Somehow the gods of travel, who usually enjoy watching me suffer, had one of their rare bouts of whimsey and decided to ruin future journeys by upgrading me to first class.
As in waiting in the President's Suite,with free copies of The Economist and a tawny port. As in fully reclinable seats bigger than my comfy chair at home. Hard not to love it—and I love those cloth napkins with the button hole in them.
My iPod's charge lasted the whole flight (yay G5!) and my seat-mate was charming, although the seats were so big, we had to shout a bit to conversate.
So the 16 hour flight was a cakewalk. It was the 4.5 hour shuttle bus from Hong Kong airport to GuangZhou that killed me. I assumed "shuttle bus to the hotel" meant 20 minutes, an hour tops. That was without reckoning on the two border stops where all 50 passengers had to disembark and be processed—once with all baggage.
It's not that the PRC officials were unfriendly, they seemed overwhelmed more than anything else, and any traveler in the US these days has worse tales of bureaucratic friction. I just seemed to pick lines with high percentages of problem documents—including my own 7-year-old passport with a far heavier, far hairier me. Big laughs explaining "very old picture."
But I'm here now, ready for some hi-fi insanity. And that's going to make it all worthwhile.