There was a 3-day week-end in the middle of my business trip in China, and I was not going to waste an opportunity to visit more of China. It should come as no surprise to the reader that the long flights required for that were a bonus in my perspective.
That day, hailing a taxi (and being the one sitting in it after it had stopped) outside the upper level of HongYaDong – a modern pastiche of traditional wooden houses clinging to the cliffs of Chongqing – could have been a tough homework for Handling Chinese Taxis 101, but I am no rookie in that sport, as exemplified later in this report.
Once out of the city center traffic jams, that taxi drove to the hotel where I had left my luggage, and from there another taxi got me with an ample time margin at the airport.
The architecture of CKG’s terminals’ is nothing to drawl about, as seen from the outside (the international section is in the background).
The check-in counters were clearly signposted. I flew on 13 of the 27 airlines listed here : not even half of them. Any reader has a better score? I admit that there are some that I had never heard about.
The Chinese are last minute planners when it comes to travelling and there was an expected but unusual line at CZ’s ticket sale counter, this being the beginning of a 3-day week-end.
Nobody at the self-check-in machines
And a reasonable line at the manual check-in counters
See this man trying to replace for a second or two the retractable belt barrier he opened?
He was probably minutes away from the closing of his flight, for he rushed to the counter, bypassing all the other passengers. No big deal, when the waiting time is reasonable anyway.
A reasonable waiting time meant less than ten minutes to obtain this BP and its precious luggage tag (more on it later).
The FIDS showed a flight every 5 minutes in the next four hours, excluding international / HK / Macau / Taiwan.
It was not crowded landside, though
A local peculiarity: this staff replaced a box which endlessly repeated at a high level setting a rerecorded message, here about checked luggage.
This gadget is everywhere in front of the shops in Mainland China and Taiwan, and its self-repeating message is awfully tiring in a busy environment. I asked several times to my Taiwanese friends why they tolerate this urban audio pollution, and the answer was always a resigned ??? : we can’t do anything about it.
The ban on lithium batteries in checked luggage, of whatever size, is very often mentioned in Mainland China.
Going through the security check was a breeze, but it can be serious in CKG: they even have an MRI machine, probably to detect mules having swallowed pellets of drugs.
Nobody powered this machine on for me, and I had therefore three quarters of an hour of spare time to look around airside. Some places I did not visit, because I had neither the status nor the travel class to enter here.
And when it came to this independent lounge, you need to realize that it did not extend beyond the wall seen through the left door, and that it was no deeper than the extremity of the wall in diagonal on the right. I let you estimate the overall surface in square inches, but I did not envy those who had access.
The layout of that terminal is very simple: three parallel piers, with pier C reserved from International / HK / Macau / Taiwan flights. The domestic flight piers are very plane spotter friendly, with wide windows and very few shops on the tarmac side.
The terminal on the other side of the runways looked larger, but it was still in construction then.
A sample of the planes I saw: lots of China Southern birds, with a 738, in front of an A320 (B-6908).
China Southern A321, in front of an Air China 738
This other China Southern A321 was the one I was going to board, in front of a China Eastern A320.
Hainan Airlines 738, in front of a China Southern 757-200
Another Hainan Airlines 738
Tianjin Airlines A320
It takes off behind a Xiamen Air 737
West Air A320
Spring Airlines A320
Sichuan Airlines A321
After this review of the planes parked in CKG’s domestic sector (I have been far from spotting all 27 airlines serving the airport that the sign seen landside promised), let’s have a look at the infrastructures in the terminal. A child care room, to be used by women according to the pictogram, and locked at time of visiting.
The connection between piers A and B (there was of course a partition sealing the way to the international pier C)
Readers who feel nostalgia for my Taiwanese FRs and do not have a chance to fly EvA Air’s Hello Kitty jets could detour through CKG.
The Hello Kitty shop there has as much pink as Gate C3 in TPE
On the other hand, I was not impressed by this shop of Tibetan souvenirs. CKG is with CTU the gateway of air traffic to/from Tibet, but the staff members there were no more Tibetan than I am Chinese.
Do you remember my KWL – TNA FR? Maybe not (you still have a chance to be the first to leave a comment!), but there was exactly the same souvenir outlet in CKG, in the area between Pies B and A. A giant picture of an A380, a camera on a tripod :
All was a set for souvenir picture
And you only needed to go to the counter to receive the prints
I was going to Pier A, since the flight to Changchun was listed Gate A12.
The boarding areas of Pier A and B looked very much alike, actually
I did find self-serve PCs, but I think that they did not have internet access (I have a doubt, in hind sight).
