#1809| the worst airport in the world

Andrea - Jemimah Christmas Party-148_MG_0669_MG_1057_MG_0980_MG_0931
the last scattered snapshots from my recent trip

I know you guys are slightly sadistic because you seem to love it when shit happens – like my tablet breaking, iOS7 ruining my life, etc etc. I guess it’s human nature – bad luck is hilarious when it isnt happening to you – but oh well: boy oh boy do i have a funny story for you today.

I’ve been back from Guangzhou for about a week now, and trust me when i say i thoroughly enjoyed it. Rich culture, beautiful weather, sparkling night lights and all that. We wrapped up on a late friday night and headed to Baiyun airport to catch our return flight, which is where we pick up the thread of our story, because Baiyun is the worst airport in the world.

I wish I were being dramatic for drama’s sake. My family and I reached the airport early, by about 11pm, and checked in our luggage, did the thousand checkpoint thing, and finally settled down by the boarding gate comfortably to await the boarding announcement. Everything was dandy, except ten minutes before boarding time, the airport staff came to look for us and tell us there was a problem with one of our luggages and we’d have to go all the way back to the first checkpoint to see what the problem was.

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What?! Why didn’t you tell us when we checked in two hours ago? It’s like, an entire km away. I know this, because when walking to the boarding gate the first time, roughly halfway through there was a signboard that said 680 m to the boarding gates.

Us: “What seems to be the problem?”
Staff: “I dunno, might be electronics or something.”
Us: “Ok, then can you bring us to the checkpoint?”
Staff: “Sorry no we have to prepare for takeoff.”
Us: “Yes but we’re on this flight too”
Staff: “Ok better hurry then bye”

There was nothing to be done. So my dad and I ran / jogged all the way to the customs, bypassing all the checkpoints again and getting yelled at at almost every stop. Where are you going? You can’t go backwards. Where’s your passport? Why aren’t there any staff with you?

I’d like to point out that all this could have been avoided should one member of the boarding gate staff been willing to accompany us to the customs, yknw, to give us some credibility so people dont think we’re some sort of crazy chinese people running around the airport.

So we reached customs (panting) and explained the situation to them. First, they didn’t believe us, because there were no airport staff with us. After a couple of calls, they decided we were for real, then basically said:

“Sorry, we’re not going to let you check your luggage, because if you do you may miss your flight. We’ll detain it a day then return it on a later flight tomorrow.”

But you asked us to come / Sorry, not our department / But / Please hurry back for your flight

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Distance Check: 1km.

So we ran all the way back to the boarding gates, but we had to queue at every checkpoint. They made us take off our jackets and shoes for the xray thingy again – to which I only have to say: do you seriously think we’d have picked up a bomb in the five minutes we were in customs i mean we didn’t even leave the check in area – and they refused to let us go first because Sorry, there are people queueing. It was incredibly exasperating. But our flight leaves now! / Sorry, there are people queueing.

At the final checkpoint, the counter staff looked over my passport and told me I didn’t have a departure card.

I paused. Yes, yes I do. I just gave it to you. I gave you my departure card when I came by here just now. It’s in your drawer.

She looked at me in a pitying manner. Yes, but it’s not here. And you’re passing through now, so you need your departure card.

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Lady, I just gave you my departure card! Why do you need another one?! I’m the same person, going on the same flight, back a second time because of miscommunication and inefficiency on the part of your airport staff making me run everywhere without verifying that they’d actually let us try to solve the problem when we reached.

She stared at me. Sorry, you need a departure card.

I had to refill in the damn thing.

My dad and I were visibly harassed and frustrated by the time we reached the boarding gates again – by which time everyone had boarded, save for my family. We honestly just wanted to board and leave for Singapore,

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The boarding gate staff had received a phone call.

“You didn’t check your luggage.”
“Yes, they wouldn’t let us check it.”
“Yes, you have to go back.”

FOR THE LOVE OF
WHY?!

“Because you didn’t check your luggage”
“Because you wouldn’t let us check it!”
“Sorry, that wasn’t our department, I think they got it wrong..”

So we changed tact:

“But the flight is leaving now”
The staff confirmed it.
“So will you hold the flight for us?”
“We cannot promise anything.”
“If you’re not holding the flight for us we’re not going to the gates. I don’t want to spend the night here”
“Please hurry.”

