on
the Malaysian Airlines flight KL-Delhi-KL on December 10th, so now I
have to contact again Sanjay, my local contact in Delhi and ask him to
inform the driver about the changed schedule and organise a hotel room
in Delhi. By the way, they smoke like crazy in that Internet cafe and
keep the windows open to change the air, allowing freezing air to get
07.12: Zhongdian ->
Old Town Inn (Gucheng Kezhan), Xinyi
Lijiang, Tel. 0888-5189000.
300 RMB for a nice but small single room with bath, heating, telephone,
TV, nice furniture. Breakfast included. In a traditional local housing
style, quiet at night. Found the hotel in the LP guide.
Weather: overcast and dark in the
in Zhongdian until 10am,
after the sky slowly opens up and the sun shines through. Very cold in
Zhongdian, and cold in Lijiang. In Lijiang in the afternoon, sun with
After breakfast I discuss with the driver the route options for today
(by the way, the breakfast in the Guanguang Hotel sucks). Would like to
take the other road through Baishuitai, but the driver says his car
can't drive on that road and the receptionist confirms that the road is
very bad. Benzilan, which according to the LP guide is 22 km away from
Zhongdian, is 80 km and 3 hours away according to the hotel
receptionist. Also, the sky is overcast and it could snow (although
this doesn't look like a "snow" sky, but you can never know). So we
settle on a short trip to the nearby Tiansheng bridge rock formation
(Tiansheng Qiao) and the Dabao Si buddhist temple.
After some erring here and there (the driver doesn't know the road and
also doesn't have a map) we finally reach the
Tiansheng rock formation (10 RMB entry). Kind of nice and below there
is a hot spring, with really hot water. There are two big pools,
changing rooms, lockers, even a shop where they sell swimming suits.
Would be great to take a bath in the hot water, and heat up the frozen
body, but there is no time.
Driving to the Dabao temple takes some effort (again the driver doesn't
know the way), because you have to drive for a few km along an unpaved
side road full of stones. The temple (10 RMB entry fee) is a
disappointment. When I visit it, it is used by an old lady who keeps
her chicken inside. Goats live inside the stupa bells. ON top of that,
when I walk back to the car, the old lady chases me for two minutes
begging for some money (everywhere in China people chase you asking for
It's already 11:20am when we finally start driving towards Lijiang. At
12pm we reach Xiao Zhongdian, a village in the valley with beautiful
farm houses. I spend half an hour there shooting photos. Then we
continue driving to Lijiang and at 2pm we reach Qiaotou, where we plan
to have a lunch break. The driver brings me into a roadside restaurant
and there the disaster begins.
Because I don't want to eat always pork, I make the mistake to ask for
chicken. It's a mistake, because in China you should never ask for
chicken unless you are in a high class or western restaurant.
To avoid misunderstandings, the driver is with me when I discuss what I
want to have with the waitress. We ask what meat they have, even walk
into the kitchen to have a look. The available meat, already cut into
pieces, doesn't look that appetizing. I ask if they have
chicken meat, and the lady says yes. I then explain that I want to have
chicken meat with no bones. The driver translates this. To check, I
then ask, can we see the chicken meat ? Yes, no problem. Wait one
minute and a guy shows up with one live chicken hanging by his feet...
Ah... that's the chicken meat (!?). A live chicken, which they are
going to kill for us ? Ok, I say, let's take it. The guy with the
chicken disappears. Some more discussion, then the driver says that the
restaurant is going to charge 90 RMB for the whole chicken. Very
expensive indeed and I say that actually a piece of the chicken is
enough. The lady says no, either the full chicken or nothing. Then we
say, we don't want it (bu yao). Then the driver says, we have to tell
the guy with the chicken to stop the slaughtering procedure. But by the
time we reach the guy with the chicken, he has already cut the
chicken's throat and is making all blood come out.
So it's too late, and we have to take the chicken. Ok, I'll then have
the full chicken, although I doubt that I will be able to finish alone
one full chicken. Then the situation gets out of control... The guy and
the girls take out the feathers of the chicken, then I see the guy
cutting the whole chicken together with skin and bones into small
pieces with a big knife. Slowly I start realising what is happening.
