Review of China Southern flight Changchun Qingdao in Economy

Airline China Southern
Flight CZ3938
Class Economy
Seat 37K
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 01:50
Take-off 20 Jun 15, 19:35
Arrival at 20 Jun 15, 21:25
CZ   #17 out of 95 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 133 reviews
marathon
By SILVER 1900
Published on 11th January 2016
This FR begins in a taxi driving me back to the airport after visiting Puyi’s palace, described in the bonus of my previous flight report, where I also described my arrival in Changchun without my checked lugage. I have not identified these buildings with a typical Japanese design.

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On the other hand, this monument decorating a roundabout seemed appropriate for introducing a FR.

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If you want to buy a flat in Changchun, don’t hesitate. At 7,900 RMB/m² and up, two flowered gardens, underground storage space… I guess that you are going to flood the hotline (+86 431 8965 7777).

Be aware though that the Chinese have a weird way of defining square meters: these surfaces always include an ill-defined percentage of the gardens, building halls, corridors, etc. Deduct at least 30% to obtain the actual surface of the apartment.

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The airport is 24 km away, and the nearest ski resorts at 40 km. I provided you the range of a taxi fare to get there in my previous FR: all you need is calling!

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A rainbow before leaving the urban area. The negotiation with the taxi driver on whether or not charge the amount on the meter was far from over. He even suggested dropping me at an airport bus stop (the bus there was indeed identified as serving the airport, but I did not know when it would be leaving).

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The toll station in daytime

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Jilin Province is famous in China for Changbaishan 长白山 (« Long White Mountain ») National Park, where going outside the beaten path is a no-no, because it borders North Korea. According to a friend who went there, it is expensive and disappointing compared to the Alps

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Locals in that province also park on the emergency lane in the vicinity of the airport in order to save on parking fees when going to fetch somebody there.

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Arrival in Changchun 長春; this ideograms lit at night are meant to be seen either from the tarmac or from the outside. These are traditional ideograms : the simplified ones now in daily use in Mainland China are 长春.

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You probably guessed after reading my previous FR that the taxi driver did not have a fighting chance with me: I gave him at the airport the exact amount on the meter plus the toll, i.e. 83 yuan total, not a jiao more (there is no tipping in China).

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The quite vast and empty landside hall

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And the really empty check in counters.

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No checked luggage? asked the clerk who must have noticed that I had very light clothing and a simple laptop case. I refrained from telling him that I had not chosen to not have any luggage.

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Some waiting at the security check, but nothing serious.

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There is slightly less space airside, but there is as much light.

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The local quirk was the number of flights stopping over somewhere: seven out of nine on this screen. This is very unusual in Mainland China. Note Flight 3U8864, the return flight from the one which might have brought my suitcase, but would have been too late.

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I tried my luck at the service counter to obtain an internet access code. No problem, the friendly (male) staff understood my request, but after less than ten minutes of use, the connection dropped, and the code was no longer valid. I returned to the same counter, but the helpful staff was no longer there, and his female colleagues did not understand what I wanted. It was not a matter of understanding my Chinese which had been good enough ten minutes earlier, but of their computer literacy. And therefore, no internet access any more.

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The lighting conditions on the tarmac were awful. I did not try to take bad pictures of planes already seen in my previous FRs. Two deserved attention though :

A small business jet

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And a Shijiazhuang Y-5, which is actually an Antonov 2 built under Soviet , then Ukrainian license. Production in China of this aircraft which first flew in 1947 appears not to have been discontinued.

This was only the second time time I was seeing one, after that seen in LCX before my memorable
flight HO1146

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OK, then I had not eaten anything since breakfast at the hotel (a rather lackluster affair, but a buffet, so quantities were not an issue). This Chinese fast food could be good enough; I asked the waiter by chance if they provided an internet access.
- No, but there is that of the airport anyway
- I tried the Airport Free Wifi and it failed
- Oh, but you should not try that one, use Chinanet !

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That’s incredible : the airport’s free wifi network requires a code to be received by SMS on a Chinese cell phone number, but Chinanet’s commercial network provides a free, anonymous and stable access!

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That provided me an opportunity to get my e-mails (internet access had failed in the hotel the day before), and to offer you a screen shot of our favorite website :

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Since the waitress is so nice, why not eat there ? I forgot the tab, but it was very reasonable by airport standards, and I liked it.

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The toilets were definitely less welcoming. They were clean, but definitely not fancy.

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My flight to Qingdao 青岛, which as you can see continues to Changsha 长沙, was at gate 32.

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And you can also see that the gate was downstairs, which meant boarding by bus.

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Not only the room downstairs is a lot less pleasant, as usual

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But also Chinanet’s signal does not reach there

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Plane spotting was limited to this jumble of planes

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Again the Shijiazhuang Y-5. So sorry I could not see it from sideways.

