Three flights and one long run

IMG_7845I’m writing this from a hotel room in Copenhagen. The vacation is over and it’s back to work. After spent about 1-1.5h awake hours in my apartment I’m off for a short business trip. The room here is awesome, the place has a gym and a nice restaurant. I off course had some noodles, dumplings since it was available. Not the same costs and I was given knife and fork to eat with. Anyways, this will be a closing on the last day of my trip.

First I woke up, packed my stuff and realized I had some spare space. Odd, but luckily I know that the remedy was to be found at Yashow. A quick strode and I was greeted by a “Open at 0930” sign. Bah, back for some dumplings for breakfast. After some haggling at Yashow I escaped with a few more ties than I needed and I was back at the hostel. It was time to depart and armed with a note form Yang saying capital airport in chinese I got myself a cab and filled the trunk with my stuff.

After weighting in my army bag on 18.5 kg (the cabin luggage was about the same I would say but this was not checked fortunately) well in time I navigating my way to the gates. It struck me that being alone with a bunch of bags isn’t the perfect situation when going to bathrooms or scanning the tax-free. At least I was relieved of the two last bottles of Nutri-Express Apple at the security (it kind of makes sense that they only allowed 1L for domestic flights I suppose). Some real white chocolate and reading later I boarded the first flight of the day.

I started playing some Fallout 2 until the batteries gave up, had something to eat and then wondered what to do the remaining flight. The couple next to me were about twice my age and knew limited english so conversations didn’t look too appealing. I started to read Lord of the banana-flies which is self-biography about a rather successful swedish IT-guy who took a break in his career to start produce gay porn. The book was as thin as the story though and after finishing it I realize that I perhaps should take advantage of the free alcohol.

A German and Indian guy had hi-jacked the “bar” and was handing out drinks, cookies and beverages. It looked that they had a few themselves but they were more amusing than drunk. Another meal and with some wine, a few bears and I realize that having to visit the bathroom every now and then having a window seat was perhaps not ideal. Luckily I’m a ninja and there was space behind me so I started to climb up and down from my seat instead. I must have impressed much on the chinese couple. To my beers I read further in the power/strategy book.

Remembering that even if there is no tomorrow, the current day would be rather long, and the upcoming connections might prove a worthy challenge even without being drunk I stopped drinking. It’s funny how hard it is to actually find a good occasion to get drunk by yourself. Some further reading, lots of Sudoku and finally we hit German ground. Frankfurt Airport was rather spread out it seemed so after passport control it was a rather long stroll towards the gate.

At the gate I see that the flight to Stockholm is delayed for some 25-30 minutes. This is not good at all. The 60 minutes connection at Arlanda where I have to collect my luggage was tight as it was. I board the plane, still managing to steal place for my luggage (including the framed painting) from my fellow travelers. It seemed that I would at least end up in Sweden this night.

The service of SAS flights was as usual, “Would you like to purchase any water, sir?”. A flight attendant said that she didn’t think my odds were that bad at the airport though. When we were about to approach they inform passengers who would continue with domestic flights with gates they should go to after picking up their luggage. Great, the only problem was they did not mention my flight but started with flights leaving later.

Never had time felt so slow as when I waited for my luggage on that bloody conveyor belt, time was ticking and my time window shrunk merciless. To complicate things I didn’t quite know my way either, but there would be signs, right? I see my bag, sling it over my shoulder and start what would be the run of the day. Crossing between senior citizens, children and plain lazy people I make my way forth.

It’s not a pretty sight when I jog/run with all my luggage and look for clues were to go. I know I should get to Sky City first, so when I see that I get a sense of hope, now I’m quite warm of the running though. I ask someone for the SAS check-in disk and they point and say about 200 meters. Great. I might make it. If I ever see that person who lied so outrageously about the distance again I will gladly educate them when it comes to estimating. I am now completely soaked but I see the check-in disk.

I cut in line and manages to say Gothenburg between my breathings. She asks if it’s the flight leaving 2125, looking at the watch before adding “the one in 17 minutes” ? I say yes and give her my name, she sees my luggage and reluctantly asks whether I have some bags to check in as well. I smile and dump the army-bag and mumble something about late Frankfurt flight and me running all the way. She says she would have to check it in as special luggage or something. I made it. She instructs me where to go and that I must really really hurry in order to make it. I say I will but knowing that that plane will not leave without me on it once my bag has been checked in I can actually breathe and walk the last bit.

