During the first third of our trip, Marcus and I were still planning out the last third of the trip. That was by design, so that we could alter our itinerary significantly if I wasn't feeling well and needed to spend more time exploring America rather than Asia. More on that subject later.
Several weeks into our trip, though, things were looking good and we decided to keep moving East as we hoped and make the full trip around the world, flying home from Japan. We'd waivered heavily on whether we should try to get to Bhutan during our trip -- it's supposed to be magical but it's also extremely expensive, with a $200/person/day visa. You get room and board included in your visa, but nonetheless. We decided not to force the situation. That gave us a little bit of extra space in our itinerary, and, looking at flights home from Japan, it was apparent that it was cheapest to fly home by connecting back through China.
It was too late to get a visa for China, but they allow visa-free extended stopovers for people making international connections. So we thought "sounds fun!" We had a plan! Or we thought we did.
This morning, we arrived at the airport in Osaka to start our 3+ day journey home with an extended stopover in Beijing. We had our hotel, our tickets to see the Peking Acrobats, and my shoes were ready to take their last hike before retirement -- on the Great Wall. Alas, it was not meant to be.
We checked in for our flight, got through immigration, customs, and security, picked up some breakfast, and headed to our gate. But when it came time to board, the attendants wouldn't let us on the plane. A debate had occurred between the Air China staff, the Japan Airlines staff (who were running the flight on behalf of Air China), and Beijing Immigration as to how the stopover would be counted. Some folks calculated it as a 61-hour stopover and some counted it as a 73-hour stopover, even though we'd be on Chinese soil for less than that amount of time. Beijing uses its own rules that are different from other cities in China and recently changed those rules. It also has a different time limit than other cities in China. Needless to say, many websites have not updated their information about this subject! The official word was that they considered our stopover to be 1 hour too long, and therefore we were barred from entering the country entirely and our tickets were cancelled. With no refund.
I guess we did ask for an adventure. :) While I am peeved at China and think they're dumb for throwing out the money we would have spent in their country, I also know that the US has the most intensive, strict, and unrelenting rules of any country in the world. We have spent our summer bopping around from country to country across 2 continents without any hassle. Meanwhile, all we've talked about is how much trouble it's going to be getting back into our own country. We have Global Reentry, which speeds up the process of getting back into the US. But between the invasive questioning and searches of your luggage and body -- and now, laptops, phones, and social media accounts, too -- the US takes the cake. And, lately, our civil rights along with it.
The good news is that Marcus and I were able to book another flight home, and we'll arrive a few days earlier than anticipated. It's not the way we hoped to wrap up our international travels, but c'est la vie. We built in 2 weeks of "staycation" to the end of our trip so that we can get unpacked, clean our house, turn over our roommates, work on some personal projects, and get ready to go back to work again. We'll just be getting started with this next part of our mini-retirement a little bit early.
Stay tuned with us through this last stretch -- we have dozens of videos still to post and at least 1-2 more blogs coming!