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I managed to plug my laptop in a power plug, the cord barring a walkway, in order to start writing a Flight report.

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For the time being, boarding of Flight MU2272 (Changchun 长春 - Xi’an 西安 – Kunming 昆明) was announced at Gate, where there were no passengers left waiting.

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Now was our turn ! The priority rules were displayed, but few passengers appeared to meet any.

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The screen between the staff displayed something else and has been switched off to be replaced by a display which cannot fail.

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We got out of the terminal, got bussed on a distance which was not as ridiculously short as on the preceding flight, and reached the aircraft.

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Some passengers were obediently lining up for boarding.

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And some families were taking records of their trip

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And since they had seen me taking them in picture, they asked to be photographed one after the other, because foreigners are so few in Changchun!

This request did not surprise me; it happened to me repeatedly in many places in China, and I am no star or star look-alike.

There were groups pictures too

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… with some doing the whole show.

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Who could claim that the magic of flying is gone in China ? See the salute from the top of the stairs which is so mid-20th century like !

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Since the lighting conditions were better, I can offer you a China Southern A319

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And a Sichuan Airlines A320

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It was far away, but the business jet was a Gulfstream Aerospace G200 owned by ZYB Lily Jet, a business jet company based in Shenyang.

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It was my turn to board, and I was among the last passengers to do so

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Going through the J cabin : three 2+2 rows

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And then four rows of Premium Economy (same 3+3 seating, but with a wider seat pitch), before a mini-galley

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There was nothing in the way of my luggage under the preceding seat

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The safety card, both sides

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The toilets on the left, in front of the mini-galley, with baby care facilities for mothers only.

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A CZ 757 cargo

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The safety demonstration was on the IFE

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Take off on time

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The jumble of CZ’s domestic lines in the in-flight magazine

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Taiwan is a domestic destination for CZ. Humph…

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Sunset, with the moon crescent in the left corner

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The coffee is with milk on CZ flights.

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And like on the previsou flight, the lunch box was supposed to bring me “warmth, refreshing, harmonious and nourishing”, but I knew better about the value of these promises.

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My neighbor had chosen the beef-noodles option

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And it was chicken-rice for me as usual. There were a plastic fork and knife, instead of the combined “spork” on the preceding flight.

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Close up on the contents of the pickles bag

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The flight was uneventful. Touchdown at 21:13, i.e. ETA+3’

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And we reached the terminal next to a Xiamen Air 738

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A last look at the Y cabin

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And at the J cabin

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The corridor would be plane spotter friendly if there was any plane to be spotted, but I had only one question in mind at that time : would my suitcase be there ?

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In the luggage delivery room, I headed towards this small office. The answer to my question was a few meters away.

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My suitcase was indeed there, behind that also red hard suitcase. I could not miss it, with its strap which was meant to make it easy to identify from a distance. I did not have time to take a picture of it when I entered.

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The procedure took literally seconds : this staff just checked that the numbers were the same, and I could leave, keeping the photocopy which had become useless.

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I had not really wanted to add this Chinese RUSH specimen to my collection of luggage tags.

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Going toward the exit

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And heading towards the taxi stand, which welcomes me overhead. There were several taxi s and zero waiting.

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The taxi drivers have no choice but play it fair there : when I arrived there, a staff gave me this form, on which he scribbled the registration number of my car (omitting the letter B, which is the code for Qingdao after the character 鲁 which designates Shandong province), so that I could identify it if I had any complaint about him.

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I had no reason to complain : he was friendly and dropped me at the entrance of the Fuxin Hotel, located in the building with the same name. Very unusually in China, thi shotel has no English name: 府新大厦 means New Government High Rise. The name was not very exciting, and I knew nothing about it when I had booked it by phone through a Chinese travel agency in the morning, only specifying a price range and a city center location (“center” could not mean “heart’, which I knew was already booked full). A smiling welcome at the hotel reception, a comfortable room, taxi drivers who enjoyed chatting with their customer : this first visit in Qingdao was off a good start.
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This is the end of the FR and the beginning of a tourist bonus on Qingdao that I propose to discover with me. The purpose of this trip was to get some rest while visiting a city that I did not know yet. Qingdao is something like Northern China’s Riviera: a city along the seaside with beaches (a rarity in the country) and a pleasant weather in summer.

It was the midst of a three day week-end in summer, and much like on the French Riviera, the jetty to the Huilan Pavilion 回澜阁 was crowded.

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It was not as bad as what I had feared, but I nevertheless did not much of a chance to any shrimps and shells in the rocky foreshore.

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Qingdao has been a German colony from 1897 to 1914. As early as 1903, the Germans builf there a brewery, since beer was vital for their survival. The German presence survived less than 20 years, but Tsingtao ber (named after the old transcription of Qingdao 青島, i.e. the Green Island) prospered : it is now the #1 on the Chinese domestic market and in Chinese exports. I did not go and visit the historic brewery, but I saw part of its original logo.

