Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Home sweet home

I'm half-way through my Virgin Atlantic flight VS251 from Shanghai to London Heathrow. While sat in the departure lounge my name was called out, which got me pretty worried. I am carrying four bottles of Tsinghua beer while the limit is just two bottles in hand luggage -- they picked up on this during the personal security checks, but let it pass. I got to the entry gate and was asked for my boarding pass. At this point I was pretty worried, thinking they might have overbooked the flight and I would end up staying another day... not quite, instead I was given a free upgrade to Premium Economy class, which they had tried to sell to me for 1000RMB (about GBP80) as I checked in. I was immediately returned my boarding pass and allowed then to skip the boarding queue. What a stroke of luck!

I'm carrying some cash for Xiaoxiao, my laptop and camera. I carefully filled in the customs declaration form to state the amount of Sterling but did not write down the laptop or camera... these items were under the "Individual items over 5,000RMB that you will bring when you return to the country". Well, I wasn't planning on returning in the way they meant, so I figured this didn't apply. Then, queued up in the "Items to declare" line I was called over to a "Nothing to declare" desk that was free. The girl looked at the form and said "One laptop?"... err, no? I said "cash" and she asked if I had a laptop so I replied yes, a laptop, a camera and cash. This seemed to confuse her quite a lot but after glancing again at my declaration form she probably figured it wasn't worth the effort, so waved me on through.

I've spent the last six hours of my flight playing Super Mario World (the SNES game) and I've also watched the remake of The Longest Yard. This was with Adam Sandler, who I actually quite like. I know there are plenty of people about who can't stand him... but not me. It was a "good guys against bad guys" film, where they were competing in a game of American Football. I don't really think it needs any more explanation.

The on-board computer system seems a little wonky today... the films advertised aren't the films on show. I'll probably watch Sin City next but that won't be for an hour or so. I'm going to give Virgin Funny 1 a go now, it looks like it might be Little Britain, which is well worth a go.

The sleeper bus Xiaoxiao and I caught from Taizhou, Zhejiang province, to Shanghai late yesterday evening went fairly well. It was pretty expensive though at 150RMB (just over GBP12) for only six hours. Back in Yunnan province I paid less than that for an 18-hour sleeper between Jianghong and Dali. It wasn't the most comfortable bus, but it was better than being seated. I think I ended up sat on top of the engine, which didn't help keep me cool, or afford me any sleep.

I got a few hours of rest at Xiaoxiao's aunty's flat before getting some McDonald's and then catching my flight. Surprisingly I'm not tired and I can't see myself falling asleep any time soon. Thinking about it now I will arrive in London in six hours time, which will be 17:30 (BST). My train *should* be two hours after that, which will last about three hours, bringing it to 22:00. Around that time I'll be able to get some food, say hello and then go to bed.

Seems like a plan to me ;)

Hmm... now what time is it now? From what I can tell I'm somewhere over West Russia... I'll just use BST for the hell of it.

Continued...

I'm sat on the 21:30 train from London King's Cross to Doncaster now (where they helpfully provide a power socket for laptops, mobile 'phones and the like). I missed the train I had hoped for because there were some troubles with the underground. I got off near Piccadilly Square and wandered around for ages trying to find a Pizza Express. In the end I stumbled upon the most famous Pizza Express of all -- the Soho Jazz Club restaurant. It was much like any other, although I did very briefly see the jazz section downstairs, which looked pretty cool. It's official though -- Pizza Express definitely make he best pizzas in the world!

I ate up quickly and then caught the bus to London King's Cross. Not much else to tell, really... apart from the London public transport system, which is absolutely diabolical. How is it legal for bus ticket machines to accept *only coins* and provide *no change*? In the end my GBP1.20 bus fair (flat rate, I might add, which I bet is a real pain for people with short journies) cost GBP1.50... but that was already too much as I'd paid to go all the way to LKX on the Underground. All I can say is that I'm glad I don't live there.

But now, it's time for me to sit back and relax. I might have a leaf through some of my photos now, but I reckon that will get boring pretty quickly ;)

Continued...

I'm now sat in my own comfy bed. The Internet here is very fast too, which is nothing but a good thing ;)

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