Monday 21st March – China – Day One

As predicted, didn’t sleep. But we were up and in our right minds (well, pretty much) and on the quayside just after 9am. They were not there to meet us. Last time, they were ready and waiting, so this was immediately worrying. We waited for a while, and then we rang them. ‘Stuck in traffic – on the way’. So we sat in the UNHEATED terminal (it’s 9 degrees Celsius today) and waited. For TWO HOURS. By which time, we had lost patience. It’s a three-hour drive into Beijing (and three hours back!), and time was running out. Constant phone calls back and forth produced nothing. And we knew there was no traffic to be stuck in, because the shuttle buses were going and returning in SHORTER times than we had been led to expect. By 11am, we were beyond angry, so we told them to cancel, and we would spend the day without them. If I hear the phrase “20 km away” ever again, I will not be held responsible for my actions.

Anyway, long story short, we took the shuttle bus into Tianjin, where P&O, unsurprisingly, took us to a shopping mall. Pleasant enough, if you have no desire to see the rest of the place. But, as P&O thought so little of this town, they didn’t even bother to mention it, except as a gateway to Beijing, we have no idea what we may or may not have missed. Mind you, they didn’t seem to care, either. No one ever offered us a map, or anything. There were some taxis offering tours, but it was a bit unclear of what, exactly. The entire port was silent. Nothing moved. It takes 45 minutes to drive out of the port and into town, so that’s a big place to have nothing happening in it. Frankly, this whole place seems deserted. We saw no one, other than a few people tending the roadside verges and some people in the mall buying nothing and ignoring their children. Meh *shrug*. We wandered, we found some EXCELLENT Chinese food, with which we stuffed ourselves silly at four quid a head, and then we went back to the ship.

I’m skipping the continuous phone calls and texts from the tour people that persisted through most of the morning and early afternoon, including several asking where we were! “I’ve been here at the port for 40 minutes” said one of the text messages. Really? Talk to me when you’ve been sat there for two hours, love, or maybe speak to your boss?! How you turning up at 11:30 for a 9am appointment makes us not being there any more OUR fault, I never did quite establish…

We tried to suggest that we simply abandon today, and reverse our plans, so that we do the things we intended to do today tomorrow, instead. But Jasper absolutely refused. He said the only way to do that would be if we were on the quayside at 6am, or else do it this afternoon. WTF?! Are you kidding me?! How can you do it in 5 hours this afternoon, but not in 10 hours tomorrow?! At this point, we realised he was an idiot, and we hung up.  You cannot hold an intelligent conversation with someone that deranged.

Turns out that the competent one, who organised everything so beautifully for us last time (Tracy), is away on holiday. So, this is my advice. I have recommended China Travel Key in the past, for the wonderful trip they provided for us on our last visit to Beijing. We have frequently recommended them, including just two days ago on board here. But if you cannot deal with Tracy from start to finish, DON’T BOTHER. The rest of them are a bunch of lying incompetents who don’t give a rat’s behind if they ruin your holiday. They will say ANYTHING by way of an excuse, even if it is such manifest gibberish that I cannot even bring myself to type it. You would not believe some of the stuff Jasper came out with. I was embarrassed for him.

As we waited for the shuttle bus back, we got talking with a taxi driver, who spoke pretty good English. He was more than happy to do the things we wanted to do tomorrow. And for less money. So he will be picking us up at 9am, and I will report back how it goes.

He also told us why the residential blocks of flats opposite the mall had some windows boarded up and hoardings all around the bases. Apparently, they were built on the cheap and the windows have a tendency to EXPLODE every so often. Entire blocks have had to be evacuated until it can be sorted out. Wowzer. That’s a flaw and a half.

Bed early. Stressful day doesn’t even begin to describe it.

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