I wasn’t even the last one to board, and a well-priced sandwich and some breathing exercises later I’m in Gothenburg. Henrik and Lena is picking me up at the airport, sweet. Next trip I will plan less tight connections, perhaps even add a free day before the vacation is over. But then again, would it be as fun without the challenge?

Temple of Heaven Park and Hot Pot XL

IMG_7811After waking up during the night due to cold, again, I remembered that the thick blankets were in the wardrobe in this place. And how much warmer it was with those. Next time I woke up it was Yang’s voice on the phone. She had arrived in Beijing and would drop by my hotel to dump her stuff before leaving with the night train to her home city.

After a good hour and a half the hostel phone rings and Yang is downstairs. It was quite a queue to buy her tickets, a lot of people are traveling due to the chinese new year. I wonder how Yoon-Ki will manage to get back to Beijing, well well. The plan was to check out Temple of Heaven Park, a huge park in Beijing that I mystically missed before. Dressed for success and armed with a chinese translator I left the building.

The buses was so much easier to ride when the information exchanged between people were both reliable and understandable. Yang was impressed with my bus story from yesterday and explained that no matter what I should not been able to ride four buses for 0.05 €, I guess I charmed them with my smiles. The weather was Beijing-smog topped with spots of snow so the park looked rather dull but it was still nice to stroll around.IMG_7822We visited the Round Altar, a rather big round three-stories altar in marble. If standing in the middle of the top and talking one would hear the echoes bounce off the balustrades loud and clear. Impressing, I tried it by with joy singing out a famous quote from The Kristet Utseende. No swedish persons seemed to be within hearing distance though.IMG_7825Another cool building was the echo wall, a circular wall with a diameter of 65 meters. If standing on opposite sides and talking into the wall one could very clearly hear the other person. These acoustic tricks are seen here and there (I recall my high school for instance) but when taking into account that these things were built around the 16th century rather than the five latest decades it’s quite impressive.

After warming up with a hot chocolate we watched what was left to see. This included loads of locals playing cards, singing praises to Mao and playing around with feather balls. Next stop was to pay old Mao himself a visit in his mausoleum just south of Tiananmen Sq. After taking the subway there we found out it was unfortunately closed, well next time my chairman, next time.

Time was running out quickly and with Yang needing to leave later we took a bus heading back to the hostel. The bus should have stopped at a place familiar to me, but did not. I find it more probable that the conductor made a mistake than I did. After some creative orientation techniques we found our way back, it seemed like a good time to take a long warm shower now though.

Fresh and ready we strolled towards Xaibu Xaibu for a last hot pot in Beijing. Well there we ordered a few different dishes, the bill was surprisingly high though, almost 8 € for me and 5.5 € for Yang. When they food arrived we could se why, some of the “dishes” we had ordered was as a matter of fact a meals. To get a picture of the amount of food, think of the american tourist who at McDonalds orders the menus like they were side orders. There was no way we would eat even half of this.DSCN3659Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though. Finally we had to give it up, we gave the food to our neighbors which I think accepted it and walked back. I wished Yang the best of luck with her train home and it felt like this was the end of the vacation. Now all that remained was the little problem of getting back.

Most things are under control, there is a however a rather slim connection in Stockholm, specially given the fact I must collect and then re-check in my luggage. Time will tell, but if the flight from Frankfurt is late, chances are that my colleagues will see a rather tired Viktor showing up with the Stockholm-Gothenburg train…

Sightseeing by Bus and Massages

IMG_7810I woke up from a variation in the conductor’s yelling; someone wants my card and returned my ticket to me (one must give the ticket to a guard after leaving the platforms to prove you didn’t ride too long by “accident”). After waking up the remaining three chinese students informed me that the train was some 20 minutes late, but since I probably couldn’t check in so early anyway it didn’t matter much to me.

Actually I had some time to kill before getting to the hostel, perhaps some sightseeing? But having all the luggage it would need to be on a bus or similar though. I got an idea, why not make things a little more interesting than showing the hostel’s card to a taxi but instead try to find my way there myself? Said and done.

