I had to come. I didn’t have to, but I knew I would need to sooner or later and I didn’t want to have to hear about it from other people and sift through their superlatives, imagining what it was really like. I had my flight all picked out, departing for Shenzhen this morning from the same Beijing airport I’d already departed from two hundred times before. And while I was fiddling around with departure times on the Trip.com website I saw the new code listed: PKX for the brand-spankin’-new airport – Daxing.
I’ve considered the arrival of this new airport for a while now. I suppose most people in Beijing have, as well. If I had surplus millions to play with, the south west of the city, near Langfang, in Hebei would have been a brilliant place to buy real estate, as all the area around here and the entire, erstwhile neglected southern part of the northern capital, will now inevitably change and develop quickly as a result. The ride out to Beijing Capital Airport would only have been thirty-minutes while the trip to Daxing, according to the mapping app, would be a full hour and a half. The only flight they had to Shenzhen on Air China, the airline I’m handcuffed to here in the mainland, was at 9:00AM. Ahh, but it’s Sunday, I wouldn’t be in a rush, and I was curious, so decided to make the purchase.
This morning, at 6:00AM when I keyed in “Beijing Daxing Airport” to the DiDi app, the destination itself didn’t populate, neither in English nor Chinese.. Oh dear. I wondered if I hadn’t made a mistake and perhaps it wasn’t yet officially opened. I chose the “Beijing, Daxing Airport Customs Bureau Office, which appeared to be nearby, instead. I asked the driver if he’d ever been. “Nope.” “Me neither.” I replied. A foggy morning, we drove south along the eastern Fourth Ring Road and then on to the city’s new, Airport Expressway.
I’m sitting now in the Air China lounge over in the C section of this gigantic starfish. My gate is a what appears to be a huge distance from here, in the A Concourse. The airport itself is astoundingly large. Everything smells like it’s from a showroom, with the plastic only off from a few hours back. I feel as though I’m in the world’s biggest, newest, emptiest mall five floors of shops and tremendous, high ceilings, curved support beams and light streaming in from everywhere. I like everyone else, am pausing to take photos, every chance I get. My iPhone can’t capture the enormity of it all, I realize, as I send photos off to my mom. The lounge I’m in, is apparently a twenty-minute talk to the gate. This is obviously not Air China’s home airport. So, I’ll need to go now. They’ve already started boarding. Not sure when I’ll be back again to Daxing, but certainly, I now have some superlatives for others to sift through.