There were few power plugs, but I managed to plug my laptop, without a seat next to it.
I wanted to try the internet access, which was impossible without assistance, and this is not where I could get any at this pier B help counter, since there was nobody.
On the other hand, I did receive assistance at the similar counter located at pier A, where there was a very friendly staff.
The aim was to obtain a wifi access code, thanks to a SMS sent to cell phone which must have a Chinese SIM card (because that way, the police knows the identity of the user). Not buying a SIM card had been a mistake: I managed without one, but it often made things more complicated, not only for accessing to the internet.
Note that the internet access in CKG was not what could have justified buying a 60 yuan Chinese SIM card. This is all I managed to get in exactly ten minutes.
I did not try any further downloading this home page which was too heavy for the dramatically slow wifi network : boarding had started.
I did not use this trolley, but it was possible
The plane operating my flight was indeed B-2280, and I have reasons to believe that it was an A321.
Three J rows in 2+2 layout
There were two evening newspapers in the intermediate galley :???? and ????. The name of the former means that it is from Changchun. Did this plane make a round trip from CGQ ?
The first row of the Y cabin is numbered 31 in all CZ aircrafts
The seat pitch is significantly less than with CA : 23cm vs. 27cm from the edge of the seat to the seat in front of me, but it was enough for me.
The slipcover of the seat in front of mine was not in position. No big deal.
The reclining of the seats is always symbolic
The pattern of the carpeting. Seat 36B remained empty and there was a foreigner at Seat 36C, a Dutchman who spoke fluent Chinese, after eleven years of living in Shanghai with a Changchun born wife.
The safety card both sides, which was much more compact than many others: they even managed to squeeze the information for passengers at emergency exit seats.
The safety demonstration is displayed on the IFEs with real actors off a stylized background
Pushback at ETD-14’ and take-off at ETD sharp.
The time and the weather were such that there would not be much to see outside
No more than the artificial lakes in the vicinity of Chongqing
And a nice sunset lighting which was nearly in black and white.
Like on all the domestic flights I ever took, service begins by a drink (in isolated cases, it ended there too), and the meal would come at the next pass of the trolley.
Coffee on CZ flights is with milk, which hides its taste, be it good or not so good.
Another FA arrives with the meals trays, and her face showed that she was in a bad mood. Her mood is bad because there were only two foreigners on that flight, and she had the bad luck of having to manage the communication with both of them. What is terrible with foreigners is the linguistic and cultural barrier. Ending a long day with that ordeal wipes out any smile you learned in your training.
Her mood changed distinctly when my Dutch neighbor talked to her in flawlessly fluid Mandarin.
And when I told her ??? (chicken rice) before she had time to try and talk to me, a wonderful smile illuminated her face. Saved ! That was unexpected, but these two foreigners speak Chinese and the ordeal that she feared miraculously had suddenly vanished:-)
I had not achieved a commendable feat, because you probably know that the number of combinations of hot meals is very limited on Chinese domestic flights (you basically have either chicken rice or beef noodles, fish being a rare variation) , and I had heard her announce the choice to the passengers of the previous row.
So this was the eve of a three day week-end, in front of a meal that CZ advertised as “warmth, refreshing, harmonious and nourishing”, served by an FA who smiled as soon as I talked to her: isn’t it a wonderful life on a Chinese domestic flight ?
I had no reason to doubt that this meal had been prepared the same day, as mentioned on the label, but contents were somewhat below the advertising. There was the same pack of spicy pickles as on my Air China flight the day before, a small piece of bread, a rather stuffy cake and a bulky portion of watermelon.
Chicken rice, as you may know if you reached Elite status in my Frequent Marathon Flight Report Readers’ Club, was a zero-risk choice. It was not exactly the same as that served on Air China, but it is compatible with any passenger if you do not use the spicy option (I do). Of course, it is not high level gastronomy, but hey, it’s Economy !
This is a CZ peculiarity : a fork-spoon combination which saves one piece of costly plastic ware : )
I ate all that while looking (without listening, because I had not taken headphones) this typical Chinese movie. I did not follow the plot closely, but I suspected that the people of Israel was involved, due to a very Biblical invasion of locusts and other plagues, slightly later in the movie.
These two FAs huddled on a single jumpseat were not watching the movie, but were chatting at a whisper sound level.
The intermediate galley
As usual on Chinese airlines, the « fasten seatbelts » sign remained lit at all times, and so was therefore the « return to your seat » sign in the toilets.
Descent above Changchun, a small town compared to Chongqing, with only three million inhabitants in the urban area. Nearly a village compared to the municipality of Chongqing which has ten times more (including rural areas).
