# Day 1
Some first impressions are fantastic and leave you salivating at the prospect of what is to follow.
Others, like today leave you wondering what on earth you’ve just taken on.
My morning started with just an hour or so’s sleep, following a similar amount the night before. I was taken to the airport by Paul followed by a smooth flight to Gatwick and a manic rush to catch my transfer to Heathrow after the baggage took 25 minutes to arrive. But the coach was caught and I sat back and watched watched through the window and listened to the running commentary of the journey provided by two loud, complaining American woman apparently on their way to Koh-ven-tree. “We’re on the wrong side of the road. The roads are tiny (on the M25). The coach is too small.” god knows what they are thinking now they have presumably made it to Coventry.
Upon checking in at Heathrow, I was offered a reduced price upgrade to premium economy and I decided to treat myself. My seat was excellent. It was I a row all of its own and did not have any seats at all in front of it. This meant that I was able to stretch my legs, or even get up and pace about without disturbing anyone else.
The only problem, was that try as I might I could not get to sleep and that the temperature was surprisingly high. No blames were required by anyone in my cabin. Quite the opposite in fact. By the time we came in to land, the area was strewn with discarded jumpers and cardigans.
My lack of sleep was leading to a surreal other world kind of feeling, and this was compounded by a full English breakfast being served a little over an hour before we landed – 8am Beijing time, but 1am UK time!
We landed in extremely thick fog. So think that I only saw anything at all outside my window seconds before we touched down. The airport complex is ginormous, with a huge expanse of taxiways which emerged through the fog, yet a complete lack of other planes; again adding to the otherworldliness when compared to the queues of planes at all other airports I’ve been to.
Stepping off the plane was like walking into a steam room at my gym. The humidity was so thick, that it felt as though you could bite into it and chew it. After clearing security I stepped onto the terminal transfer train and the difference in temperature was remarkable. Suddenly it was possible to breathe again, and it felt positively chilly until I saw a temperature gauge which stated that this air conditioned train was a ’cool’ 27c!
I picked up my baggage and went though to the arrivals hall to look out for my lift. I found him easily, and he grabbed my baggage trolly and took off at an alarming speed. I don’t mean, he was walking at a quick pace, it was more like a half jog. Everyone else was moving at a fairly sedate pace, and this guy was just flying past with me in his wake. After no sleep, a ten hour flight and the shock to the system of the temperature this was not a pleasant arrival.
We arrived at a car park filled with gleaming new Toyotas and Hyundis, and one white rusting early 80’s VW. I had no doubt which car would be ours, and on that score I wasn’t disappointed. I climbed into the back seat, and my driver fussed over the front seat pulling it forwards and folding the seat up then started to gesture that I should lie back and put my feet up.
He started the car and we took off like a scolded cat. He rummaged on the dash and found his parking ticket, and as he examined it, his was and muttered under his breath I realised that the huge rush was because he didn’t want to have to pay a parking fee.
It would appear that we made it in time, as after a brief argument With the woman in the toll booth, he turned to me and gave me a big thumbs up.
If I thought that would be the end of the rushing, I was mistaken. My driver was insane and I don’t think we stayed in the same lane for more then 20 seconds as he cut across three lanes at once, or would accelerate violently to go for impossibly small gaps. When the traffic backed up, he would simply take to the hard shoulder and use that instead of the road. We came to one tollbooth with large queues and large signs signalling “20”. We skipped the queues by driving between them, heading for one with no barrier which I assume was an auto payment lane. We flew past the booth at 60 and accelerated!
Throughout this entire time the fog still hung thickly in the air and visibility was severely reduced. I could not see any of the city beyond 20 foot from my window and even as we arrived at my hotel.
At reception they had no record of my booking, and so I had to wait for everything to be sorted out, but this was done with minimal fuss and eventually I had the thing I desired the most – my room key.
Dripping with sweat and feeling manky from both being up for so long and the travel, I just put my bag down, stripped off and took the most welcome cold shower of my life.
Afterwards, I tried to sort out my belongings but was so tired that I really made no progress. Finally accepting that I was going to achieve nothing today I crawled into bed and slept until early evening.
On waking, I read the hotels info book and upon investigating the facilities realised that it is simpler to take what it says and apply the opposite. I thought of going for a walk, but discovered that the fog has now been joined by heavy falling rain.
So I have now retired for the night and will chalk today up to experience and resolve to make tomorrow a better day. One in which I will be awake and therefore able to think clearly, have some energy and go exploring.