Travel Day+ to China Oct. 25, 2008

Gene and I left home Saturday morning, October 25, at 3:30AM in order to catch a 6:00AM plane to Chicago on our first leg of our journey to China.  Our plane to Shanghai left Chicago at 10:35AM.  Some 13 1/2 hours later we arrived in Shanghai.  Customs was surprisingly quick and easy, we secured luggage, exchanged US dollars for a wad of Chinese money I have yet to master.  We have traveled long distances before with flights of 8 and 11 hours so the length of this flight wasn’t anything we weren’t prepared for.  The challenge at this point was that we had a layover in Shanghai of 7 hours before being able to fly to Beijing.  Poor choice of connections on my part it seems. I had done research prior to our departure to know that there was a hotel at the airport where we could rent a room by the hour.  This seems to be a popular practice in this part of the world.  The challenge was to find out exactly where the hotel was.

Gene parked me in a seat with all of the bags and set out to find out this information. He spent his life making and understanding maps and he is the best at sorting out this type of information. However, poorly drawn airport graphical representations of the layout and a language barrier can make getting the information you need a challenge. But 3 inquiries later and a walk on his own to find the hotel was successful. Once Gene located the hotel we rented a room for 3 hours.  The room was small but comfortable and decorated in a very modern style.  I never thought that lying down could feel so good.  But after sitting for so long stretching out was wonderful.  The nap was much needed.  So back to the airport terminal and on to the next leg of our trip.“The Glamour of the Road”

Our experience at the ticket counter to acquire our boarding passes to Beijing is one to write about.  I presented our travel information and passports to the ticket agent.  She talks to herself in Chinese almost constantly while looking at her computer screen.  Then there are three phone calls.  She yells at the ticket agent next to her.  There seems to be some issue with our reservation.  I have used American Airlines name in vain a few times in my travels but I just can’t explain in words how AA sounds when used by a Chinese person when they seem to be unhappy with what they are seeing on their computer screen.  Next our ticket agent stands, looks around and yells at someone at another ticket counter several feet away.  Two more phone calls.  Gene and I are looking at each other and concerned that there is a major problem here.  This event lasts about 20 minutes.  All of a sudden, our boarding passes and luggage tags are printed.  Sighs of relief.  1st bag goes through the machine with no problem.  However, there seems to be some issue with 2nd bag.  She says we need to go to the baggage check room at the end of the row of ticket agents.  When the bag has been checked we can come back for our boarding passes.  Now what can be in this bag that is a problem?  Now in the state when the TSA is going to check your bag you are not allowed to touch the bag.  However, in China you are requested to be the one to open it.  She immediately went to Gene’s toiletry bag.  She pulled out his hair spray can and asked what it was.  We explained and she put it back. Next she pulled out his deodorant which is also an aerosol.  We explained that also and all was good.  So we returned to the ticket agent and secured our boarding passes.  More sighs of relief.  Security was very well organized and uneventful.  Our flight was delayed 30 minutes and then off we went to Beijing.

We were surprised by the fact that we de-planed by stairway instead of jet bridge and were taken by bus to the terminal.  But Beijing is a very large airport and a number of large planes were parked in the same area as our and being de-planed in this area.  We retrieved our bags and went to secure transportation.  It is midnight in Beijing.  A daunting thought for travelers that do not speak the local language.  At the taxi line they tried to put us into two different vehicles that were not marked as taxis.  I finally had to say that I wanted a taxi from the taxi line.  Now I have had some pretty wild taxi rides with drivers that want to drive at top speed and just scare you to death.  But I have to say, our driver was a very good driver who drove the speed limit and delivered us to our hotel safely and soundly.  The one recognizable sight we drove by was the Bird’s Nest stadium that you saw during the Olympics.  Cool.

By the time we got into our room the time at home was 12:45PM on Sunday afternoon, October 26.  We had been traveling approximately 34 hours.  Our room at the Marriott Beijing West is wonderful.  The bed and pillows fantastic.  So off to sleep with no alarm for the morning.  It is always good to check into a really nice hotel at the end of a long day of travel.