I waited at the airport as long as I had the dream.
11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012
From Urumqi to Istanbul,
August 26th - 27th 2012
The driver whom I booked with Cory through China Expedition Tours told me to leave for the airport at 6 o'clock. I thought that was too early as my flight to Istanbul was scheduled on 10:20. But he said that the traffic is usually jammed and it checking in procedure takes long in Urumqi Airport. I wanted to call Cory to confirm about that. Somehow I didn't feel satisfied with that, because I already told Cory what time my flight was and the deal was including drop off at the airport which to my understanding was hiring the car until 2 hours prior to my flight. I also had the feeling my driver just wanted to end his duty earlier. However I thought that I had been calling Cory too often and that the driver had been kind enough for willing to pick me up yesterday late at midnight due to the delay by China Southern Airlines. Furthermore, what if my driver turned out to be true? I would regret myself. Thus, I agreed to be back at the parking lot by 6:00 PM.
As I sat in the car, my driver said something again. I couldn't understand him. He repeated, I still didn't understand. Is he telling me that I'm late or what? He took out a piece of paper from his dashboard and gave it to me. "Give me my fee." so was it written in English.
Oh. Okay. I had thought I would give it to him at the airport when his job is done, like all the previous drivers. So I gave him 700 yuan plus 50 yuan as a tip for his kindness. Yeah, he was very kind and caring yesterday night and the whole day today. He reminded me about breakfast, he came over to me when he saw I had a little trouble with the vendor because the vendor had no small change, and when I was about to leave the car at Tianchi Scenic Area's parking lot, he called,
"Wait a minute! Do you bring water with you?"
"No, I don't."
"Bring this with you! Water is expensive inside there." He gave me a bottle of mineral water.
Traffic turned out to be not jammed at all. I arrived at the airport in about just half an hour. If you are already at the airport at 6:30 whereas your flight is at 10:20, what should you do?
I had more than plenty time to rearrange my luggage by classifying the things I might need on the plane in one bag and the rest in my suitcase. Moreover, my driver said that the checking in procedure use to take long. Maybe the airport staffs here are fussy, I thought. So I arranged my toiletries, book, and laptop into one day pack, together with a small bag containing purse, tickets, and passport. As I check in, I will carry that day pack in my hand while I carry my camera stuffs on my back. I hope that won't be against the regulation.
Urumqi Airport had a good design that kept natural light fill in the whole building. It was so good that my spot started to feel like an oven for the sun was still working hard by that time of the day.
I couldn't proceed with check-in, because my flight was not yet listed. Imagine, how early I was. Thus, I roamed the airport from end to end. Hmmm, this is interesting. For the first time through my Silk Road Adventure, I see Russian letters. it's Russian, isn't it? I had been amazed by signs translated into 3 languages. Here, there are even 4 languages! Occasionally I heard announcements for flights to Moscow. Ah... I feel like I'm already on the end of another world. How far have I traveled...
What else to do now? A young guy sitting with a laptop on his lap inspired me. I took a seat next to him. Errr, not exactly next, but one seat in between. I took out my laptop and plugged my cellphone in. I still had much deposit left in my SIM Card. So I used that to connect to the internet. What could I do with the internet? Writing reviews the hotel brokers had asked me to. What else? Checking emails. Well, there wasn't really much to do with the internet, because many sites are blocked by the Chinese government.
The sun was still shining in. It's glare on my laptop screen prevented me from editing my shots. So? What to do next? Well, maybe I can check in now.
Yup, my flight's gate is opened. I felt thrilled as I read "Istanbul". Turkey, my longtime dream. It's coming true.
Suddenly I heard a man behind me talking. I turned my head. He had a huge pile of luggage on his trolly.
"Are you traveling alone?" he asked me in Mandarin.
"Yes, I am."
He wanted to put some of his luggage with me. Sure my trolly looked empty. China Southern Airlines had been generous giving the maximum weight of 30 kg and my suitcase wasn't even 20 kg. But in an instant I remembered what Dad reminded me when I was still in primary school.
"Someday when you go abroad, don't accept any luggage from anyone you don't know," said Dad.
"Right! Remember that!" Mom joined in. "You use to be always eager to help."
When Dad told me that, I said to myself, "When would I go abroad?"
But when I really did go abroad, again and again, no one had asked me such a thing until this moment, on my way to Turkey. I shivered. Was Dad telling me for this time?
Although this Chinese man didn't look like a bad man, but merely having excessive baggage, I strengthened myself to say to him, "I'm sorry. I cannot."
"Bù kěyǐ ma?"
"Duìbùqǐ." It hurt to see his disappointed face. But I believe, Dad had not reminded me for nothing.
Checking in process went on smooth from the start. Every officer were kind -- and spoke English.
"You have no visa?" asked one officer.
"I'll apply a visa on arrival," I answered.
"Indonesian passport holders can apply visa on arrival."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I am. I've called the embassy."
Right when I was at the end of checking in process, an unpleasant thing occurred. My empty plastic bottle was taken away.
"Hey! Why do you take that away? It's empty!"
"You may not bring bottles into the cabin," said the guy officer.
"It's not the bottle that's forbidden. It's the liquid!" I argued.
"I need that bottle to drink!"
"There's a water dispenser at the waiting room. You can drink there."
"But the cup is very small. I cannot bring it with me!"
While my body was scanned, I heard the guy officer talking with a lady officer. She was trying to remind him that an empty bottle is okay. But of course a very Chinese thing it is, number one: No way for a man to submit to a woman; Number two: No way to admit one was wrong, especially a man to a woman. Yes, there are expressions like "duìbùqǐ", "bù hǎoyìsi". But to truly admit one had done wrong, is simply another thing.
At the boarding waiting room there was a water dispenser but no cups. Since I had plenty of time, I returned to that guy officer just to tell him that there were no cups and I couldn't drink.
Aaargh. On my way to Xi'an my Swiss knife was seized. And now my empty plastic bottle gets its turn.
However, meal on board was abundant. Well... having been an Air Asia frequent flyer, I call this abundant. What a shame thing to admit.
I was especially surprised by the brown and yellow cake. In my home country, we use to call that "Lapis Surabaya". Surabaya is a city in East Java. What?? Had I not been alone, I would have burst into laughter. I'm now miles... miles... miles away from Surabaya, and yet lapis Surabaya lies in front of me saying hello. The taste was also the same. Hmmm... I bet, "Lapis Surabaya" actually originated from China, brought by the Chinese people who migrated to Surabaya. Over time it got its name "Lapis Surabaya" whereas it was born in China -- just like batik.
A few hours later when the lights were out, a flight attendant delivered small pouches.
"No, no. I don't need this." I was close to frantic, because I thought that was for sale and I didn't want to spend money on anything else.
She looked at me for a second, said nothing, but just put it on my lap. I watched every passenger getting one also. So I opened mine. A pair of ear plugs, folding toothbrush (a blue one!), tooth paste, comb, and eye cover. For an Air Asia frequent flyer, this is another 'wow'.
I couldn't thank God enough that I could make it all the way through the Silk Road on the China part. 8 cities, done.