06 June 2009

safe and sound in Shanghai

I’m writing this at 10.21pm, on Saturday, 6 June.  We’ve just arrived in our rooms and have settled in for the evening.  The journey was long, but good company made it pass quickly.

LA:  This morning (5 June, technically), Sarah and I had a nice breakfast together before she dropped me off at the airport.  I was a little nervous about the trip, but she pepped me up.  At the airport, Jaymi was just ahead of me in the check-in line.  We checked in and sent our bags through security, but we waited to go through security until Benny & Daryn arrived.  They arrived, and we all got to the departure gate with some time to spare.  

LAX – NRT:  The flight itself was about 12 hours long.  Jaymi, Benny, and Daryn all shared a row. I was in the center section, across the aisle from them.  We ate Japanese airplane food (which is significantly tastier than American airplane food), drank Japanese beer (Sapporo and more!), watched movies (I watched four!  Valkyrie, The International, Gran Torino, and Revolutionary Road), played video games, and read (four magazines!).  I tried to doze off, but even with a Dramamine in my system, my body clock wasn’t going to let me sleep much.  When we arrived in Tokyo, everyone on the plane had to stay seated while masked medical people walked up and down the aisle, eyeballing everyone to make sure no one had H1N1 symptoms.

Tokyo/Narita:  The Tokyo airport is beautiful.   Big windows, high ceilings, everything very clean.  Being well-fed on the flight from LAX, we didn’t buy any food, but I noticed that the prices did not always reflect the ‘very expensive’ reputation that Tokyo has.  You could buy a rice ball for 110 yen (about $1.50 US), and the price of coffee wasn’t much more than at a Starbucks in the states (and the quality is MUCH better!).  True, a glass of beer cost about $9, and a hot dog cost $7, but what the heck are you doing ordering a hot dog in Japan to begin with?

NRT – PVG:  This flight was much shorter (3 hours), but by the time we got on this flight, we were feeling pretty tired.  We had a bite and a beer on the plane, and we filled out multiple forms so the Chinese government can know where we’ll be and how we’re feeling.  When we arrive in Shanghai, we again had to wait for medical professionals to walk the aisles, but this time, they were much more thorough.  They had a little device that shone a red light on everyone’s forehead.  I don’t know for sure what it was for, but I suspect it was there to check temperature.  The person in the seat behind me apparently had a higher-than-normal temperature, because the medical people had to have a mini-conference before they’d let this guy (and the rest of us) off the plane.

Once we were off the plane, it was surprisingly easy to get our bags, go through customs, and meet our hosts.  The only hangup came from Benny, who looks significantly older than his passport photo.  The customs officer didn’t believe it was him, and Benny had to show two more forms of ID before they’d let him through.

We met our hosts outside the main gate at the airport, and they drove us the 45 minutes to our hotel, the Shanghai Hotel.  We checked into our three rooms (Jaymi and I have our own rooms.  Benny & Daryn are sharing) and agreed to meet at 9am tomorrow morning to go to breakfast.  

Now, it’s 10.37pm, Saturday night.  In LA, it’s 7.37am, Saturday morning.  Which means that I’ve been up for 24 hours.  I’m going to bed.

I don’t yet have internet access, but as soon as I get it, I’ll post this via email.

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