I happen to have a chat with a Taiwanese tourist, who is fluent in
English and Mandarin. I tell him about the chicken and we then go to
the kitchen and explain again that I want the chicken meat without
bones. "No it's too late now, you didn't tell us. You should have told
us before." @!#*!@... GRRRRR.... Thinking back about it, I should have
raised my voice then and complained, but I was still hoping to be able
to remove the bones myself with a fork and a knife.
They finally serve two big pots full of liquid and chicken parts. The
first one is disgusting - there are among others the chicken head and
parts of the legs inside, in a brownish liquid. The second one seems to
contain the eatable parts of the chicken. It takes about five minutes
to get a fork and a knife, after a lot of asking (the restaurant
manager borrows the knife and fork from some other place - the fork is
actually a small cake fork). Then I start to sort out the meat and
remove the skin, the bones and other uneatable parts.
Actually, had I known how much meat there was inside the pots, I would
have probably simply thrown the content of both pots into the toilet,
instead of spending several minutes to sort out the meat. I end up with
a very small amount of meat. Unlikely that a chicken is so meatless
even here in China - they must have kept the meat for themselves, and
just served me the skin and bones. Great - they charge me 90 RMB for a
chicken, served in an impossible manner and even keep the meat for
themselves. They must be thinking that Westerners are stupid and
deserve to be cheated.
Just to make an example, in Kunming, in the My Favor Cafe, they have an
excellent buffet, where inclusive of salads, meats, rice, noodles,
fruits, several choices of cake and desserts, drinks etc. you only pay
38 RMB. From
now on I will avoid simple roadside restaurants here in China and focus
western or westernised restaurant.
After leaving Qiaotou we reach Lijiang around 4:20pm. Cars are not
allowed into the old town, so I have to walk with my bags to the hotel
(hotel is quite nice, see above). Lijiang is a beautiful town, with all
houses in local style. It is actually even too beautiful - in an effort
to make it beautiful, the locals have overdone themselves and now
Lijiang looks like a village in a fairy tale, kind of a perfect
Disneyland fantasy town. Very nice, but also very, very heavily tourist
oriented. There are souvenir shops everywhere. Entire roads are
completely covered on both sides with souvenir shops. I'd like to buy a
souvenir for Shirley, but most things they sell here are cheap
colourful tourist crap.
There are restaurants along the channels, but are a bit pricey - 20 RMB
for instance for a banana pancake. A simple dinner seems to be in the
50-70 RMB range, while until now I have spent in the 30 RMB range for a
dinner in all places I've been. Lijiang is overall less
backpacker-oriented - less than Dali and much less than Yangshuo, the
backpacker centre of southern China.
In the evening I check my emails (BTW, can't find an Internet cafe in
China with a computer with a working diskette drive) and have a dinner.
Tomorrow I'll be in Lijiang the whole day and will fly to Kunming in
08.12: Lijiang -> Kunming
Yunnan International Business Hotel,
very good value at 200
RMB/night, including the transfer from the airport to the hotel and
breakfast (see above).
Weather: cloudy and cool in the
Lijiang; until the afternoon
the clouds go away and the sky gets blue; at 2pm it's warm enough to
sit outside in a street cafe; not too cold in the late afternoon when I
leave Lijiang for Kunming; cold, but not too cold in Kunming in the
I skip the breakfast and am ready at 10:45am (by the way, the Old Town
Inn room is cold and the shower sucks). Between 11:10am and 11:45am I
check the emails. I sort of skip breakfast and lunch and simply buy
some pastries at the local bakery (excellent stuff and dirt cheap),
which fill my stomach for a few hours. I use the time I save by not
sitting in a restaurant to explore Lijiang and shoot some photos.
At 12:15pm I remember that there should be a lake north of Lijiang's
old town, into which the Yulong Shan mountain reflects. Since it's
noon, it's easy to find the north, because the sun lies to the south
(or approximately). I manage to reach the entry of the park with the
lake at 12:40pm, by walking towards the north along a channel. The
ticket is 20 RMB - everywhere in Lijiang and more generally in China,
they charge entry fees.