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Bear in mind this entire conversation took place in Chinese, of which I’m not very proficient, so the entire time I was just going

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Distance Check: 2km.

So we ran back. This time, they sent an apologetic young airport girl to accompany us. Midway through, I pointed to one of the buggys lying around and asked if they could just take us in that so we’d reach faster. Sorry, she said, you have to pay for that.

Right, so I guess that rules out the possibility of them giving us a free night’s stay in the airport hotel if we do miss our flight due to this nonsense.

Blah blah, airport checkpoints, blah. We finally reached the customs (again) and they had our luggage dramatically placed in a corner with a couple of airport staff standing around it looking firm and wary and all that. They gestured to the luggage, obviously wanting us to open it.

Distance Check: 3km

After all that, you know what the trouble was?

Fucking peanuts.

You know the sticky glazed kind you buy from every tourist snack stand in China? They come in sunflower seed and peanut variations and people sell them everywhere. We’d bought back a few packs for our friends and family and they were sitting innocently in the opened bag staring back at us.

Me: “Are we not allowed to bring these peanuts back to Singapore?”
Staff: “No, it’s fine.”

Everyone paused. The problem was unclear.

She pointed to a colored cardboard box and announced that it was probably the suspicious item they’d detected. I opened it. More peanuts. I stared at her.

“If you really must know,” she said, “sometimes people smuggle drugs.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, the chinese airport decided that their famous national tourist snack might have been a pack of drugs/ ingredients for a bomb.

There is just so much nonsense in this that I don’t even know where to begin.

1. What sort of xray system do you have that could have detected your own national produce as some type of drug?
2. Why didn’t you tell us right when we checked in and not leave it two hours till right before boarding?
3. We actually had a powerbank (some electronic charger that was supposedly prohibited in checkin luggage) in the other luggage bags we owned, which passed by undetected. Once again- What kind of xray machines do you have?!

The customs bitch was horribly unapologetic. We had to run all the way back to customs- and re-queue for everything. Thank God we didn’t have to refill our departure card this time or I think i’d have lost it there and then.

Distance Check: 4km.

Back at the boarding gates (and by this time the flight had been delayed half an hour), we got on the flight to the glares of other passengers and promptly knocked out, tired, smelly, and sweaty. Worst airport experience ever. Touchdown in Singapore, and this is the sweetest part:

After waiting nearly an hour at the luggage conveyor belt, they announced that Baiyun airport staff had forgotten to load an entire cabin of luggages onto the plane.

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There were at least ten other angry passengers standing at the belt complaining about inconveniences and their lost luggages.

It was incredible. It would have been really funny if we weren’t sleep deprived, tired from running 4km in boots that were not made for running, and if it hadn’t happened to us at all.

We finally got our luggage back three days later, with a bag of broken peanuts and sad looking sesame seeds. I’m not being racist or anything – I’m Chinese myself – but seriously man, China. You’ve got to get it together. I loved my holiday but the airport was such a disaster – I don’t know if I’ll ever head back again. I thought about it for a long time, and the only logical conclusion I could come to was that God was punishing me for not going to the gym by making me run 4km in China. Well played. Well played.

x
♥jem

#1807| Green Light; Lookin Right

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Do Androids dream of electric sheep?

This is of completely no relevance to the post but throughout the post-processing process the phrase kept chanting in my head. Ah well. Shades of green in today’s post and i am very glad of my hair color. Streaks of blonde are so photogenic. I went to Guangzhou looking for a red coat and came back all decked out in a very season-appropriate christmas tree green, and it seems so easy to just block it against shades of blue and black. Here’s some essential information for those of you looking to head down to Guangzhou:

Temperature – 12-17 degrees with cold wind, coat and layering type weather
Shopping style – street shops; small lanes, back alleys
Clothes – seasonal. Don’t expect to find much summer wear now because it’s winter there.
Bargaining – yes. Example: quoted price 120RMB, actual paid price 50RMB.
Exchange rate – approx 4.8RMB to 1SGD
Food – okay
Data SIM card – don’t bother. 100RMB for 300mb of data which will run out within a day
WiFi situation – hotels, cafes, ask the waitresses. Slow.
Look out for – shoes! (the bai ma area)
Keep away from – portable chargers. Stupid things dont work as promised.

