Well, technically, it’s not a new continent to me, but since it is to a majority of our family, we will call it new. Our first flight was from Los Angeles to Xiamen, China and I was dreading a 14 hour flight with 2 three year olds, let alone the 4 other kids. The flight started with dinner (that not one child ate) and then it was lights out. The twins slept for at least 6 hours (not all at once) so I call that a win! The rest of the time they watched shows, and played with a toy here and there. Robert and I got very little sleep but we are grown ups, right? We can handle it, right? (The answer is no, no, we can’t handle it and there were moments of frustration and incoherence). The other girlies grew cranky after about 10 hours in the air, but still made it. So all in all, no one fell out of the plane, no one threw a temper tantrum, and we all got off the plane.
When we arrived and picked up our strollers, we were introduced to the quirks of the small, seemingly new, and unfinished Xiamen Airport. First, I have to say all of the crew from the airplane and the people at the airport for the most part were super kind and helpful. The first quirk we encountered was that there is no flat way to get from the airplane to immigration, only escalators. So we had crew helping with the carry ons and the babies as we tried to get 8 people, 16 carry ons, and two strollers down escalators. We thought immigration would be non-existent for us because we were never leaving the airport before our connecting flight. We were wrong. We went through immigration and were questioned, fingerprinted and had our pictures taken. They wanted each child to go through alone which is laughable for a three year old, but we did our very best to get through with a minimum of fuss. One thing that was interesting – the immigration agents could not come to a consensus about whether Hong Kong (our next destination) was international or not. One point of view was that it is part of China, so not international. The other point of view was that since you have to go to the international terminal to fly there and Hong Kong luggage is checked through, unlike domestic luggage, then it is international. Thankfully they let us leave immigration before a consensus was reached, I am assuming they have worked that out by now. Customs was also a little different than other airports. Usually with customs you walk through the “nothing to declare” lane and they stop you or don’t based on different things. In Xiamen, when you entered the “nothing to declare” lane you then have to put all your luggage and belongings through security scanners, one at a time. Very time consuming.
As far as layovers go, 13 hours is pretty long no matter how many people you have with you, but when you have 6 kids it is SOOOOOOOOOOOO long. We were able to wait in a lounge that had comfy chairs, converted plugs and snacks, but still a LOOOONG time. There weren’t many shops and no one spoke English. I really didn’t expect a lot of English because Xiamen isn’t really a big place and it doesn’t get a lot of stopovers from western countries. I am sure that if we had stopped at Beijing airport, there would be signs in English and some employees that knew a little. Thankfully, Robert knows Mandarin and he was able to get us what we needed, that combined with the fact that the twins slept for a few more hours made things bearable.
As we boarded (finally!) our hour long flight to Hong Kong (finally!) Robert and I had been awake for over 25 hours. There was food service, the kids slept more and we were there. Immigration (because we were coming from a foreign country ?!?) was a breeze in Hong Kong and so was customs and just like that, we were in a cab to our hotel. When we finally arrived, checked in, got all of our luggage up to our rooms (which was up to Robert because I had several crying children), I had been awake for 29 hours. Talk about the sleep of the just – it was 9:30pm and I was out. I slept until 3:00am when the twins decided they had had enough sleep and started to bounce on my head.
It was a crazy, nauseating, whirlwind experience and we don’t have make that trek again for a year. Maybe. Who knows…