Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Yesterday I flew to Hong Kong for the Golden Week holiday celebrating China's National Day on October 1.
And my commute to Beijing Capital Airport was the quickest I've ever experienced.
There's an Airport Bus station near my place and for 16RMB it's a smooth and very quick ride. We left the terminus at 4:45pm and after a few stops picking up a few more passengers we arrived at Terminal 3 at 5:20pm.
It was my first experience entering the airport from the departures level since I first saw it completed over a year ago.
What a transformation.
Overall signage is pretty good, but could be in bigger lettering or more convenient to find instead of having to hunt for it.
It can be a bit of a trek for people to find the right check-in counter and the one for Dragon Air was down at the far right end.
Check in was quite slow, with none of the computers working for self-check in. Kind of defeats the purpose of having an e-ticket.
There are tons of shops before entering the secured area -- even a fancy clothing boutique. Who is going to buy an oil painting or a fancy sweater before going on their flight?
Then I had to take a transit shuttle to take us to the other end of Terminal 3 and it's quite far away, but relatively efficient.
Here the numbering for the gates was strange. There was E22 and then E26 together. It didn't make any sense at all. It's enough to give harried passengers a shock if they can't find their gate where they logically think it should be.
Unfortunately the duty-free shops here are abysmal.
The Olympic souvenir shop looked like it was running out of stock and didn't have anything interesting to sell except for T-shirts, caps and notebooks. There were hardly any mugs or bags.
The other duty-free shops sold kitsch Chinese-made goods like qipaos, silk scarves and pjamas or Chinese-made chocolate, which is probably not something they should be stocking now considering the melamine scare.
I remember an airport official promising the new terminal would have more selection of foreign magazines and books but that hasn't materialized. It was all in Chinese instead.
The saddest part of the terminal, so modern and cool in design and yet there's a bizarre fake Chinese garden with a tacky colourful pagoda complete with occasional mists coming out of the pond. The shrubbery is all fake making it all the more like a farce.
Why have a fake garden when everyone's already seen the real thing in Beijing?