It gets dark about six pm around these parts, fueling my childhood romantic holiday ideal of chilly air on your cheeks as you walk down brightly lit streets with candy stands and warm coffee. Asian holidays are so dramatic. I feel like maybe there should be a korean style teenybopper soundtrack playing in the background or something – I always feel so happy tripping around asian cities at night. Perhaps this just means I havent been spending enough time outside of asia, but no matter- I’ll be off to explore the world for seven months soon. IT IS SO GREAT, THIS BEING TWENTY ONE THING.

x
♥jem

#1804| goodnight from guangzhou

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Hello from the land of smoky air and chilled cheeks:

Guys, this city blocks everything – I’ve never gone so long without Facebook or twitter, and they’ve even blocked Google; I’ve been bing-ing my way through the city. Needless to say I’ve gone in circles multiple times. Still, I’m loving China for it’s weather and flavor. I don’t know why I’ve never been before – shopping here is a dream, and flight prices are comparable to bangkok bound routes. Maybe next summer. And shopping is the least of my concerns (ok i’m lying, not least, I’m still the same person, but it’s not like the main fuel behind my trip) because there’s just so much personality everywhere. Yesterday I sat cross legged on a street chair and had my entire face threaded by an old woman for 10RMB, which is about SGD2. Hurt like a bitch but my sister kept yelling YOLO YOLO YOLO at me and, I have brows like a dream right now. I’m also thinking maybe I shouldn’t have taught her that word.

The weather is also, incredibly attractive. I’ve been attracting weird stares everywhere because I’m just about the only person on the street with bare legs, but #vanity. Also, people keep trying to touch my hair. I think they don’t get blondes here. The option of layering and coats though – priceless. I’ve never been so happy with my instagram feed. Days here seem longer too – I was done with my day’s shopping at 2pm and slept in the hotel room till 7pm before venturing out again to just revel in the cold air. It gets dark really early, so my theory is that kind of screws with perception and you just feel like time passes slower or something, I don’t know. You also don’t get as tired because it’s not sweltering. Friendliness varies: I’ve never been as physically manhandled (in a bid to get past me in a shopping lane someone actually picked me up and deposited me elsewhere) before, but I’ve also been doing strange things like dancing to Ke$ha with random shopkeepers selling peanuts. I know right, who knew a country that blocked facebook would let Ke$ha in?! The wonder.

Still, there’s an overhanging sense that we’re living in a sustained bubble of happy tourism. Things slip through the gaps. I’m living on what loosely translates to Beijing Street, which I’ve been told is the Orchard Road of Guangzhou. At night, the homeless shiver in alleyways between shophouses. Kindness is dicey at best- met with either extreme gratitude or a sense of someone who’s been deeply offended. We went further today, took a train a bit further down, and while walking around the wholesale malls differences in lifestyle emerge – everyone’s in a rush, there’s nowhere to sit, and I get the idea that our and bangkok’s practice of resting at a cafe for a couple of minutes while shopping is an unthinkable luxury to them. (On that note, wholesale malls are a bit pointless unless you’re going to buy a whole bag of clothes.. for future reference)

Oh well. I’ve only been here two days, though it seems longer, so I’m sure I’m going to have loads more to say in time. I’ve never had as many amazing tea eggs … ever!!! I’m going to come back with a ridiculous cholesterol level. There’s just one last thing:

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I posted this on instagram before leaving Singapore, and I’ve been getting a gazillion questions on them, so I thought i’d address them once and for all here. The sketchbook is a christmas gift from my supertalented friends martin and warren, and if you’d like one I guess you can email martinhongchoann@gmail.com, they dont mind making more i think, though it’s a bit of an unexpected turn. The passport cover I got from Siam Street in Bangkok earlier this year, but it was one of those hippie markets with movable stores so I’m not sure if it’ll still be there. Still, it shouldnt be hard to find, bangkok is full of these things. I know lots of you are gonna be zooming around because it’s december, so Happy trails! ~~

Alright, that’s it from me for now. I’m loving it here – now, if only they’d do something about unblocking at least google. Where’s a girl supposed to get her directions from?

Goodnight, you guys.

x
♥jem