China – Beijing Blog

At first, I thought I thought it was a simple check of the numbers. But when I saw virtually every flight attendant walking up and down the aisles with clicker counters I became curious and then worried.

“Oh my goodness, they don’t have enough food”, I thought to myself. There has already been quite a while since the vegetarian meals arrived. It was the slightly worried look on the faces of some of the flight attendants that made me jump to that conclusion. I still don’t know why they counted the numbers so often: maybe it was to monitor the availability of the choice between fish and rice and pork and noodles. I love Chinese pork and so I choose the latter. Even though it didn’t look so great when I uncovered the foil, it was really very tasty. Overall it was one of the better airline meals I’ve had. For the second meal I there was a choice of chicken with noodles or beef with rice. I choose the beef with rice which, though only lukewarm, was still okay.

I was surprised since I’d read some pretty average reviews of China Eastern. Whenever I read reviews I always filter out the extreme highs and extreme lows, ending up somewhere around the middle. I also prefer which are a little lengthier. People who write things like “the worst airline ever” without an explanation are wasting their time and mine. And those who fly budget but expect first class are just dreamin’. But having applied those filters I still want to expect much. China Eastern surprised me. We flew from Sydney to Shanghai on an A330: a modern aircraft, a good but not great entertainment system and plenty of legroom. The legroom was further enhanced by having scored four seats in the centre row between only two of us.

I’m lucky enough to be small enough that I was able to actually go foetal to sleep. Not that sleeping on flights is a problem for me. Microsleeps come easily and I can actually have one on a short bus or train journey back home. In between, I watched a few shows on my tablet and listened over and over again to a “basic Chinese course”. I’ll stick to the words and phrases I’d need most – please, yes, no, thank you, I’m sorry and, of course, I don’t speak Chinese. As we’re on a tour group I don’t anticipate needing much more, and even then I probably don’t need them, though I think it’s important to be polite and to make an effort.

Even though China is incredibly important to Australia, it’s not until you fly to somewhere in the north like Beijing that you realise how far away it is. We left this morning just before lunch in Sydney and arrived in Beijing just after midnight. Almost half the journey is just getting out of Australia. My favourite part of the entertainment system is always the map. After what seems like hours in the air and you check it and you still haven’t gotten out of Queensland!

At the end of the flight from Sydney to Shanghai the video screen gave us all a lesson in tai chi as a way to recover from the long flight which I thought was a pretty cool idea. I want the only one who is armed to notice the only people doing it were lots of middle-aged to older women. The Chinese woman sitting next to me noticed this too and shot me a wry grin.

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