A heavy blanket of snow covered Beijing, China on Sunday, March 14th. My flight to Beijing out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on the morning of Monday, March 15th, was delayed 6 hours. I had a 6 hour 20 minute layover in Beijing, so we landed 20 minutes before my next flight left, not enough time to catch it.
Upon leaving the gate in Beijing I followed the mass of other people who had missed their flights to a counter where they were putting us all on the next flights to wherever we were going. I was headed to San Francisco, and the next flight wasn’t for 24 hours. They booked the flight for me and then put a sticker on my passport and told me to go through the diplomat line at customs.
At the customs desk they stamped a full page of my passport with a “stay visa” saying I was allowed to be in China until the 16th. Normally you can’t get into China without arranging a visa in advance, so if you accidentally get stuck in China like I did this is what they will give you.
I proceeded to the Air China ticket counter on the Departures level. There they had me wait with 8 or so other people to be taken to a hotel that would be paid for by Air China since it was their fault we missed our flights.
A van took us to the Jinhangxian International Hotel. It was just after 2:00pm when we were done checking in. Because of the time Air China would not pay for us to have lunch in the hotel, and none of us had Chinese money to buy food. Luckily for me I had purchased a bagel in the Kuala Lumpur airport, but everyone else was pretty pissed and had to wait for dinner. I was so tired I went to my (fairly nice) room, put the “do not disturb” sign on my door, and slept 13 hours straight, right through dinner.
On the morning of Tuesday, March 16th, I woke up at 5am and went to breakfast at 6. None of the hotel restaurant staff knew what “vegetarian” meant or which foods at the buffet had meat in them and which didn’t. I quickly learned that when a Chinese person has no clue what you are talking about they just say “yes.” I opted for lots of tea and rice for breakfast and avoided all the weird and unidentifiable Chinese dishes in the buffet.
The hotel also didn’t include drinkable water, but they did have a hot water pot in each room so you could boil your own. There was also free internet in the room, though lots of sites, like facebook, are blocked in all of China.
At 9am a van took me back to the airport and it was all smooth sailing from there. I arrived home in Portland, Oregon, on March 16th (I crossed the international date line so I got 48 hours of March 16th.)
This adventure is over, but soon there will be another. I’m already planning my next escape