Thrust reversers deployment
Remote parking, and arrival of mobile stairs. The plane was on time, and even slightly ahead of schedule, depending on the reference event.
Leaving the plane. The temperature was only 19°C, as opposed to ten degrees more in CKG : I was much further north ! I had very light clothing, but it was still OK.
The bus dropped us in front of the terminal after a ridiculously short ride: you can see our bus on the left and the plane on the far right beyond the jet bridge! The bus was not next to the plane either, but closer to terminal.
Furthermore, the bus dropped us just next to the terminal, which shows how close we were from it.
The delivery of the luggage is here. That is where I discovered that this flight originated from KMG, and that it therefore had not brought the Changchun newspaper.
Luggage delivery started uneventfully…
… And equally uneventfully ended when there was no luggage left to be delivered. Now was the time to discover that my suitcase and that of a Chinese passenger were missing. We went to the small luggage claims office.
The Chinese passenger who had the same problem as I do is on the left. He was quite aggressive, which seemed useless to me, since the staff in CQG were not responsible of the situation.
A typically Chinese quirk of this office: these two sofas had been converted into makeshift berths by the staff. Could you imagine that in a provincial airport in the West?
The dialog ran something like this in Mandarin:
- Your suitcase stayed in CKG. Can you come back tomorrow at the airport? [Note that they did not seem to consider delivering it at a hotel in town]? - At what time would it arrive? - It would take Flight 3U8863 which depart from CKG at 13:35. - OK, but at what time does this flight land in CGQ? - At 18 :50 [after a stopover in TSN, as I found out later, hence the overall travel time]. - That will be too late! I leave tomorrow on Flight CZ3938 to TAO, taking off at 19:35. There is no way I change my flight. - Then we can have it sent directly to TAO. There is a flight in the middle of the day: your suitcase would certainly be there before you. - In that case OK
So far, I had managed to handle the situation alone. They flinched somewhat when I provide them a French cell phone number, tried it and only reached an answering machine… and that is where I realized that I had no signal there. Not buying a Chinese SIM card (which are cheap and easy to find) had definitely been a bad idea.
- Wouldn’t you have a Chinese friend?
I blanched. Losing face is something BAD in Chinese culture and I was going to place my worst face-losing phone call in a couple years. My Chinese colleague had told me not to hesitate to call him if I needed any assistance during the week-end, and I had told that I had well enough Chinese experience to manage by myself, as I always did. And there I was, calling him past 11pm to ask him to please serve as a potential phone relay, just because I had neglected to buy a Chinese SIM card. That is where having good work relationships help, to handle that shameful situation.
The employees took my luggage tag and gave me in exchange an almost illegible photocopy (that scan is a faithful copy – I cropped the lower part with the personal information).
Granted, they scribbled on the top that my suitcase was due to be sent on Flight CZ8133 from Chongqing to Qingdao and I could read it ; granted, in accordance to my declarations, this suitcase contained clothing ?? (line 8), and code RD22WHC could correspond to my description as being red, but this document did help my confidence in what would happen next. Life would tell.
I had chatted with my Dutch neighbor while he was waiting for his own luggage and he had given me a useful tip :
- The taxi driver will probably refuse to use his meter, and start by asking for 120 yuan. A ride to the city center should normally cost 80 yuan .
When I left the terminal at long last, the place was nearly empty, but there were two taxis on the left, out of my picture frame.
Yes, one of drivers knew the Paradise Hotel, but I did not use that name, because the Chinese name is of course unrelated ; It has been a long time since I learned the hard way that in China, no Chinese knows the name « for foreigners ». ?????, could be translated by something like Grand Hotel of Happiness Administration. Not my definition of paradise…
We had not driven more than a few hundred meters when the driver started the hostilities.
Changchun is a long way, you are OK for 150 yuan ?
I use to say that a Chinese taxi driver who drives an unregistered car or refuses to use his meter is a man-eating shark. When faced to this kind of local predator, I have the ferocity of a shark-eating shark.
Leaving the airport without my suitcase had given me a shot of adrenaline and he did not know who I am. He had had to start his meter in order to drive through the control at the airport’s exit, but I would have had no qualms doing it myself – I did that once in Ürümqi – and that is a reason to always sit in front in Chinese taxis: always choose high ground when you may have to fight.
The verbal fight lasted until the Changchun exit toll, twenty kilometers later. I of course do not remember the whole dialog in Mandarin, but it was a fierce battle, as both were vying to gain the slimmest upper hand and have the opponent cave in.
