Following the CZ 318 which took me from Seoul to Beijing, it was time to board flight CZ 679 to Istanbul. I arrived back in Terminal 2 in Beijing Airport around one hour before departure time. Terminal 2 is exclusively used by Skyteam carriers and China Southern Airlines.
In front of Terminal 2 there were a lot of construction activities going on.
I first thought I had to come through domestic side for the Urumqi-bound CZ 679.
I was wrong. The security personnel told me to go out and go toward the international side of the terminal (which you need to show passport to go into) The passengers for CZ 679 are separated into two groups: domestic and international. They board separately with domestic group boarding first.
Here is CZ 679 written on the international side, but it's written Istanbul here.
I didn't know the gate number so I asked the agent for the number (good thing I did, since it was Gate 50, a special gate within Terminal 2 that is separate from all other international gates in the terminal.)
She kindly told me to go to Gate 50.
As you can see, Gate 50 in T2 is different from the other gates. The flights that depart from this gate are generally the international ones that travel out of China with a stopover in another Chinese city. There's really nothing inside this section of T2, so there's no need to be at this gate super-early for your flight. This gate has its own security checkpoint, so once you go in, there's no going back out.
This the waiting area for Gate 50.
There were passengers waiting for a China Eastern flight to Sydney with stopover in Shanghai.
My flight's boarding commenced at 16:20. At the end of the gate's boarding bridge was a door which led to the stairs down to the airport ramp. At the ramp there was a shuttle waiting for the passengers bound for CZ 679 flight. The gate agent, who was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, was distributing International Boarding Pass Confirmation Cards to each passengers.
They told us not to lose the cards. Istanbul-bound passengers must present this card while boarding the plane. They collect it back when boarding the plane.
Here is the Sydney-bound A330.
The livery style is very similar to that of China Southern.
The B757 that would take me all the way to Istanbul. I believe on May 28th it was A330, but today it was B757.
To the far end you can see the terminal 2 building. The agents on the stairs were collecting the International Boarding cards that were issued to us.
Just like the A320 I took from Seoul/Gimpo to Beijing, the seat configuration was in 3-3.
It is my first time taking B757-200 ever. I've always taken B737 in USA.
The only empty window seat visible in this picture was my seat. No one ended up taking the middle seat in my row. Only 20-30 passengers on board were bound for Istanbul.
Cabin interior scene looking toward the front.
On the far end you can see Hainan Airlines' Terminal 1.
The seat covers were seriously worn out.
It seemed worse when I lowered the seat table.
After long taxing, we were ready for take-off.
The plane took off, and veered right away toward west. It was about 17:40 local time. The flight from Beijing to Urumqi would be about 3 hour and 30 min, as been announced by the flight attendant. Other announcements I could not understand because of her bad English accent. There's no time difference between Beijing and Urumqi even thought they are thousands of miles apart horizontally. China adopted official one-time zone policy throughout the country. It was after 21:00 local time in Urumqi but the sun was still up.
We were flying over China's central mountains.
The headphone I received after take-off. It looked more like a stethoscope.
Beverage service was started
And the long-waited China Southern domestic meal was served.
For the dinner service, a box was first given out by the male flight attendant while the female flight attendant distributed the hot noodle dish.
The meal was actually pretty good. The noodles were tasty and the box contents had food items such as bread, apple chips, vegetable mix, and pickled vegetable. I ended up eating everything here.
I especially enjoyed eating the dried apple chips.
Since the plane was bound for a Muslim country, there were Halal meats.
Two hours after meal service the plane descended into Urumqi. It was local time 21:00.
That's Urumqi down there.
Urumqi is, by all means, not a small city. It's comparable to size of Denver, CO in USA
That over there is Urumqi Airport's new terminal.
Our plane arrived into Gate 23, which was at the end of the terminal. The reason why CZ 679 always uses Gate 23 is because it is closest to the passport control checkpoint that the Istanbul-bound passengers must go through.
The signs directing both Urumqi and Istanbul bound passengers.
This CZ 679 flight's cabin is now being prepped for Urumqi->Istanbul flight.
At the end of the passageway, the Istanbul-bound passengers turned left and Urumqi-bound passengers turned right. For the Istanbul-bound passengers, the Chinese border patrol guards were waiting around the corner. They check the passports here and attach stickers with '679' written on them onto the boarding pass.
The new stickers on my boarding pass.
And we are back in the same gate that we got off at.
The boarding process for Istanbul-bound CZ 679 started. There was a free wifi in Urumqi so I was able to text my friends and families.
They took off one of the '679' stickers here.
On the boarding bridge.
China Southern Airlines is indeed a valuable Skyteam member.
For this flight, each seats had pillows and blankets.
Amenity kits were also provided. Inside there were earplugs, socks, toothbrush/toothpaste.
There seemed to be many Turkish people on this flight. They probably transferred from other parts of China to Urumqi to make this flight.
At around 23:00 local time, the plane pushed back.
And the plane took off toward west about 10 minutes later.
The sun was still a bit visible still at 23:00.
The meal service commenced not too long after take-off.
All of the meals here are halal, since we were bound for a traditionally Muslim country.