The park with the lake is kind of nice, with the temples reflecting in
the lake etc. Very nice actually. I spend one hour in the park, then
walk back to Lijiang's old town, which I reach at 2pm. In the big
square in front of Lijiang's old town there is now a folklore group of
local people, who start performing a dance. After
watching it, I remember that I'm about to run out of cash and head
towards the new town looking for a bank. After two ATMs which don't
accept my ATM card, I finally find a Bank of China ATM which
accepts my card.
At 2:45pm I have some food in one of the cafes which line a channel in
Lijiang's old town (the Bob Marley cafe to be precise). Then, around
3:40pm I start walking again in Lijiang. The sun is now lower in the
sky and the good time for taking photos is about to start. At 4:30pm I
am at the Wan Gu Lou temple (admission: 15 RMB) on top of a hill
overlooking Lijiang, from which you have an excellent view of Lijiang.
In the public toilets in the park adjoining the temple I finally find
the famous Chinese toilets, where people shit in a row with no
separating walls, no toilet paper and nothing to clean your ass. Until
now I've always only found decent toilets, so this bizarre place is
kind of interesting.
At 5:10pm I head towards a cafe, where I have some food while checking
my emails. At 6pm I'm then back in the hotel and fetch my bags. The
taxi driver (a lady) is already waiting for me. We are at the airport
at 6:20pm (cost of the taxi ride is 100 RMB) and the plane leaves on
time at 7:30pm.
We actually reach Kunming ten minutes early at 8:10pm. I then book the
room in the hotel at the airport, and am in the hotel room before 9pm.
There is an unpleasant surprise, because the hotel tells me they cannot
wash my clothes in a few hours (they can only be available on Friday
evening at 8pm - far too late. I even walk with a hotel employee to the
laudry reception at the nearby Parkson department store, but even there
they cannot wash the clothes so quickly. A bit of a problem, because
I'm running out of clean clothes and underwear. Will have to look for a
fast laundry service tomorrow.
Yunnan International Business Hotel
Weather: overcast, with some brief
"openings", otherwise a pretty
dull day. A bit warmer than yesterday, but still quite cold/fresh.
In the morning I wake up at 8 something am, then however only get ready
around 10am. I prepare the clothes to wash in two big bags (lots
of stuff which needs to get cleaned) and walk down to the reception.
Yesterday the manager told me he would find a fast laundry service and
inform me today. Based on this I'm planning to take a taxi to this fast
laundry service, leave the clothes there and be back around 11am. I'm
not to happy about this - a hotel should offer a fast laundry service.
Surprise, surprise, today at the reception they tell me that I can
leave the clothes there and I will get them tomorrow by 9am. Ok, that's
fine with me. In fact, I will get back the clothes in the evening at
9pm - 12 hours ahead of the planned delivery (cost is a bit high at 110
For today I had planned to skip the Stone Forest, which probably is
overrated, and instead visit the Yunnan Nationalities Village, which I
thought is much more interesting. Well, it turns out that this village
is a disappointment. The whole day is actually a disappointment - well,
after having been first in Dali, then in Zhongdian and Lijiang a
disappointment had to come. You can't be every day in a breathtaking
I was expecting something as nice as the Sarawak Cultural Village near
Kuching (Malaysia), where the individual tribe houses are nicer than
the real thing (longhouses in Sarawak are actually pretty dull).
Instead here the situation is the opposite: the reconstruction is not
as nice as the original. Basically the Yunnan Nationalities Village is
a collection of reconstructed villages of the 25 ethnic groups in
Yunnan. But the resonstruction is of poor quality, with corrugated tin
roofs, walls with pale colours or where the colour drops off and
overall the houses are in a poor state. Compare that with Dali, Lijiang
and Zhongdian, where the houses are in a much better state (and of
course are original). Also, the entry fee is 70 RMB now, up from 45 RMB
three years ago. And the villages are spread over a large area, so that
walking from a village to the next takes a lot of time.
