The Air China flight to Beijing was very uneventful, if relatively comfortable. It arrived in Beijing on time. Even before the arrival, the airline prepares their passengers for the immigration formalities by handing out the appropriate forms and showing instructional films for them. It’s clear that China is not only a communist dictatorship, but can also look back on a tradition of thousands of years of bureaucracy.
I already had a visa for China. But I still had to fill out an Arrival Card, a Customs Declaration Form, and a Health Declaration Form. None are really complicated, and my neighbor on the plane told me not to be overly honest on the customs form. In the end, the few gifts I had brought would not remain, as the form put it, “in the territory”, as they would be carried on to Japan: so I told my conscience to go to sleep.
I wasn’t so surprised to learn that it was illegal to bring “deadly poisons” into China. I guess I should also have expected that it’s illegal to bring any printed materials, pictures, videos, or digital media into China that would be ‘dangerous’ to the country’s economic, political, cultural or moral well-being. Can someone please explain what that encompasses? All my belongings, including books, were apolitical, but could someone get arrested who carried a magazine that included an article critical of, say, Mao?
I hate dictatorships.
Another item I was surprised to learn was illegal to import into China: Used clothes. All of mine were fresh and clean, but is a returning Chinese really supposed to hand in his dirty socks at the Quarantine desk? I rarely come back to Germany with a suitcase full of clean clothes.
Anyway. The plane landed, and thus equipped with my filled out forms I entered China. The queue at the immigration check was insane. But, as predicted, nobody cared about my health form (empty) or my customs declaration form. They didn’t even pay me a second look.
I did have to pick up my luggage. And then check it in again. Beijing is not a transfer airport. It’s actually pretty easy to find all the required places, but it’s still a lot of hassle. I guess it saves them the customs / immigrations checks at other airports, but, well, it’s still very annoying, and I could imagine a big problem if you are in a hurry to catch a connecting flight. I seriously doubt the entire process can be done in less than 30 minutes (if there are no queues anywhere). Took me closer to an hour I think.
So I only had to catch the connecting flight to Qingdao. Waiting for it was interesting, because I was one of the very few European guys there. There were two or three people that looked like business travelers, and one small group of people consisting of a very fat guy with a really skinny Chinese girlfriend, and what appeared to be his two friends. Couldn’t help but wonder what she saw in him.
Boarding the flight to Qingdao meant going out on the airfield (a bus brought us to the plane). As I had expected, there was a haze all over the airport. No, not fog; Good old pollution. Yes, the stories are true, and yes, it’s worse than Jakarta. I would be back in Beijing later