It’s Chinese New Year Eve, a time that you normally spend with family eating a huge dinner and then watching the CCTV New Year Show. But not this year. I am sitting in the lounge at Guangzhou Baiyun airport with a small group of friends, among others Gary and Grace, waiting to board a flight to Auckland right after midnight. When we booked this flight I did not realize it would be Chinese New Year Eve – but it probably was no coincidence as we only booked a few weeks ago and all other flights were fully booked.
We flew from Shanghai this afternoon and things did not really go the way we wanted from the start. At check-in there were some problems as Grace was flagged by New Zealand immigration authorities because they thought she only booked a one-way ticket. That was correct, because we fly from Auckland to Singapore for business meetings, not back to Shanghai, but they could not confirm that in the system. So we had to sort that out in Guangzhou, meaning that we could not check our luggage through to New Zealand.
The airport was virtually deserted. After weeks of the biggest human migration on earth everything suddenly became extremely quiet this afternoon. No lines at all at the airport, not for checking in nor for security. At the lounge in Shanghai we were almost the only guests. Kind of strange, because I am so used to the crowds on airports in China.
On the plane things were okay, although even in First Class the food was not particularly good. When I asked for sparkling water they told me they did not have that, but the friendly stewardess told me she could give me red wine instead. So much for flying China Southern – and we still have 12 hours or so ahead of us on another China Southern plane…
In Guangzhou the first thing I noticed was that it was really cold. On the plane the flight attendant had told me that it was 8 degrees Celsius in Guangzhou, but I assumed she made a mistake and that it should be 18 degrees. But no, it was really 8 degrees. No big deal, except that the airport does not have heating and we did not even bring coats.
Staff was waiting for us at the gate to arrange Grace’ ticket problem (that’s the advantage of flying First Class I guess, in Economy they would let you sort this out yourself), and within minutes we had our boarding passes (seat 2A for me, so I can see the fireworks right after the start). We then had to get our luggage and check in again, and then go through the security check and immigration. This took us about one hour, but we had enough time so it was no big deal.
Next up was finding a location for the Chinese New Year dinner. I had assumed there would be some decent restaurants at the airport, but that was not the case. Most places were closed because of New Year’s Eve, so we ended up in a coffee shop having some fried rice and noodles for an exorbitant amount of money. Then we walked to the lounge where Gary and his girlfriend were already sitting watching the CCTV New Year show on TV. Also here it was freezing cold, but luckily the others from Beijing had coats with them so Grace could warm up.
It is a bit strange to watch the New Year show in an almost deserted lounge (well, actually I am not watching but working on an update of unitedstyles financial plan), especially when it’s cold. It feels like we are doing something wrong with our lives, being in this place on a night like this. Gary actually put on his Weibo (Chinese Twitter) that he was watching the CCTV show for the first time in 10 years in an airport lounge, and many people pitied him that he had to work so hard that he has to spend CNY Eve on an airport.
The lounge itself is pretty good, and especially the wines are very nice (a.o. a Bourgogne Chardonnay, a German Trockenbeerauslese, and even 2 different bottles of Sauternes dessert wine). Because we’ll visit a lot of wineries this trip we have already started the first wine tasting. I am looking forward to the next couple of days in New Zealand, it’s going to be an interesting journey. Glad we decided to do this and glad that we managed to fit it into our schedule!
Happy Chinese New Year – 新年快乐！