- It will be 80 yuan, no more. Or else the sum on the meter. - Come on, 120 yuan, at least. - No way. It will be 80 yuan. - If you wanted to save money, there was the bus. - At that time, I would have had to wait for too long. If I take a taxi, it’s because I want to go fast. You have a meter and you must use it. - But the airport is far away - You knew when going to the airport that it was far…
… and so on
We arrived in the empty city at 23:50 in front of the hotel: the meter plus expressway toll totaled 79 yuan, and I had not ceded a mao of ground in the battle I had been waging. I gave him a 100 yuan bill and he behaved as if that was it. A wordless steely stare straight in the eyes was enough to break his last attempt, and he gave me a 20 yuan bill of change. And just before driving away, with the thinnest smile and a thumbs up gesture, he expressed without a word his respect to this foreigner who could fight, and had fought better than him.
?? ! (Goodbye !)
I had not reached base yet: I did not even know if my reservation was confirmed in this hotel which was a paradise in the English name only. The good news in this oversized and empty lobby was that yes, they did have a record with my name. The bad news in my room was that I did not manage to access to the internet with my laptop, only with my smartphone which I failed to configure as a wifi hub, or share the connection with a USB cable. I gave up at 1 am to catch some rest (I was later to find out that the culprit was Windows’ firewall, and that I did not have then the rights to deactivate it).
This is the end of the FR, and the start of a bonus in a city where I had never set foot before, where I only had my laptop without internet access, my camera and their chargers, the light clothing that I wore, a smartphone with no Google or Gmail access since my VPN is on my laptop, and no tour book.
Why fly north three hours a half to Changchun (CGQ was not even in Flight Report’s data base at that time, an indication of the attractiveness of the place)? First because Jilin was one of the three provinces in Mainland China where I had never been yet, and second because Changchun was the capital of Manchukuo, the puppet state set up in North-East China by the Japanese in 1932 – 1945.
What remains of that time is Puyi’s palace, which was no other than the Last Emperor made famous by Bertolucci ‘s movie.
The Manchukuo Imperial palace covers over a hundred acres. The sheer size is such that it is nowhere crowded. What are the nationalities of the visitors? The list of the 55 official guides gives a hint: 47 speak Chinese, 3 English, 3 Korean and 2 Japanese (there is no requirement to use the services of a guide, and I didn’t, but I rented an audio guide which was interesting, not least for its impeccable political correctness).
A section where access is free is used by a small horse racetrack and its stables; the ticket control to the palace itself is at this secondary entrance.
The Japanese had no time to build a real palace when they created Manchukuo, and did not plan to spend a lot in country that they would soon bleed to death, so most of the buildings were actually requisitioned. This one was built in the early 20st century and was the private residence of the manager of the Exclusive Transport Office of Jilin-Heilongjiang (the two northernmost provinces of Manchuria).
The courtyard is typical of a siheyuan ???, i.e. a four sided house, which can be found everywhere in China, especially in the north-east of the country. This house hosted the inner administration of the palace.
No matter the status of Manchukuo, I am not going to add the word puppet” in each and every sentence, but that would be an apt translation, because I think I shall remember forever the word ?, after reading them so many times during this visit.
Anyway, this was the office of the Japanese vice-chief, who was the real head of the palace administration; there was the same arrangement at the level of the Manchukuo government.
The room of one of the princes, in a house built in the beginning of the Manchukuo.
The princes’ classroom
The Russian style of this building betrays the fact that its construction predated the setting of the Manchukuo.
Don’t forget September 18th , signed Jiang Zemin (CCP secretary general and president of the Republic in the 90’s), on a monument in front of the building. That date was that of the Mukden Incident, a railroad sabotage probably masterminded by the Japanese, which was used as a pretext for the Japanese invasion in 1931.
I felt an oppressive melancholy in this palace. Puyi knew that he was a puppet in the hands of the Japanese and was did not trust them. He prepared himself his own medicine in this pharmacy, and had all food tasted in front of him before eating any.
The bathroom and toilets of Puyi. He had hemorrhoids and spent a considerable amount of time there.
The bedroom that Puyi used from 1932 to 1945. It was a small room; the ventilator was no luxury In the summer heat, but winter is very harsh in Manchuria.
The office of Japan’s General Yoshioka, who was in charge of keeping watch on Puyi day and night.
The study room of Tan Yuling, the first chronologically speaking of Puyi’s concubines, and his only true love, who died in 1942 aged 22. It is suspected, without any formal proof, that she was murdered by the Japanese because of her opposition against them.
Tan Yuling’ living room
Tan Yuling’s bedroom
In the oppressive atmosphere of this shadow theatre, Empress Wanrong sank into depression and opium addiction. This was her bedroom, before she was set aside after she had an absurd affair. Her illegitimate daughter was murdered at birth by the Japanese, and she died shortly after the end of the war of food deprivation and drug withdrawal syndrome.