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Yes indeed : the pavilion on the tag of the Tsingtao bottles is that at the far end of the jetty at the beginning of this tourist bonus !

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Qingdao has become the number four harbour in China, and also an important naval base, but the Jinan 济南, a destroyer launched in 1970, is now only the main feature of the Naval Museum.

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Qingdao is now a city with five million inhabitants whose suburbs are as inattractive as any other city of that size in Mainland China, but the historic center still has many buildings from that short colonial time.

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Oops, a slight aiming mistake!

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Or maybe not. A long summer week-end in China in an area which provides a large number of beautiful backdrops is a sure recipe to see an incredible number of couples on a wedding picture outing in full wedding. You may no see that very clearly on that picture of the neo-Gothic St Michael cathedral…

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… but there was a swarm of future newlyweds on the parvise, with a dozen here

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…and another half dozen there inside the grids.

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The surroundings of the cathedral were transformed into makeshift beauty parlors, including screens for changing clothes, or for more upscale services, vans like that in the background, where there was another bride in the shade.

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The dresses are used for this picture-taking purpose only, and they are therefore often adjusted with makeshift lacing or a wealth of safety pins.

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These are pictures of the bride and groom only, because they are shot a long time before the actual wedding, at least three weeks ahead of time: they require at least two days of shooting and then one week of photoshopping the pictures: my friend Xiaoyang was much more beautiful on her official “wedding pictures” than on the pictures I took during the big day.

Wedding picture taking was not allowed in the cathedral

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… which had an unexpected giant portrait of Saint Theresa of Lisieux

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“Turista" is the familiar word in French for the diarrhea striking tourists after they have eaten some unfamiliar (and probably unhealthy) food abroad. This gate was locked, and French visitors suffering from turista had better read some Chinese, because 旅客止步 means “closed to visitors”.

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In this street near the cathedral, above a carriage porch,

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… you have to look hard to spot the 毛主席万岁 (Long live Presiden Mao) words which slowly vanish. I suspect that installing an air conditioning unit in front of it would have spelt trouble for the technician fifty years ago.

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The protestant church dates back from 1910, in the midst of the German colonial period. It is described as being the identical twin of another church in Germany, which did not survive, but I have not found where it was. Its beautiful clockwork which can be seen from close up in the bell tower is still in operation. This church attracted much fewer tourists and visitors.

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The first governor of the German colony had a mansion built for him on the hill, within standards to his self-appraised prestige. When Emperor William II received the bill, he had him recalled and dismissed immediately.

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The main staircase inside. There was an exhibit of models of colonial buildings in the city, from which I created myself a walking tour after locating them on a city map.

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The interesting thing about this oversized building is that the sign in Chinese and all websites in that language correctly identify it as the former local seat of the Red Swastika, a Chinese sect which ran a charity similar to the Red Cross (but unrelated to it), whereas the English translation on the same sign, and all English language websites erroneously identify it as the former local seat of the German Red Cros, even though it was built two decades after the Germans had left Qingdao.
It now houses a curiously nearly empty art museum.

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You can visit the former German prison. The Chinese of course included wax model scenes of bad treatments of prisoners by the German and then by the Japanese.

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Qingdao made a commendable job of identification with bilingual street signs and preservation of these historic colonial buildings. There is still work to be done, like for the former building of the Deutsche Asiatische Bank, presently transforming into cheap apartment lots in poor condition.

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A number of official buildings kept their original use since they were built a century ago, like this police station :

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… the court

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… and of the railway station, which has been extended with a modern building on the right

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I am not going to show you the twenty or so buildings that I identified when I was there. I of course went to the Tianhou Temple 天后宫, devoted to a folk goddess protecting seamen who is especially popular in Taiwan,

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… but the lack of respect of the tourist groups and their guides with loudspeakers made me leave the place quickly.

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Qingdao also has universities : these students of the Ocean Science University have a not very academic notion of a souvenir picture of their graduation.

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Russians from Siberia came to Qingdao after the German period and had resort villas built for them, like the Granite Mansion 花石楼, which overlooks Beach #2 (the Chinese were not very creative when naming the beaches in Qingdao).

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The pines give a Mediterranean look to this part of the city

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This is the posh Badaguan 八大关 neighborhood where there are lots of people during a long week-end in June. This sign announces that the maximum capacity of this park is 9,820 people at any given time, and 38,256 cumulated people in a day. I wondered about that precision, all the more that there is no fencing whatsoever, which made the counting of users and their control quite hypothetical.

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There are European style villas here and there

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Couples are being photographed in the streets, but here, these are no ordinary tourists.

