2013-01-03

Transfering through The Peoples Republic of China

After the bus ride to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in Finland we began our 24 hour session to our destination, Manila. Our flights were a bit complicated with 2 hours transfer time between the flights, which I normally have find ok, but this time, the time was actually tight. We were not asked anything about the lenght of our stay in our final destination (and what I understood from some replies to my questions in CS discussion board) this should be asked when ONE IS LEAVING FROM A COUNTRY OF ORIGIN. Ok, no use for our HongKong flight tickets yet. This might have something to do with the new system of online check-in, which we did not use at home prior to our flight and ended up to a discussion with the check-in maschine at the airport, checked in, did not get seats next to each other, but et least my flight to Amsterdam Schiphol went very well and I had a change to meet someone from Tampere who owns a very good restaurant in there. Very nice change indeed to what I usually experience on low cost flights filled with drunk Finns. Also, our backpacks were put to a big airline plastic back and sealed. This flight was operated by Dutch KLM, a member of the Skyteam alliance.

Next leg of the race was Amsterdam- Beijing, China. Our flight operator was now changed to another member of the same alliance; China Southern Airlines. When we were boarding I was asked the the amount of days I would be staying in The Philippines. J just walked through the boarding, no questions asked. The flight itself was ok, not too much turbulence and ok food. BUT, when we were approaching Beijing, we did not get enough infomation. We were not the only ones. The Chinese flight attendants did not speak English, and the only crew member from Europe seemed not to know anything. We were offered arrival cards only if we were staying in China, but that was wrong as we soon found out. EVERY PERSON TRANSFERING THROUGH CHINA HAS TO FILL IN AN IMMIGRATION CARD, WITH BOTH ARRIVAL SIDE AND DEPARTURE SIDE. We were told while standing already in line for the transfer at the only immigration desk area there was open. The immigration procedure was the same for everyone, no matter if you are staying or transferring. The immigration people eyeballed our destination boarding passes through, cut the filled card apart and took the arrival part and gave a stamp in passport stating that our departure should happen in 24 hours. Now, we did hold on tight on our departure cards, since there was still something waiting - a landing in Xiamen (Kanton) after taking off in Beijing and before landing in Manila.

The hassle started, most of the people who were transfering to same plane had no idea where to head next. One charming Philipino father with his family took us under his wing and we started searching the chaotic area together. On the way I took some people I had seen in the previous flight with us and we all followed the resourceful father quide us through to stand in a line again. Apparently there was another fligt leaving from same gate and there was another hassle since ours was first to take off, the one to Australia was 2 hours late. We passed the line of Australia flight people, took our share of cold China air in a transfer bus that kept all doors open and waited another hassle to take place in few hours in Xiamen.

Tired old man in Ziamen.
 
It was a happy reunion in the plane when the Philippino dad was sitting next to us in the plane. In Xiamen, everybody was rushed out of the plane to get through the immigration again. Now the officers took the departure cards and gave another stamp. By this time a lot of people were upset. Some of them had made the bookings and were never told that it was not a direct fligt to Manila. And most of us were disappointed because we were not told in the plane to fill in the immigration cards. This, I think, was very different what has normally happened

In the destination this time we were again not given any forms to fill in plane or in advance. Once more the immigration card. The officer in the desk asked us about the time of our departure from the country and asked to see the tickets out of Philippines. Then I was the lucky one. My backpack arrived, but Js not, and my camera also did not arrive with the other backpack. And then there was still another form filling session (custom declaration form) and I was so happy to announce that I was not bringing in any firearms in the country and not more than 10 000 PHP. (That previously bought currency was shared in our pockets.)

Finally, finally we got to our hotel in Ermita, Manila. By that time I was getting ill. Sore throath, sneezing, the basic.

Jaakkos bag did not arrive the next day, as we were told. And we did a bit of shopping. We finally got the bag, a miracle! It was stuck in Amsterdam and we got it on our way to our next flight to Coron, Busuanga. Right in time in fact.


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