So we made a spur of the moment decision to take a few days off and go to Malaysia. By coincidence, I had checked the Air Asia website for flights Kuala Lumpur a few days ago, and they were very inexpensive. Depending on the day and time, round trips from the Shenzhen airport could be found in the $150.00 USD range.
I don’t like doing things on the spur of the moment, but I found a flight on the 19th of July to Kuala Lumpur, a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Penang on July 23, a flight from Penang to Bangkok on July 27, and a flight back to Shenzhen from Bangkok on August 2. Online, the total price quoted came to slightly more than 1468. RMB. I worried that if I had more time to investigate, I could have found cheaper flights.
Of course I can not book a flight using my credit card since it was issued by a non-Chinese bank. Sea has a debit card on a
Chinese bank, but she didn’t want to use it because there was a small additional fee attached to the total price. Sea is very frugal, and what the hell, we weren’t doing anything anyway. So we started walking to the bus stop where we could get on #59 to the Air Asia office.
We stopped at a bank on the way to the bus stop to get some cash. There were 5 ATMs in the lobby. There were signs posted that said only one had any cash in it. The others could be used for inquiries and deposits only. The one that had the money also had a line of about 6 people at it, naturally. We queued up and began our wait. After about 10 minutes only two people had finished their business and the final ATM ran out of money. Had I thought about it, I could have predicted that would happen.
So we walked 3 or 4 blocks to another bank where I was able to withdraw some cash. During our walk, Sea’s daughter called and asked if she could accompany us to Malaysia. We said yes, although I had some reservations. So we went
back and got some more money to cover her ticket as well as a bit more for the extra fees and charges that we would inevitably incur.
We got on the bus and after an hour’s ride we arrived at the Air Asia office. We were next in line. I had written down all the information about our flights, date, numbers, times. It still took us two hours to purchase our tickets.
First of all, I had to write down all the information about the flights I wanted. I handed them the piece of paper I brought with me with everything on it. No, that would not do. I had to re-write everything on “their” piece of paper. It went down hill from there.
I blame most of the stupidity on the Chinese government and their rules about which credit cards can be used, identification requirements, travel restrictions, and all sorts of other stupid and pointless rules. But the Air Asia office was very poorly run as well. Using “their” paper was only a small pert of the inefficiency. The clerks were writing things in loose leaf notebooks and passing them around. The phone rang constantly and
the clerks had to answer and attend to them. They couldn’t seem to get the computers or the printer to be have properly. Sea or I had to look at everything, every step of the way and approve it. People came out from the back room and interrupted the clerk constantly.
Finally the process came to an end. We paid our money and got our vouchers. The price shown on the internet was 1468. each (about $216.00 USD). By the time all the little nit picking fees and charges were tacked on, the tickets came to 1707. each (about $251.00 USD). The biggest add-on was a luggage charge of 60. per ticket each way. Thank god we travel light with only one small suitcase between us. I have no idea what the other charges were about. Sea and the clerk hashed it out between them. By this time I would have happily paid another 100 just to finish the process and get the hell out of the office.
It is amazing how inefficient everything in China seems to be, yet the economy seems to be booming. I can’t imagine how much of a boom there would be if
the regulators and bureaucrats and corrupt government were swept aside.
I told Sea that in most of the world purchasing a air ticket is a 10 minute process done online, using a credit card. She looked at me like I was speaking Klingon, and in a way, I was.
There is an excellent Vietnamese restaurant close to the Air Asia office where I hoped we would have dinner, but by the time we finished our business, my head was aching and my disposition was bad. I was behaving a whiney little baby, and just wanted to go home. So we boarded good ol’ bus # 59 for the 60 minute trip home. From the time we left the house until we got off the bus was more than 5 hours. I am amazed that Sea didn’t seem the least bit upset about this waste of an afternoon.
Before the bus let us off, I noticed a restaurant through the window. It was a little neighborhood place, completely non-fancy, where Sea took me for our first meal together. We had been there many times, but not recently. We decided to have dinner there. It was the best thing that happened all day. Sea had a unique tasting spaghetti for 30 yuan (about $4.50 USD), and I had a hot pepper and chicken stir fry with white rice for 12 yuan (about $1.75 USD). Both dishes came with bowls of cucumber soup and water or tea. I made a mental note to go back there more often.
After dinner we walked 6 or 8 blocks home. Sea bought a bag of peanuts and a couple of Tsingtao beers to make the little child feel better. Between the nice dinner and Sea’s thoughtfulness, it worked. I appreciated her kindness and good disposition.