What was also pervasive was the smell of cheap food when I visited. In Changchun, the lunch break was no excuse for palace guards leaving their assigned room. I never saw that anywhere else in China.
Changchun is very far north by Chinese standards, but it was very hot in the middle of the day, which made the stench of that food even more pregnant, coming from these low quality meals that I came across all over China.
These welcome signs recommending quietness were equally unusual in China, where groups with their loudspeakers are the bane of most major tourist spots.
The Qinmin building, originally the Jilin-Heilongjiang Exclusive Transport Bureau (a strange name, but there is no better translation).
The courtyard of the building
This Throne Room only gave Puyi the semblance of power.
So did this banquet hall
This Park from the 20’s was Puyi’s official car. A story about it illustrates the power that the Japanese had on him: he drove it beyond Tonghua, close to the present border with North Korea, and was brought back to Changchun against his will “for his safety”.
The items in this room have a special value for the Chinese, which explains the special care for displaying them, as opposed as elsewhere in the palace.
It may be no chance that all the explanations in this room are in Chinese only, and that the otherwise informative audio-guide did not mention what follows either.
The last two lines of this notule of this small cup are the most interesting ones:
??? : Qing [dynasty], [reign of Emperor] Tongzhi, i.e. 1861 – 1875 ?????? : Treasure of the Forbidden City
How could the Chinese write in a politically correct way that the overwhelming majority of the treasures accumulated during centuries by the emperors in the Forbidden City, moved out of Japanese reach from city to city, eventually wound up in Taipei’s National Museum? The Chinese know it too well, and do not want to tell that to foreigners.
This bi-level corridor created a connection to a residential section.
However, Puyi did use much the bedroom that he had in that building, using rather the one he had in the Jixi building, because he suspected the Japanese of having bugged it. He was so suspicious of them that he used written notes to communicate with his concubine in this bedroom rather than talking.
The cramped meeting room that Puyi was using every day to confer with the members of his government (always described as “puppet”) and the military
Some symbols weigh much than facts. The Chinese pardon neither the setting of a Japanese style room in the Manchukuo Imperial Palace.
… nor the attempt at importing Shinto, which was then the state religion in Japan. Whereas the palace suffered little damage during WWII, since Japan surrendered before the fighting reached Changchun, only foundations remain of the temple to the Japanese goddess Amaterasu which was here.
The visit continues with the History Museum of the Occupation of the North-East ????????, which is a heavy handed charge against the Japanese war crimes in Manchuria and else. True enough, history recorded ample matter on this issue, and visiting this museum may not be recommended for children. Flight Reporters are not children, but I see no reason to dwell on these dark pages of history.
The Manchukuo Imperial Palace provides of course the official version of that part of history, and in this regard, it matches perfectly Bertolucci’s movies which was made in close cooperation with the Chinese authorities which provided ample access to the historic places and all the background actors he needed. Maybe one day we’ll have a more balanced description of the facts, but this visit was nevertheless very interesting, and well worth flying all the way to Changchun.
This is the end of this tourist bonus and of this FR.
Was my suitcase going to be at the rendezvous in Qingdao (TAO)? This you will discover in the next FR, to be posted (much?) later.
Chongqing - CKG
Changchun - CGQ
Entertainment on board was minimal, but for the rest, the experience on board was OK, and the flight was on time.
A massive FAIL grade to CKG’s services who did not load my checked luggage (and that of another passenger), and they did not even have the excuse of a last minute check-in. It could have been extremely embarrassing if I had had a professional meeting the next day. I only had the strict minimum for the next day in my hand luggage.
The accessibility of CGK is not perfect, because the subway network is incomplete, and neither HongYaDong nor my hotel were served. Quite stressful when you have to battle to get a taxi at rush hour and worry about traffic jams.
I would have awarded a perfect grade to the staff in CGQ if they has provided me the ETA, and not the ETD of the plane which might of flown in my suitcase the next day. Only my carefulness saved me from a disaster. I also penalize the failed rip-off attempt by the taxi driver to the city center (and by his colleague on the way back).
0 LIKESLIKE TO THANK THE AUTHORTHANKS ! FLIGHT-REPORT LIKED
Flight-Report is a free website hosting more than 500 000 pictures and 17 000 reviews, without ads, this website can't exist. We understand that ads can be annoying, this is why we only display a maximum of 2 non-invasive ads per page.
To continue using Flight-Report, we invite you to add Flight-Report to your blocker's "white list".