Some don’t know this, but Beijing actually has two public airports. Everyone has heard of Beijing Capital Airport on the northeast side of town, which has the huge new terminal built to handle the influx of travelers for the 2008 Olympics. But did you know there was also another airport on the south side of Beijing?
The southern airport is called Nan Yuan Fei Jie Chong, and it was once a military airport. When I first started using that airport several years ago it had some amazing charm to it. One of the most interesting things about it was how a tractor with a flatbed trailer would haul the luggage, unloaded by hand, to a barn. The people would walk into the barn, and then the tractor would bring in the luggage. From there, you would exit into a parking lot, where you would argue and negotiate prices with a group of taxi drivers. Believe it or not, it really was a lot of fun going back and forth with those guys. It would always end with laughter, a couple of pats on the back, and a thumbs up. Another interesting thing about this airport was how you would see old military plans parked around the airport.
Now this airport has undergone massive renovations, and unfortunately, it has lost some of the charm it once had. Your luggage now comes into the terminal on a conveyor belt, so no more barn and tractor. Also, most of the vintage military plans have been moved. Additionally, there is an orderly system of getting a taxi now, and you don’t have to negotiate with the taxi drivers.
The terminal itself is now much larger and more modern. There are several gates now where there was once only a couple, and there are many shops within the airport where there once were none that I remember. Ahhh, I guess this is progress!
One of the more interesting things that is still consistent with the updated facility is the loading process. You still exit the terminal’s gate, get on a bus, and drive on the tarmac where you board your plane via portable steps! It truly is an interesting process to enjoy!