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The photographer’s assistant with cute heart-shaped balloons was waiting on a bench. This young couple would later have to cope with the worries caused by their child, and even later those caused by they elderly parents, like those in the background in this allegoric picture which was not meant by the photographer.

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Beach #3 also has a limited capacity

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But we were obviously far from reaching the limits that day. That left ample space for some souvenir picture taking at the far end of the beach.

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Did I mention that Qingdao is a favorite city for wedding pictures ?

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It is slightly to late for us for wedding pictures, but I would happily bring Mrs Marathon to Qingdao at another opportunity, because I liked this peaceful and resting place, with its unusual mix of a Chinese city with European beach resort looks, which makes it refreshingly unique in China.
which are quite refreshing in China.

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Thanks for reading me up to here !
See more

Verdict

China Southern

7.5/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Meal/catering8.0

Changchun - CGQ

8.8/10
Efficiency10.0
Access7.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness10.0

Qingdao - TAO

9.5/10
Efficiency10.0
Access8.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

This CZ domestic flight would have been nothing out of the ordinary if it had not been the conclusion of my luggage problem. Nothing special about the flight, therefore.
The lightning efficiency of the staff in TAO for giving me my luggage, taxi drivers who use their meters: the only thing missing in TAO is a rail connection. A subway is under construction, but it appears that it will not serve the airport according to the map I saw.

Related

8 Comments

  • Comment 154673 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thank you Marathon for sharing this FR on an unusual route with a fascinating bonus.

    Your knowledge of Chinese history and culture is nothing short of impressive, not to mention your fluency in the language. This website is lucky to count you as one of its most prolific contributors.

    • Comment 332258 by
      marathon SILVER AUTHOR 9627 Comments

      CGQ and TAO are indeed not premier destinations in China. My Chinese colleagues were surprised (a mild word) that I should want to fly that many hours to go there for the week-end.
      There was a lot of research before and after this flight – all the information was available on line, but it did take a lot of time to find it. Comments like yours are my reward, thanks !

    • Comment 332382 by
      marathon SILVER AUTHOR 9627 Comments

      I once visited a mansion which had gone through very similar ordeals over time and can sympathize with you feelings. Thanks for sharing them !

    • Comment 332267 by
      jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

      Your last couple of FR's reminded me of Bertolucci's film The Last Emperor. China's tumultuous history coupled by the influence exerted by the Western powers is a fascinating topic.

      This particularly hit close to home last November when I visited one of my ancestral homes in China for the first time. My maternal great-grandfather's house was occupied by the Japanese during WW2 and used as some sort of base. Then came the Chinese Revolution and the property was inhabited by outsiders. It was a beautiful two-story house back in its day and now it is just a shell of its former self. Life can be cruel at times.

  • Comment 154718 by
    pwecar 53 Comments

    Thanks for such a detailed report of this short domestic hop!

    Coincidentally when I was in Qingdao for vacation I stayed in the same hotel as you>_<..Despite I've got bad reviews on it..
    On the contrary I think that Qingdao is cramped by numerous of tourists especially during summer period. The beaches are just horrible and the admission fee for most of attractions are just too high. Nevertheless your report is just excellent!

    • Comment 332259 by
      marathon SILVER AUTHOR 9627 Comments

      There are so many hotels in Qingdao that I did not expect a reader to have stayed in the same one! As I mentioned, this was a kind of a blind date, hotel-wise. The breakfast was not very exciting, but the room was OK and the staff very friendly.

      There were indeed lots of visitors in Qingdao, but it was still acceptable. Beaches are not my cup of tea, but I agree that South-Eastern Asia beaches are a world apart from those of Qingdao. I visited few paying attractions, altogether, so my admission fee budget was limited.

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments !

  • Comment 154822 by
    aussenrist 224 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report with nice travel bonus!

    Glad to hear that you finally collected your baggage in another city!
    For going to the airport, I would suggest taking the CRH Train because it is much cheaper (~RMB10)!
    I am surprised that domestic CZ would have Premium Economy seats :P The cabin and catering are so-so (ok… in China standard).

    Your shots of Qingdao remind me lots of memories of visiting there many years ago. I traveled there during Mid-autumn festival when I was on exchange study in Jinan Shandong. I also visited the places you mentioned in this report^^ (+ Beer Museum). It was a beautiful city and their food was tasty! A little bit sad to note that nowadays too many people travel there and tourist limit on popular attractions are set :(

    • Comment 332381 by
      marathon SILVER AUTHOR 9627 Comments

      About the CRH station in CGQ, I have the excuse of not having no internet (at the hotel), and no tourbook (because of CZ)... but I should have checked before. Anyway, thanks for the tip; I'll remember it :)

      A rapidly growing portion of the Chinese population can afford to travel now, and tourist sights are getting crowded everywhere. It should not be long before advance booking becomes necessary - I saw signs hinting at that in Jiuzhaigou.

      Thanks for your comment !

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