It was finally time to depart for China. We woke at 5:50am after about 4 hours of sleep, left quickly, and Katie was checked in at the airport by 7am.
The TSA-Pre line moved rather slowly (and slower than the normal lines), but Katie had no issues with the bag of robot heads. Priority boarding began quickly,and Katie boarded since it was a completely full flight and she did not want to have to gate check the robot heads.
The AUS-DFW flight was on a nice plane with comfy seats, seat-back entertainment, and power plugs. Pretty cool.
Upon landing, Katie went to check out the concourse D admiral’s club. She got a free premium drink coupon when checking in, but decided to forgo it since it was 9:30am. The lounge is as actually a level above the concourse. It is rather large, with lots of window-side seating to watch planes come and go. She got some greek yoghurt and lemon water and found a seat near the window with power plugs. There was a business center, bar, family room, and a luggage room, but she did not use any since her stay was for less than an hour. Overall, a nice experience though!
The AUS-PEK plane started boarding early, so Katie’s zone had already been called when she arrived at the gate. No worries – she boarded quickly through the priority lane. The plane ended up being about half full – so Katie was thrilled to have a row to herself.
Katie worked on her laptop until dinner. Dinner was potato salad, salad, chicken and rice, and a brownie. It was all pretty tasty. After dinner she curled up across her otherwise empty three seat row. She slept solidly for four or five hours before waking up thirsty. After drinking some water she tried to go back to sleep with no success. She relaxed for 2.5 hours until it was 8:30am China time, and then she sat up and continued working on the UT Austin Villa drop-in competition player.
The plane was mostly asleep, so she put on headphones and focused for about four hours until breakfast was served. Breakfast consisted of eggs and fruit – and again was surprisingly good.
The 787 flew at a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet, and it was cloudy throughout the trip, so she disappointingly was unable to see anything outside of take-off and landing. The landing took a very loopy approach. Beijing looked like it could rain any minute, but in reality it is probably just smog darkening the sky.
Once off the plane Katie went through a 20-30 minute immigration line (comically the 72 hour visa free line was short and quick), collected my bags, determined she had to take the bus from terminal 3 to terminal 2, went through customs (where her robot bag got inspected and she got lightly questioned but was then allowed to continue with no issues), took the free shuttle bus to terminal 2, found the China Eastern desk, checked in and checked her bags, and went through security. Whew! It took an hour and 40 minutes from de-planing her American flight to finally clearing security and finding food in terminal 2. It is lucky she did not have a tight connection.
The Hefei airport did not announce the China Eastern flight to Hefei in English, but Katie saw everyone lining up after an announcement and assumed that it must have been an announcement to board. The plane was definitely older, and the cover on my seat bottom was half-way off. This plane ride was a real introduction to Chinese culture, as everyone completely ignored the requests to turn off phones and not recline seats, and men made loud hacking noises throughout the flight. Once the plane landed, everyone pushed off the plane. It certainly takes some getting used to to understand that people are not being rude – this is just how they function.
Upon landing Katie collected her bags from the baggage belt and saw RoboCup volunteers with a sign right after the exit from the secure area. Katie went over to the shuttle table with them, told them what hotel she needed to go to, and inquired about an ATM. One of the volunteers walked with Katie to the ATM upstairs, and then she was hurried out to a waiting shuttle bus. A father and son participating in RoboCup junior and a French team were already on the bus.
The bus ride through Hefei was a hectic 40 minutes. China traffic is intense, and the motor bikes seem to have a death wish. We eventually reached the Fengda International Hotel, and the volunteer riding in the shuttle came in to help everyone check-in. Check-in was a bit chaotic, but eventually Katie got a key to a room on the 20th floor (3240￥ for 8 nights) and she headed there to settle in.
The room is very spacious (by American standards) and has many amenities like a water boiling pot, slippers, bath robes, and toiletries such as toothbrushes and toothpaste. One strange feature is the bathroom with a huge glass window. It is rather strange, but it is nice to be able to see the room from the bathroom. And there is a curtain if we want some privacy.