The taxi from Kunming to the Yunnan Nationalities Village takes approx.
half an hour and costs 21 RMB. I'm there at 1pm and leave at 2:45pm.
The taxi ride from the village to my next destination, the Bamboo
temple (Qiongzhu Si), takes over an hour and costs 60 RMB. I'm there
after 4pm. The temple is on top of a hill and is nice. I spend 40
minutes there, then look on the watch and see that it's already 4:40pm,
too late to visit another place. So I just take a minibus back to the
hotel (30 RMB).
I spend the rest of the day not doing much. I'm back at the My Favor
Cafe for dinner and email check, then walk around the block and realize
that there is nothing to see. The roads are lined with western style
shops selling clothes and other stuff, and catering to local people.
After 16 days in China, I'm getting a bit tired of China. It's good
that in two days I'm flying to India. Tomorrow evening I will be in
Hong Kong (after reading in the LP guide what Shenzen is about, I kill
the idea of spendind the night in Shenzen).
10.12: Kunming -> Shenzen -> Hong Kong
Man Hing Lung Hotel, Hong Kong
same place where I stayed
when I arrived to HK two and a half weels ago.
Weather: overcast in the morning in
Kunming; the sun finally pops out
around 3pm. Quite cold in the morning in Kunming, even if the weather
indicator in the lobby of the hotel shows a tempetature range of
+6°C .. +13°C. In Hong Kong it's fresh in the evening, but a
lot warmer than in Kunming. No rain the whole day.
I stay in be until 10am - after so many days in cold places I've now
caught a slight cold (hopefully not SARS or something similar). I then
get up and pack my things. At 12pm I'm down in the lobby and check out,
leaving the bags in the hotel. Then I have a lunch at the My Favor Cafe
(my favourite place in Kunming - by now they must be thinking that I
will show up every day for the next two weeks) and check the emails.
At 12:50pm I catch a taxi to the Yuantong Si buddhist
temple in downtown Kunming. The taxi ride takes only 15 minutes. The
temple (entry ticket is 4 RMB) is quite nice and would look great
actually if the sky were blue instead of overcast and the sun were in
right position. I'm there until 2pm, then fetch a taxi back to the
hotel (a 20 minutes ride). I shoot some more photos of people on
bicycles, then go to the supermarket in the basement of the Parkson
department store opposite the hotel. There I get some food and a drink
for this evening (will most likely skip dinner tonight, as I won't be
in the hotel before 8 or 9pm).
At 2:55pm I catch a taxi to the airport (the ride takes only 15 minutes
and is 19 RMB). The Air China plane leaves with a small delay, because
it arrived late at the airport. On board there is a drink and a meal
(chicken with skin, rice and celery pieces).
The plane lands with a small delay in Shenzen airport. By the time I
get the luggage and reach the information counter it's 6:50pm. There
they say that the fastest way to get to HK is by bus, because the next
boat only leaves at 8:30pm and the bus leaves at 7:05pm. So I buy a bus
ticket for 130 RMB.
What follows is not really an ordeal, but it certainly is no fun having
to use three different busses to reach Hong Kong and passing two
immigration controls (with thermo-scan camera - luckily I have no
fever). I was thinking that the same bus would go all the way to Hong
Kong, as is the case with the bus from KL to Singapore. Instead the
first bus only brings you to the Chinese border (and I leave the bag in
the bus, thinking I'll find the same bus on the other side - pretty
complicated getting back to the Chinese side after having left China to
get the bag). Then there is a second bus to the Hong Kong border. Again
get out, and walk with your bags to the HK immigration. Then finally,
there is the third bus which brings me to somewhere in Kowloon. From
there I take a taxi to the Man Hing Lung hotel, which I manage to reach
at 9:15pm. In the remaining part of the evening I take the peak train
to the Victoria Peak, where I shoot some night photos of Hong Kong;
underground is 9 HKD one way, the peak train is 30 HKD return). I sleep
quite late at 1am.
11.12: Hong Kong
Delhi via Bangkok
Yatri guesthouse, Delhi: overpriced at
Rs for a double room. The
rooms are dirty and run-down, the toilet is in a very poor state. The
shower stops working after a few minutes, and you are forced to throw
buckets of water on your back to rinse away the shower gel. No
mosquitoes however, and the owner is friendly.
