China is developing their aviation industry in big steps. A lot of this was displayed at the China Air Show 2018 at Zhuhai. And we were there to witness it all. China has a lot to offer to aviation enthusiasts, and whilst we don’t see base visits or regular air shows happening for the foreseeable future, it certainly wasn’t 4Aviation’s first outing to China. Having said that, this was the second time we ventured to the China Air Show in Zhuhai, a venue comparable with Le Bourget and Farnborough, to name just two.
The first surprise for the group who had decided to travel with us to Beijing presented itself at the very beginning, at Schiphol on Tuesday 6 November. For the regular traveller the red-and-white meeting point in the central hall is as common as can be, so it can be quite confusing realising you are actually at the right spot but with the large white and red blocks gone. Despite this, the group had no problems meeting up and we were off to Beijing on time, with a comfortable transfer at Frankfurt. By the time our Air China Boeing landed at Beijing Capital Airport it was early Wednesday morning (7 November). It took quite some time for part of the group to pass the Chinese immigration, not that we had any troubles, but… it just took time. So much even that our waiting luggage had even almost been moved off to the lost luggage section, if it hadn’t been for a couple of our guys who were paying attention and were able to prevent this. Also, in the meantime our Chinese tour guide who would accompany us during our stay in Beijing had been getting worried about our no-showing. But everything worked out in the end, and by the time we could board the waiting coach the group was almost complete (one last member was about to join us at the Datangshan museum) and ready for action. Unfortunately, one piece of luggage had not arrived, and it would take several days and a lot of effort before it would be reunited with its owner. First stop: Datangshan (or “Xiaotangshanzhen” in the new translation), the huge PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) museum, renowned for its rows of “MiGs” and other rare aircraft. Susan, our Chinese guide, had no idea what to expect, we were certainly not anything like any other “Beijing tourists” she had ever met! She thought 90 minutes would be enough for the museum, we quickly changed that to 4 hours! Also, she was a bit worried how to guide the group through the museum and was very relieved when we explained to her that “aircraft photographers don’t need to be guided here, they just split up and race off in all directions, in a cloud of dust!” Four hours is really the minimum amount of time to spend here. Fortunately, the weather was good, if a bit chilly, and at first there wasn’t a big crowd. That changed when busloads of school kids arrived, all wearing yellow, and all jumping at the unexpected chance to (try) talking English to foreigners. And have their photo taken with them. It is safe to say many 4Aviation travellers are now featured in the photo collection of many more Chinese teenagers…
Time to do some real tourism. The Great Wall should not be missed, specially not when you’re only an hour drive away. We went to the Mutianyu section, which is a bit further away than the more popular Badaling section, but with much less visitors. Yes, it is still a touristic destination, with shops, restaurants (note: the Subway restaurant is not a real Subway!) and a cable car going all the way up the mountain and to the Great Wall. We were treated with splendid views and almost no other tourists. Those amongst us who fancied a good hike over a section of the wall had 90 minutes to do so, a rewarding walk indeed! After our visit to the wall it was about time to have dinner, fortunately our guide knew of a “very good” restaurant nearby. And it actually was, both nearby and pretty good. Ordering food and drinks took a little while, but once that was accomplished our two round tables were stacked with tasty food and beverages in no time. Last fact of the day was getting to our Beijing hotel and checking in. After finally everyone was in the room he or she was supposed to be in, it was goodnight and sleep well after a looooongggg day.