A 20-hour Journey: London to Beijing to Bangkok

Antics on the flight

The flight from London to Bejing left before midnight yesterday — it’s now just past midnight GMT as I write.

Day 3. Diary date: October 4th, 2019.

Instead of going straight to sleep as two sensible travellers would, we sync up a film on the in-flight entertainment. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them — it’s not very good. An attendant comes round and offers us a choice of soft drinks, beer, and wine. We ask for two beers, and give each other the stare:

They keep coming up and down, offering us ‘Yanjing’ beers — cheers, Air China! So we continue to drink, in the spirit of the Always Sunny in Philadelphia Wade Boggs episode:

Another embarrassing story…

A man wearing a dark-coloured suit walks by, down the aisle. I ask him for a beer. He stares at me with knitted brows and a fair bit of confusion, so I return the glance and point at my Yanjing can. He proceeds to bring over a drink, so I think nothing of it.

Until, later in the flight, I see that same man sitting down in the middle of a row. It dawned on me: he wasn’t even an employee, and yet he’d brought me a drink because I mistook him for one. I felt awful. If you ever read this by some miracle—I apologise indefinitely to you.

At 4 am GMT I wake up from broken and uncomfortable sleep, feeling withdrawn and slightly hungover. The nap translates my brazen drinking into regret-filled pain, taking its revenge too soon.

We’re passing over the Russian mainland and all I can think of—besides the fact that I’d love to visit Russia someday—is the sheer speed of an aircraft. 650 mph! 80mph feels intense enough in a car when you take a moment to think about it.

Back to sleep.

The flight is 9 hours 45 minutes, and we manage to put most of the second half away behind closed eyes. We arrive in Beijing at 15:25 local time, which is 7 hours ahead of London. The security is fairly relaxed because we’re only entering the transfer area of the airport.

I wish we could leave and look around Beijing—I’ve never been to China before—but we’re not allowed, and logistically wouldn’t have time anyway. S gets through despite his, uh, convictions. Everyone does have to register themselves on a biometric scanner and get a receipt to show security, though

Picture overlooking Beijing airport runways
Beijing airport runways

We eat some potato noodles at an unsuspecting food place and S gives me some basic chopstick lessons. Nothing eventful happens — I just keep wishing we could explore outside. We manage to get some more sleep on some metal chairs. Our flight is delayed by one hour. 5 hours later…

We arrive in Bangkok.

The first thing we do is use airport WiFi to download Grab — the most essential app in Southeast Asia!—and go to our hostel. It’s gone midnight local time and nothing seems to be happening in our neighbourhood Khlong San. We head to 7/11 for the first time and eat a wide variety of Thai snacks, then watch some YouTube while messaging everyone back home to let them know we’ve arrived safely.

I’m hoping that jet lag won’t affect us too badly—tomorrow will be our first day of properly exploring Bangkok. We have no plan or itinerary, and no time frame to abide by. We can truly do whatever we feel like. I’m exhausted, but feeling liberated. Time to sleep—it’s 5 am.

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