Weather: beautiful sunny day in HK in
morning and noon; a pity I'm
leaving today, as the visibility is quite good and I could shoot some
good photos. Fresh in the evening in Delhi; the air is incredibly
dirty, as in a dantesque hell.
I wake up (actually am woken up by the outside noise at 8:20am, 20
minutes ahead of my alarm clock wake up time. Today is a "fly-day" -
will spend the entire day in planes and airports, getting from Hong
Kong to Delhi.
At 10am I fetch a taxi (30 HKD) to the Kowloon station, where I will
fetch the airport express. After checking in the bag at the Kowloon
station (until Bangkok on the TG 601 flight), I get on the next train
and reach the airport around 11am. The Thai airways flight leaves
almost on time at 12:50pm.
The plane lands in Bangkok International Airport 10 minutes late.
Then it gets a bit messy to reclaim the bag and change airlines (I
arrived with Thai Airlines and am flying to Delhi with Air India). It
appears that I can only get my bag if I go through immigration, but I
don't have an entry card (didn't take it in the plane, as I am only
transiting). So I look for an entry card, but can't find anywhere one
(they don't distribute them freely as is the case with the KL airport
for instance). Then I go to the immigration officer and explain that I
want to get my bag and check it in with Air India. The lady checks my
Air India ticket and sends me to the Transfer Desk 1. There the guy
explains that if I go through immigration I have to pay the 500 THB
airport tax. He also says that Air India will send somebody to pick up
my bag and will check it in for me. After passing through one more guy,
I am sent to Transfer Desk 2 - Transfer Desk 1 was the wrong address,
since Air India have their counter at Transfer Desk 2 (by the way, 800
metres distance between the two transfer desks). Finally at the Air
India counter, after checking my ticket, reserving a seat and checking
my passport and visa, they tell me to come back at 4:15pm to identify
At 4:15pm I'm back, but there is some queueing up, some waiting, Indian
people who don't want to queue up and try to push their way to the
front, some confusion etc. In the end I manage to identify my bag and
get the boarding pass at 4:45pm, over two hours after landing in
Bangkok. Then I rush to the KFC restaurant and get some take away food.
After that I stop at the post office and check my emails (the card they
sell costs 100 THB and allows you to surf the web for 90 minutes -
pricey, but there seems to be no alternative at BKK airport - I wonder
if there is WLAN access somewhere).
I manage to reach the security check at 5:20pm. There they check if you
have a boarding pass and do the usual scan. Immediately after that, at
the gate 20 metres away, again they do a security check. This time it
is done by the airline (Air India), and since they don't have scanners,
the employee opens your bag and looks inside. Then a couple of ladies
check if you are carrying any weapons on you. Not clear what they are
trying to achieve, since the people who made it here have already
passed through the security check above and they lack the equipment to
do a proper security check. Then, at the entrance on the gate waiting
area, they check your passport and boarding pass. When walking to the
plane, two employees again check your boarding pass. Either the people
here are paranoid or their security checks suck so that they have to
perform them twice.
The flight with Air India is ok. It leaves with some delay (20
minutes), but the on-board service is fine. I had been warned in
Internet message boards against flying with Air India, citing poor
service and delays as the main reasons, but so far (while I write this
I'm sitting in the plane on the way to Delhi), eveything is ok. The
plane (a Boeing 747-300 combi) is old however - you can clearly see it
in the toilets, the seats and the audiovisual equipment. By the way,
the Indians are far less disciplined than the Chinese - there is a lot
of chaos on this flight, while there was virtually none on the Chinese
The reality check comes when we land in Delhi. There is a small delay,
as we land at 8:50pm local time, instead of 8:40pm. Passing
through the immigration is quite speedy, but then I have to wait for
one hour, until 10pm for the bag. Initially it's an average of
one bag per minute which shows up on the conveyor belt.
It's 10pm when I finally get out of the arrivals zone. Shirley and Sara
are waiting there for me. We then drive to the Yatri guesthouse (see