I started by walking along with the crowd, perhaps I would pass a bus-stop with a name that I would recognize on the routes? No luck there, so I started walking a road called something-east in english. The hostel was located in northeast of Beijing and I was on Beijing West station so how hard could it be? After some 15-20 minutes of walking I stumbled into a food stall and grabbed some fatty pancakes to munch down as I walked. It was perhaps time to get on a bus, the question was which one. I decided that 34 seemed like a fair enough number, and jumped on.

The conductor on the bus tried to explain something when I pointed to northwest on my map of Beijing. I smiled. She charged me 0.05 € (which is strange since the cost is 0.1 €) and scribbled down something on a note, I could read the number 390 but that’s about it. She then gave me a sign to leave the bus after a few stops. I waited until I saw a bus with the number 390, jumped on and showed my note to the driver and conductor (feeling a bit like a illiterate schoolchild only lacking a name tag around my neck). They didn’t charge me but instead tried to explain something in chinese. I smiled. Another note was scribbled down, this time the number 974 was readable. After a few stops I was instructed to get off and did so.

Here it was a bit trickier to find the bus-stop to 974 though, so I walked a little bit until I saw something looking like a larger bus-terminal. I went in and asked at the information if they spoke english. This made a security guy walk up to me and gesture me to follow him. Through security, into the waiting-hall, through it and out to some girl verifying tickets. She gestured to another girl, and the trio walked all the way back to the information. I pointed on the northwest of my map and tried to pronounce chaoyan (the rather big district I was going to). No luck. After a long discussion involving several other people and me smiling someone said 715 in english. Everyone seemed happy and 715 was apparently the new black.

Well outside I found a stop for 715, waited and jumped on. Did the now quite drilled routine with map and speech, the conductor did not charge me but instead shake her head. Was I on the wrong bus? No. I should go with 715, but in the other direction or something, she gestured me to wait and pointed out a bus-stop on the other side at a stop. I went there, waited for a 715 and jumped in.

Same story, the conductor does not charge me but starts to scribble down yet another note. This time 974 was teh shit. I smile. I ride for a well 30 minutes in the warm bus and get off when gestured too. I should cross the street to reach the stop for 974, but I was interrupted by a sight of an Yoshinoya sign. I took this as a sign and went in for my second breakfast. 1.3 € later I felt that bus 974 would be my lucky bus, the clock was now half past eleven and I’ve already met so many helpful chinese.

So which way was the bus-stop now again? Searching the area a bit I realized that a bus stop for 974 was nowhere to be found, well it was fun while it lasted. I got into a cab, showed my card and some 10 minutes later I start to recognize the streets. The driver is lost though, and starts to call the hostel. I friendly give her direction as she goes (a bit startled by my mad navigations skills) until we finally get to Poachers Inn.

I put down my stuff and give Ray and Florence a call, Florence answers and I get over to their place to get more stuff and return the Tibet book. We chat about Tibet and when leaving I mention that I plan to give my china-bought jacket to charity rather and if ask she might know how those things work in Beijing. Is there a coordinated place or should I just give it to a random beggar? She says that the random beggar might be rather well off from the start and just sell it, but if I really want to give it away she can take care of making sure it ends up with someone needing it. This sounds perfect and the warm cosy feeling after being a good guy stays with me all the way in the taxi back to the hostel.

I decide to get some pedicure after gathering my complete luggage and realizing that someone has kindly set up a unprotected wifi accessible from my room. I had no idea my feet could deteriorate so fast, I feel sorry for the girl when she uses something resembling a cheese slicer with much needed effect. After pedicure, scrubbing and a nice foot massage I grab some food at a classic corner/worker-place without english menus. Some dumplings and a dish ends up costing 0.7€. Not that bad.

After some hesitation I decide to pay Dragonfly Massages another visit, money is only money while spending money is what counts, right? Two hours of “The ultimate indulgence” and I walk back home feeling like a new man. On the way back I pick up some cookies and foul liquor to have a cosy night at the hostel. The liquor was the same mentioned in earlier episodes bought by Ulf and strangely enough it wasn’t more drinkable this time. Some surfing, trying out newly downloaded Fallout 2 and it was time to sleep again.