It all started here...

It all started here...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Air China Lounge and Beijing International Airport

Beijing International Airport-Air China Business Class (5-2-2013)

After the short night sleep at Crown Plaza, we got up before the wake-up call and headed back to the airport with a few other passengers on the 6am shuttle. This part of the city was barely waking up but the airport was already bustling with hundreds of passengers trying to get to their destination somewhere far away.

We found the very busy check-in counters for Air China but did not see a counter for business class passengers. We kept our spaces in the long line as I went looking for an answer. It happened that Air China has a whole section designated for First Class and Business Class check-in at the very far end of the airport. I believe it was either Section A, or Section 1. Weren't we happy to leave that ridiculously long line!

This section was semi-enclosed and it just didn't look like any regular check-in area until we double-checked the signs at the entrance and were invited inside. Checking-in was quick and easy and we were done in just a few minutes. As we were leaving the area, we were told that we should wait a couple of minutes for the 'cart' to come back and take us to the immigration area. Wow! That was something we did not expect and glady obliged. It was fun scooting past everybody down the huge airport to the security gate area on that 'golf cart'. We were totally impressed. Way to go, Air China!

Last shot of the lobby, Crown Plaza Beijing International Airport.

At this point, we were done checking in and waiting for the 'golf cart'.

Entrance to this area is at the far end. Passengers can sit comfortably while being checked in, no lines, no hassle.

This is the exit.

riding on the 'golf cart'

Air China Business Class Lounge

After going through immigration and security check, we took the tram to the boarding area for international flights and found the Air China business class lounge. This is one impressive lounge, I must say, spacious, bright, and airy.

Looking down, there's a beautiful Chinese pavilion type of set up there. From what I could see, there seemed to be some papers and brushes on the tables for people to write or draw something. Should have checked it out.

Escalators to the lounge

many high-end stores dotted this airport

plenty of choices for food and drink

with both western and Chinese offerings

a huge lounge with very comfortable charis

heading over to the gate for our flight to Incheon, Korea

We had a great start for this day at Beijing International Airport and Air China certainly provided one of the best lounge experience for us at this airport.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

KMG, PEK, and Crown Plaza Beijing

Kunming Airport-Air China Economy-Beijing Airport-Crown Plaza Beijing International Airport (5/2/2013)

We had a plane to catch at 4:45pm today so were able to sleep in a bit before heading down for our last breakfast at the hotel. It seemed like that most patrons at breakfast were local tourists this morning. After breakfast we walked to the Bank of China near the hotel for some money exchange and then bought some delicious breads from the bakery on our way back. They were well-stocked this morning with freshly baked goods. We were not sure if their famous "flower cake" is allowed through US custom and regrettably not getting any. Kunming is the main producer of fresh cut flowers in the country and it is natural that they cleverly make good use of flowers in marketing their baked goods.

The driver came to pick us up at the hotel promptly at 2pm. and we arrived at the Kunming airport before 3pm with plenty of time to spare before our flight to Beijing.

Checked out and waiting for our ride to the airport at the hotel lobby.

Kunming International Airport

This airport is about a year old.

Airy and spacious

VIP lounges--unfortunately we were flying economy this time, so no access to the lounge.

a lot of plants

onboard the Air China flight

The flight was uneventful and they served a decent meal on board, much better than the staled sandwich that we got on our last trip.

Crown Plaza Beijing International Airport
It was after 9pm when we arrived Beijing International. We had to retrieve all our luggage from the carousel before heading outside. We had called and ordered the hotel shuttle when we were here at the airport a week ago and the driver should be there waiting for us. It was a little confusing finding our way out to meet the driver but after a call to the hotel we got the right instruction and met the bus and driver with no problem. The drive from the airport to the hotel was about 12 minutes, longer than I expected. The hotel that's closest to the airport is the Hilton, next time I will remember.

We booked the Crown Plaza Beijing International Airport because of its location, closer to the airport so we could rest and then go back to the airport early in the morning for our flight out. We used our annual free night certificate from Priority Club for the stay but we were still charged for the 3rd person plus tax and fees for close to $70USD. Not a very good deal but at least we did not have to travel far for the night.

As Platinum Priority Club member, we were told at check-in that we were upgraded but I couldn't tell the difference. Maybe this is a corner room? We were also told that the 3rd bed was ready but it was not. So we had to call and wait for the 3rd bed to roll in which made the night even longer. We desperately needed to sleep because we had to go back to the airport early in the morning.

Good size room and decent

Fruit plate and a welcome letter was waiting as platinum member. We didn't even have time to enjoy this fruit plate.

huge shower stall

Looks pretty plain from this angle.

Unfortunately we were there only for the night and didn't have time to enjoy all the amenities of the hotel. Our wake-up call was at 5am, and we took the 6am shuttle back to the airport to catch our flight to Incheon. Overall, the service at this hotel was quite good and the free shuttle was definitely a plus. If they had the 3rd bed prepared before our arrival, it would have been much better.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Last Full Day in Kunming

Kunming, China (5/1/2013)

Our last full day in Kunming. There was nothing scheduled on the itinerary but we had to go on the mandatory shopping stops in town, fortunately only for half a day.  But what happened this morning still caught us by surprise.

When we boarded the bus in the morning, we did not see our tour guide but another gentleman who introduced himself as the replacement. He then told us that their boss was not happy with the service that our tour guide provided in the past few days and that his sales was not satisfactory. He was being punished and 'sent home' to take a month off from his work with no new groups scheduled. The way that this new guide delivered the message was in such a way that angered many members of the group and a heated argument started on the bus. As we were heading to the jade store, harsh words exchanged, phone calls made, and seemed like we were at war with the tour operator.

We kind of sensed that something was going on when our guide was called to the office on our way to the show the night before. At the end of the show the tour guide from another group told us to just go back to the bus and back to the hotel on our own.

After much angry exchange, they finally decided to call our guide back to finish up the tour. There is no telling if this was real or just a show put out by the tour operator so we feel sorry for our guide and buying more on our last day. For the low cost of the tour price, we were prepared and did not mind sitting through the sale pitches as long as we were not forced to buy. Actually it was quite fun watching the interaction between the salesmen and the group. Most people in our group had been on this kind of tours before so we all knew what to expect but this was just drama that we did not expect.

at the jade store

After the jade store, some people had to leave for the airport so we kind of said our "good-byes" here. This tour was mainly a land-based tour, so everybody had a different itinerary before and after. It was good that they provided transfers to and from the airport no matter the day and time of our itineraries.

We met some wonderful people on this tour...

...from Australia, Canada, Chicago, and even Southern California.

Last group lunch together minus many people.

We were scheduled to leave the next day, and originally we wanted to go visit some places like the downtown area of Kunming but decided to stay in afterall and spent a restful afternoon at the hotel.

Dinner was at the hotel restaurant again, ordering similar meal as our first night here.

Good but unhealthy.

Just the very quiet restaurant.

They were also leaving the next day.

After dinner, we did walk a little around the hotel and tried to get some baked goods from the bakery around the corner. Unfortunately, most items were sold out so we came back empty handed.