I flew to Beijing with Etihad on an 18-day Ancient China Tour arranged by Wendy Wu Tours. It was my first visit to China, first flight with Etihad and the first tour with Wendy Wu.
The Chinese visa application form is the most complicated such document I have ever encountered and an absurd amount of time was taken to process it. Weeks of tension finally ended when the passports arrived from the Chinese Embassy in London with the visa just four days before departure!
We took a taxi from Harrogate to Manchester Airport to catch the 0920 Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. Our checked-in luggage weighed under 20 kg and hand luggage less than 5 kg each to comply with Chinese domestic flight regulations. The Etihad check-in counter is in the basement and there is no lift or escalator. In a duty-free shop, I bought an adapter that fits power plugs in China and Australia.
Beijing International is the main airport of the city, located 32 km from the city center. We were bussed to the terminal for fingerprinting and immigration formalities which were easy and pain free. In marked contrast to the Chinese Visa application form, the arrival card was tiny. We had to take a train to another building to collect our luggage. A driver from Wendy Wu Tours met us in the arrivals hall and drove us through the crowded city to the Penta Hotel where Nancy, the tour leader from Wendy Wu was waiting to check us in.
Nancy was delightful. She was charming, knowledgeable and efficient. She gave us identity tags which also had her name, phone number and instructions how to contact her in Chinese. ” If you get lost anywhere, show this to any Chinese person on the road and he or she will call me” Nancy said.
We went out on our own and bought fruit for lunch. The city looked affluent with elegant high-rise buildings, clean streets packed with shiny electric and hybrid cars, smart shops and well dressed men and women.
We met the other members of the tour group that evening. We were 25 in all – six from the UK, one from New Zealand and the rest Australian. Nancy took us to dinner at a nearby restaurant. We sat at round tables and ate boiled rice, noodle soups, vegetables, pork and chicken and drank light beer before walking back to the hotel.
It was an enjoyable first day in Beijing.
Wendy Wu Tours Ltd
Ground Floor, Cottons Centre
47-49 Tooley Street
London SE1 2QG 0808 2230 955
Freedom Taxis Harrogate. The transfer to Manchester costs £95 each way. The driver was able to take payment using a card machine
Penta Hotel Beijing. 3-18 Chongwenmen Wai Street
100062 Dongcheng District, Beijing, China