Yesterday we arrived in Qingdao. In total we spent close to 36 hours travelling without sleep (well, one hour on the connection between Beijing and Qingdao).
Matt Johnson kindly gave me a lift from my place to Woking station where I caught the shuttle bus to Heathrow airport. I met my Mum here (who had caught the train from Doncaster at 6AM the same day) and we had a bite to eat before catching the (delayed by one hour) flight to Beijing.
Arrival time was around 9AM, outside temperature -11C! At this point things took a turn for the worse...
In LHR we'd asked for our luggage to be checked right through to Qingdao. As we'd arrived at 9AM and our connection to Qingdao wasn't until 14:55 we quickly tried to arrange an earlier flight... everything looked set for a 9:50 flight up until it came to our luggage... we traipsed to and fro all over the airpot, speaking to different people with varying degrees of fluency in English until we were finally told that Beijing airport does not allow bags to be checked through to internal destinations. By now we'd missed the 9:50 flight and headed back into the arrival area to collect our luggage which was now at lost and found! Imagine if we had not tried to arrange an earlier flight -- our bags would have stayed in Beijing while we flew to Qingdao! Very disappointing service from BA when we checked our luggage in LHR!
As if this wasn't bad enough, when we tried to check in for our 14:55 flight we discovered we DID NOT have e-tickets as lastminute.com had told us. DHL lost our initial tickets and after three weeks of arguing with DHL/lastminute.com we were issued with e-tickets. I had lastminute.com confirm three times that we didn't need anything else for our flights. Extremely poor service on behalf of lastminute.com and I will be making a formal complaint when I get back. Had we not had such a long wait for our connection it is not inconceivable we would have missed the flight due to their incompetence.
Finally we were checked in. Again, bad news... the alcohol my Mum had bought in LHR was not allowed as carry-on luggage on internal Chinese flights. Why had we not been told this in LHR? Why, when checking in for the connection, did the attendant not tell us then? Only when we got to the security checks did we find out, and this meant another wait while we had to go and buy cardboard boxes (glass containers) and check in two more items of luggage!
The last mistake was our own... we believed we were departing from gate 37, and so waited there. Only when we began to queue to get on did I spot in fact it was gate 47! A quick walk to gate 47 and they were more or less waiting for us to show up. Neither of us heard any boarding announcements for the flight, but as we thought we were sat opposite we weren't paying a great deal of attention.
At around 5PM we'd got a taxi to the hotel (5-star Crowne Plaza near the marina where Quentin will sail into) and my Mum was very impressed with the room. I decided that I could save myself some cash by staying at the Home Inns (a chain similar to Travelodge in the UK) which was a five-minute walk down the road. I checked the room out and happy with it, agreed to pay 118RMB/night (about eight pounds) -- this is roughly 1/10th of the cost of my Mum's room... obviously nowhere near the same standard, but the Home Inns is clean and comfortable. And I enjoy talking to the staff who don't speak much English... there's no challenge in a 5-star hotel!
In the evening we met the manager of the Hull & Humber boat Quentin is sailing on and we've arranged passes to gain us close access for when Quentin arrives.