At 4:30am on Friday morning I caught a bus to Hong Kong airport ready for a weekend of tourist activities in Beijing. Great Wall this, Forbidden City that.
I had made a strategic deicision not to sleep on Thursday night. A friend was DJ'ing at a club and I had nine hours of flying to do on Friday. Stay out all night Thursday, sleep through the transit Friday. Genius.
I arrived at Hong Kong airport and quickly realised I had underestimated the mental capability one needs to board an international flight in a foreign country. Especially in an airport that carries more than three airlines.
Eyelids falling down everywhere I looked, I went into auto-pilot and somehow managed to find China Eastern Airlines, and gate 500, and customs, and finally, the seats in the departure lounge of the HK-Shanghai flight I'd soon be taking.
I awoke to a very polite but annoyed stewardess who had to guide me through my next course of action, a relationship that would continue throughout the rest of the trip.
"Please now board."
So far my plan was working a treat, I was sleeping like a baby in the most uncomfortable sleeping locations known to (first world) man: airplanes and airports.
"Plane land now. Please leave plane".
Part one complete. But the tiredness that greeted me at Shanghai Airport was different to that which I'd pushed through in Hong Kong. My body was saying something akin to:
"Why did you have to go and remind me how good sleep is? Do you think I'm going to let you get away with that? You're getting nothing from me until I've had at least five hours of the good stuff."
I pleaded with my body to see out customs and promised it three hours of pure, unadulterated sleep on the flight from Shanghai to Beijing.
Disgruntled, annoyed and feeling betrayed my body decided to play ball and get me to the next flight.
I approached the man at customs and smiled. He did not return my smile.
"Where you stay when arrive Beijing?" he asked.
"A friend's house, I don't have her address yet, need to check my emails".
"You have no address?" he scowled.
"Not yet," I replied sheepishly.
"Why you visa say arrive before 14 November?"
"What? It says arrive anytime from, 14 November!"
"No! Your visa expired. You must apply new one"
"Urgh. Ok. Where? Over there? Alright. Hold my place".
I trundled back past the other travellers I'd defeated in getting to customs before them, slapped my passport and ticket on the counter and asked to get a new tourist visa.
"Why you come to China?"
Two minutes turned into five minutes, and five into ten. My body piped up and alerted me to a row of seats right next to the desk. I gave in and lay down, passing out within seconds.
"Hey, you come with me now, flight leaves soon".
Hazy, I checked my watch.
"Ok, but my flight to Beijing doesn't leave for another two hours."
"You're not go to Beijing. You go back where you came."
My decision to stay out on Thursday night was seriously being brought into question because my powers of persuasion were non-existent.
"Why can't I just apply for a tourist visa here? I asked. "I have a return flight, I have accommodation, why can't I go to China?" I pleaded.
"No, you can't. Go back to Hong Kong. Apply there. You not going China today," they told me.
I was then handed over to a man named Yip Sing and told that he would be putting me on a flight back to Hong Kong.
"You shouldn't have been on your flight this morning. Should have been turned away at Customs," he said.
"You don't say?" I replied, trying to take a photo of him.
"Put your camera away!" he ordered.
I was tired, angry at myself for making such a stupid mistake, angry at the airline for not catching my stupid mistake, angry at China for not letting me apply to be in China, while I was already in China.
I decided to mess with Yip Sing a little bit as it was going to be my only entertainment for the weekend. I waited until he'd passed through a complex turnstyle contraption, then I spun around the other way and made a run for it.
Yip Sing shat himself. He was stumbling back through the turnstyle, which doesn't allow people to go the other way. When I turned around and walked back to him, he look terrified.
"Just kidding," I said.
He was not amused.
He bundled me onto the plane. I closed my eyes.
"Hey, wake up now, plane land in Hong Kong. Time to leave plane".
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