The noodles were a bit hard on some parts, but overall it was a good meal. There were crisp jujubes and pickled vegetables and roll bread. On the left had halal-prepared beef and beans.
Lights were completely turned off after the meal service. It was much more quiet than PEK-URC.
Just an hour before landing, the flight attendants were passing out hot towels and a light snack.
Inside the sandwich were halal-prepared meat and cheese.
Istanbul night from above.
You can see Sultanamet from here.
It took me almost 18 hours to get here from Korea. Had I taken a non-stop flight, it could've been a much comfortable, 10-hour flight… At least I got here for a great deal!
Turkish Airlines' presence was very well felt. I am now sure that I'm in Istanbul.
I got off the plane excited to explore Turkey for the first time.
I needed to first get the Visa on Arrival before going through arrival customs. The VoA counter on my side of the terminal was closed, so I went to the one near the immigration customs counters. The Visa on Arrival for Turkey is 20 USD (in 2013) for US Citizens.
This is the list of countries (as of June 2013) that need visa to enter Turkey.
Since it was late there weren't any people in line.
I got the visa sticker and a stamp.
Duty-free shops were everywhere in sight after passing through passport control.
My baggage already arrived when I got here.
This is the arrivals floor in Ataturk Airport Terminal.
This is Ataturk Airport Terminal Departures floor at night. It's very quiet and there were a lot of people sleeping. The airport police or janitors don't really bother anyone sleeping on benches or floors.
And slept comfortably for good 6-7 hours. Not wanting my friend to drive late at night from far away, I told my friends that they could pick me up 8AM in the morning.
I slept next to TAV gallery, which was close to Burger King and many airline offices.
And while waiting for my friend, I had a coffee frappuccino in the Starbucks on arrivals floor which set me back 6 EUR…
My two friends (who live around Istanbul) picked me up at around 8AM. It was 01 JUN 2013, and they were talking about how protests were really starting to kick-off at Taksim Square in Istanbul. My friend on the right happened to be around the area last night when things escalated very quickly.
Sultanamet District in Istanbul. This place is one of the most touristy place in Istanbul (was safe during protests in 2013). Also, many of the most historical places in Istanbul are located in or near Sultanamet district.
I decided to go to Hagia Sophia later and went for Topkapi Palace Musuem (where all of the Sultans of Ottoman Empire lived). This picture was taken at a cafe within the Topkapi Musuem.
For brunch we had Ispanakli Borek and fruits.
Turkish architecture, to me, was a beautiful mix of oriental and occidental architecture.
We went to get lunch near the Topkapi Palace near Sultanahmet Station LRT.
I had Kofte for the first time also, and it was great. The bread was unlimited, and the tomatoes/beans & olive oil salad was perfect side for the dish.
There were protests everywhere in the city against the Turkish prime minister that day (The demonstrations in Istanbul actually started the day that I arrived.) My friends and I followed the crowd toward Taksim Square, when it was still peaceful. In order to get to Taksim Square from Sultanahmet, this bridge must be crossed.
We went up the Galatas Tower. Galatas Tower was built during Constantinople's times. Nowadays there's an elevator inside the structure so there's no need for tourists to walk up the tower. The view is great from the top of the tower. Amazing views of Istanbul and Bosphorus Strait are worth the visit.
You can see the mosques of Istanbul
We went back toward Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. There are times when the mosques are exclusively for Muslims. The dress code is very strict for the mosques. Appropriate, respectful clothings must be worn and one must always take off shoes before entering.
This is one of traditional ways of eating in Turkey. Meals are served in small side dishes and the guests choose the side dishes they like.
This is typical Turkish breakfast here. It consists of a lot of breads, cheese, olives, butter, and pickled vegetables.The cheese on the fry pan you see on the left is called menemen and the butter smothered with honey on the center is called bal kaymak.
We walked toward Istanbul downtown after stuffing ourselves.
We got to Bebek Mahallesi. From here you can spot both Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.
Just one of many graffitis I spotted that day. My friend said it reads 'OC Spray is good for your body'.
ATM machines were all destroyed and looted.
There were people everywhere protesting against Tayyip Erodogan.
They tipped over a car to use as a barricade.
There were many people cleaning up on the streets.
The building on the right is the building Tayyip Erodogan proposed to demolish (as of 2013).
Some scenes from inside Hagia Sophia.
Overall, China Southern flight from Beijing to Istanbul was a unique one, since it required a domestic segment from Beijing to Urumqi. When booking, China Southern did have an option for another earlier flight from Beijing to Urumqi before CZ 679. Had I taken that option, maybe I would've had chance to explore the city. China Southern Airlines exceeded my expectations, in terms of cabin services and food. The cabin attendants were attentive and helpful, and the food was pretty good in my opinion. The seats were very comfortable, enabling me to fall sleep for good chunk of the flights.
Istanbul was a beautiful city, even in times of turmoil. Traveling within the city with my friends (who are from the city) was definitely a plus, since I didn't have to rely on internet searches or public transportation. I would definitely recommend Istanbul as a must-visit city for anyone who is looking for places to travel.
Stay tuned for my return flight from Istanbul to Seoul-Incheon via Korean Air KE 956!
Beijing - PEK
Istanbul - ISX
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