A little over a year ago, I passed through Wuhan Airport, on the way to somewhere else, spending the night there at the Wuhan TianHe Airport Hotel. I wrote copious notes at the time and it’s about time I shared the experience.
Finding The Wuhan TianHe Airport Hotel
I had a booking at the Wuhan TianHe Airport Hotel. After arriving at the airport, I asked for directions in broken Chinese: Wuhan Tianhe feijicheng jiudian zai na ma? I was pointed in the direction of the hotel.
I walked in that direction (in the rain) looking for the hotel. There were several buildings that may have been hotels, but there was no identifying sign that told me I’d found the Wuhan TianHe Airport Hotel.
After walking for 5 minutes (further than it should have been from the description on the Internet), I gave up and hailed a taxi to take me there. The taxi driver was very friendly and wouldn’t take me – instead he pointed to a building a couple of hundred metres back down the road towards the airport. I’d walked right past it.
There was no English sign (ie Wuhan TianHe Airport Hotel). There was no Tian (one of the few Chinese characters I can read) in the Chinese sign. When I went inside there was nothing to identify it as the TianHe hotel either. To top it off their business cards had a different hotel name on them.
Now thoroughly confused, I phoned someone who could speak Chinese and got them to talk to the hotel staff (I really need to learn Chinese). Sure enough, it turned out to be the Wuhan TianHe Airport Hotel and they had my reservation in their computer.
I have no idea why they didn’t have the English name on a sign – I know it’s China and they don’t have to have an English sign, but most businesses do and I made the reservation on a website targeting English speakers. At the very least, I would have thought there’d be the Chinese character for Tian.
Anyway, this is just how things go in China sometimes. They don’t always make sense.
If you’re ever looking for the hotel, turn left along the service road (on the same side of the road as the airport) and it’s pretty much the first large building you come across.
Killing Time At Wuhan Airport
By the time I’d settled in to the hotel, it was about 2:30pm. My connecting flight wasn’t until the next morning, so I had an afternoon (and night) to kill. I thought I’d see what there was to do.
I found that there’s really nothing to do at Wuhan Airport.
Actually, I thought that would be the case – in fact, I specifically opted for a hotel at the airport, rather than take the hour long cab ride into town. I’d been working pretty hard and had plenty of catch up reading to do, so I thought an afternoon relaxing would be better than the cab ride.
Well, even I was taken aback. I thought that there would at least be a restaurant open, where I could I get something to eat and maybe sit and read for a while. It turns out that Wuhan Airport is one of the very few places in China where there are no restaurants! This in a country where you are never more than a couple of minutes walk from a restaurant!!
To be fair, it was 2:30pm, which is long after the time most Chinese have lunch. The hotel restaurant probably would have been open if I’d been earlier. Also, there are restaurants inside the airport, beyond security, but they’re only for checked in passengers. I had to settle for buying some pot noodles in the airport shop. At least they provided boiling water and there were some tables and chair where I could sit and read.
After lunch? I thought I might try to find an Internet café (once again something you can find throughout China). Not at Wuhan Airport. After that it was back to the hotel for a sleep. Waking up just in time for dinner, I was relieved to find that the hotel restaurant was open!
After checking in for my connecting flight the following morning, I noticed that they had several racks of phone chargers in the terminal.
There were phone chargers for many different makes and models of mobile phones – you just walk up, find the correct plug for your phone and plug it in. It’s a great idea and one I haven’t seen anywhere besides Wuhan Airport.
It just goes to show how much the Chinese value their mobile phones. I’ve never seen a country where so much importance is placed on the mobile phone. The downside is that people don’t turn their phones off on the plane, even when the air hostesses tell them they have to turn them off. In China, rules are often more like rough guidelines…
Leave Catherine at home
While in the queue to present my passport at Wuhan Airport, I noticed a sign saying “Please don’t bring any catherine or firecrackers on board the aircraft”. Too bad if your name is Catherine!
I guess they mean catherine wheels? They probably should just have used fireworks to cover everything. Another fine example of Chinglish which is slowly and sadly disappearing.
Watch The Departures Screen Like A Hawk!
Here’s some advice for people waiting to board at Wuhan Airport: watch the Departures screen like a hawk! For my flight, the boarding gate changed several times, without any verbal announcement.
I’d been sitting reading and having a drink. 15 minutes had passed since I’d last checked the screen. When I checked again, I found that not only had a) the gate changed again; and b) they’d started boarding; they were onto the final call. I had to move quickly not to miss the flight.
If I hadn’t been checking the screen, I’d probably still be sitting in Wuhan Airport! Don’t rely on verbal announcements and keep a close eye on the Departures screen.
Small Regional Airports
On my return journey, I left from a small regional airport. Check-in didn’t open until one hour before departure and it closed only 15 minutes before take off. Security was minimal, in stark contrast to most airports around the world.
In fact, the airport put me in mind of the airport at Gladstone (QLD, Australia), where I worked for a time. I guess small regional airports are similar the world over. Well almost. This airport didn’t have any water in the toilet hand-basins.
Collect Your Bags
One very sensible thing they do at airports in China, is to check that your baggage claim ticket stub matches the one on your baggage. I’ve never seen this anywhere else in the world. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen anywhere else, but certainly in Brisbane or London, you can just pick up anyone’s luggage and leave with it.
In most places, the baggage ticket is just to track down lost luggage. In China it’s used to prevent theft or people accidentally taking the wrong bag (which happened to me at Heathrow). All in all, it seems a very sensible system.
Don’t Let The Passengers Open The Doors
On one of the flights on the journey, I sat in the row with the emergency exit onto the wing. The air hostess came to me and started to explain something (in English – all air hostesses have been taught English).
Having sat in similar positions on planes in other parts of the world, I was expecting to be told that I would have to open the exit if instructed to do so in the case of an emergency, and that if I didn’t want this responsibility, I should move.
I was a little taken aback when I was actually told to make sure that the passengers didn’t open the door! That must be more common than emergency landings in China!
Travelling in China is always interesting. My time at Wuhan Airport was just one of many trips, but in most cases, I forget the interesting things I experience. I’m glad I recorded this trip and that I can share them now.
Have you experienced something interesting while travelling in China? If so, share it!