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China in the times of Swine Flu

Beijing Travel Blog

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Flying over Siberia

 

 

Yes, I got quarantined for 12 hours but for some of my travel companions the “imprisonment” lasted 7 days which was almost half of our precious vacation time. I guess we learned that it is probably better not to go to China during a Flu Pandemic.

 

Flu issues aside the trip was fantastic.

21 members of our church have been planning this trip for over a year. We were going to visit Beijing, Xian, Yichang where we will take a cruise on the mighty Yang Tse river and visit the 3 major gorges disembarking in Chonqing and then going to Guilin and finally to Shanghai.

Marble boat

We were very excited when we met at DFW airport, the trip ahead was a long one, 3 hours DFW to San Francisco, California and then 11 hours to Beijing. I was traveling business class so I was not to upset about the long trip, I knew I was going to have enough to drink and eat and movies to pass the time, not to mention a comfortable seat to sleep and may be sleep some more.

Anyhow, the first part of the trip was uneventful, my flight on United Airlines was not too impressive, my favorite part was flying over Siberia, wow, what a view.

As we were descending into Beijing airport I noticed the roofs of the houses painted blue, that caught my attention, later I would learn that it is the color that represents heaven and a big favorite for roof color.

 

As we landed, we were told that Chinese health officials were going to board the plane and take our temperature, so everyone had to stay in their seats until they give final clearance to the plane.

Forbiden City
My seat was right in front of the door, so it was almost surreal when the flight attendant open the door, a group of may be 20 Chinese health officials boarded the plane, they were dressed in full protective gear, we could only see their eyes behind masks, they started pointing their temperature guns to the flight crew’s foreheads and then move onto the passengers. As they pointed at my fellow passengers I grabbed my camera to snap some shots of the action, but one of them turn and yelled something in Chinese to me, more from the body language I concluded that I was not supposed to take photos so, you have to take my word for it. So they continued taking our temperature with the gun, (considering the alternatives to this procedure, I was glad they had the guns!).

After a few minutes, we were cleared, authorized the get out of the plane, and were ushered into immigration, the entire personnel at the Beijing airport were wearing masks, later as we walked we realized that there were more temperature scanners posted trough the airport, those will scan groups of us as we walked by.

We all made it out of the airport and met our tour guides who took us in a bus to our hotel, The Beijing Crown Plaza hotel, located in downtown at the center of a very commercial touristy spot.

Pekin Duck banquet

The following day, it was raining continuously, not heavy but enough to slow us down and make sightseeing hard, I personally enjoy rainy days, so except for not being able to take good pictures I enjoyed the day. We visited the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.  Both wonderful, so full of history.

When we came back to our hotel, we were going to rest and then go to a Peking duck banquet, but when we got to the hotel we had bad news awaiting, we were told that someone on our plane the day before turned out to be developing symptoms suspicious for Swine Flu and that they were collecting all passengers traveling in the vicinity of that passenger. In our group of 21 people, 10 were determined to be close enough to that passenger and they were going to be picked up by the Health Department and taken into a hotel where it would be determined if they were going to remain in quarantined or set free.

I don’t need to tell you what I felt as they started reading the list of people whose vacation was going to be over a day after arrival.

Panda at the Beijing Zoo
My name was not on the list, so I was OK thus far. Nevertheless, very sad for those on the list.

For those on the list, they had to go to their rooms, pick up their belonging and later were picked up on ambulances and taken to a quarantine hotel; later they will find out that the person on our flight had the Swine Flu so they will stay in quarantine for 7 days. At any time if they develop fever they will be transported from that hotel into an actual hospital.

 

Our group was only 11 now, we stayed in contact with friends, family and co-parishioners from home via Facebook and to make a distinction between both groups, we were the group of the FIG 11 (free) vs. the group of the FIG 10 (in captivity). FIG is a nickname for our beloved church, The Episcopal Church of the TransFIGuration.

 

The rest of the time in Beijing we had better weather with no rain.

Panda's ears
Highlights on our time there included visit to the Beijing Zoo and their main attraction, the Panda Bears, cute as they can be, Climbing the great Wall of China, visit to the temple of Heaven, Visit and Walk trough the sacred way and of course visit to all the Olympic building and new development in that area.

 

Beijing is massive, but I will later realize everything in China is, skyscrapers go on and on for miles and miles, traffic is chaotic but somehow it seems organized, they excellent ultramodern highways, all signs are in Chinese and English.

 

After 4 nights in Beijing we boarded a flight to Yichang where we were going to board a cruise on the Yang Tse River.

Panda

We arrived to Yichang, uneventfully and after touring the city and museum of Yichang we went to board our cruise which will be home for the next 4 days.

We arrived to the cruise late evening after having dinner in town. The ship was a medium size boat with capacity of around 250 passengers and crew.  On the ship, we took possession of our cabins and met the crew on a welcome cocktail.

We were tired so we went to bed early… while I was already sleeping probably around midnight, the speakerphone in our rooms awaken us with an important announcement saying that we were urged to gather in the main dining room for an important update.

When we got to the dining room, surprise again!!!! The Chinese health official in full protective gear strike again!,

The announcement was made that someone on the previous crew who left the ship earlier was suspected to have swine flu, so, we were going to be taken to a hotel for our own protection, so we were asked to go back to our cabins, gather our belongings and congregate again in the main lobby in order to be evacuated from the ship and taken to the hotel.

Forbiden City

We got to the quarantine hotel around 2 am. My room was OK, and had internet access, so immediately posted on Facebook that the FIG 11 were now in limbo awaiting for a decision to be made, we were going to be released in the next few hours or in 7 days. People at home started replying right away as it was the middle of the afternoon in the USA.

Next day we had breakfast and met our fellow quarantinees. There were other people from the United States, Canada and Australia as well as several Chinese nationals.

We had breakfast and tea and no coffee to be found anywhere, so I never really woke up completely.

Later that morning we were notified that we were going to be released… Aleluya!; the health department decided to quarantine the crew of the ship and we were going to be allowed to go back to the ship with a fresh crew and after the cruise ship undergoes an sterilization process.

Delicatessen on the streets of Beijing, (Tempting but i did not try)

 

 

 

giotravel says:
Definitevely, the other group had it real bad, our experience was bad, but at least it was short!
Posted on: Aug 03, 2009
X_Drive says:
That certainly was no picnic for even you let alone the group held for so long. So they had to go through that.
Posted on: Aug 03, 2009
montecarlostar says:
OMG Giovanni!! This is terrible! I'm glad it was only 7 hours... I had heard a story about some mexican people who experienced something similar, and they complained about the bad treatment they received. I think they were a lot more paranoid about the flu over there than anywhere else...
Posted on: Jun 29, 2009
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Flying over Siberia
Flying over Siberia
Marble boat
Marble boat
Forbiden City
Forbiden City
Pekin Duck banquet
Pekin Duck banquet
Panda at the Beijing Zoo
Panda at the Beijing Zoo
Pandas ears
Panda's ears
Panda
Panda
Forbiden City
Forbiden City
Delicatessen on the streets of Bei…
Delicatessen on the streets of Be…
Catholic Church, Beijing
Catholic Church, Beijing
Our Hotel, Crown Plaza, Beijing
Our Hotel, Crown Plaza, Beijing
Great Wall
Great Wall
Great Wall
Great Wall
Great wall
Great wall
Giovanni
Giovanni
Giovanni in the great wall
Giovanni in the great wall
TGWOC
TGWOC
Great indeed!
Great indeed!
Up Up Up
Up Up Up
TGWOC
TGWOC
Giovanni and Mikey, we made it!
Giovanni and Mikey, we made it!
Great wall
Great wall
Roof details
Roof details
Yhe sacred way
Yhe sacred way
Birds nest
Birds nest
Tianamen square
Tianamen square
Tianamen square
Tianamen square
Tianamen square
Tianamen square
Temple of heaven
Temple of heaven
Temple of heaven
Temple of heaven
Roof details
Roof details
Gary, our tour guide.
Gary, our tour guide.
On the park
On the park
Thjis is the quanrantine hotel wer…
Thjis is the quanrantine hotel we…
Flight to Yichang
Flight to Yichang
Breakfast in quarantine hotel
Breakfast in quarantine hotel
View from my quarantine hotel
View from my quarantine hotel
View from my room
View from my room
Quarantine hotel
Quarantine hotel
Our cruise ship on the Yang Tse ri…
Our cruise ship on the Yang Tse r…
cruising the Yang Tse
cruising the Yang Tse
Gorges
Gorges
The gorges on the Yang Tse
The gorges on the Yang Tse
Cruising the Yang Tse
Cruising the Yang Tse
Gorges
Gorges
Giovanni, gorges
Giovanni, gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Yang Tse
Yang Tse
Chinese boat
Chinese boat
Giovanni and Deb
Giovanni and Deb
Giovanni and Deb
Giovanni and Deb
sailing on the mini gorges
sailing on the mini gorges
Sailing on the minigorges
Sailing on the minigorges
Mini gorges
Mini gorges
Pagoda on the Yang tse river
Pagoda on the Yang tse river
Exploring
Exploring
Gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Gorges
Pedestrian bridge
Pedestrian bridge
Old Army post
Old Army post
Explorin old army post
Explorin old army post
Old Army post
Old Army post
Old army post
Old army post
Old army post,
Old army post,
into Fengdu
into Fengdu
Fengdu ot ghost city
Fengdu ot ghost city
Ghost city of Fengdu
Ghost city of Fengdu
Ghost city
Ghost city
Ghost city of Fengdu
Ghost city of Fengdu
she wants out
she wants out
Fengdu
Fengdu
Evil spirits
Evil spirits
Ghost city
Ghost city
Ghost city
Ghost city
Beijing International Airport
Beijing International Airport
Forbiden City
Forbiden City
Arriving at  Beijing International…
Arriving at Beijing Internationa…
Beijing International Airport
Beijing International Airport
Summer Palace
Summer Palace
994 km (618 miles) traveled
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photo by: Deats