Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The China Eastern Adventure: Part II

Into the Twilight Zone

MU521 landed at about 4:20 pm, 30 minutes or so behind schedule. By 4:50, we were boarding. The flight to Shanghai was actually quite nice. 2h45m on an A321. MU’s J cabin is quite decent – no lie flats on a day flight, but a respectable angle-flat seat. The food was quite good. No IFE. This gave me the opportunity to read and then take a nap.

Approach into Shanghai Pudong

Not unlike reading Pravda 
It was dusk by the time we landed at Shanghai’s Pudong International airport, at about 7:30 p.m. By 8:10 p.m., I was through immigration and had collected my bags. I then went to the supervisor at the Transfer desk to ask about the hotel. He looked at my itinerary as I explained. “Hotel? Ok. Wait here.” He pointed at the seats and waved me off. I waited some 15 minutes then went back to the counter. “Yes yes. Wait.”

What a contrast from Japan, where everyone is incredibly polite and courteous! One notices this as well with lines – the Japanese will line up in a respectable, orderly fashion.  The Chinese jostle and push, like Indians.

There was a Japanese couple waiting for a hotel. We struck up a conversation – they’re on their way to Phnom Penh (Cambodia), and were in the same boat.

Waiting.

All attempts at getting online failed. The airport WiFi went to a login screen that was only in Chinese. I’d read that one had to have a registered Chinese cell phone in order to log in. Neither my Indian or US SIM cards would actually connect to a mobile data network.

At about 8:50 p.m. the supervisor barked something in our direction. A China Eastern attendant appeared and asked us, relatively politely, to follow her. We walked through customs (the two officials looked half asleep), up one floor, past various counters tantalizingly selling local SIM cards and persona WiFi devices, to a hotel van that already was quite full. “Please, luggage,” the attendant said and absorbed herself in her cell phone. The driver jumped out and opened the luggage door and went back to his seat. (This morning, when I approached the Ritz in Tokyo – drenched in the pouring rain, to catch the bus to Narita, a helpful attendant took my bags, and pointed me to a seat in the lobby.). The Japanese couple and I rearranged all the bags to fit ours in, and we squeezed into the minivan, loaded to capacity.

There followed a 20 minute ride through the twilight zone. A short run on an expressway, and then one broad tree-lined street to another, left then right. Then left again. I soon lost count. At about 9:20 we pulled up to a giant concrete structure called “Li Hao Hotel.” The lobby looked deserted. It was gaudily decorated. It looked like this was a front for the mob.

I was the first to the check-in counter, half unlit. “Economy class two person per room. You pay more if you want your own room.” What a racket! Luckily, I'm on a business itinerary,* so I got my own room, which is actually quite comfortable.

Comfortable room
WiFi is available only on the ground floor. After a shower, feeling somewhat refreshed, I went down. One logs in using one’s room number and the last six digits of one’s passport. The People’s Republic wants to know who’s online! For whatever reason, my laptop simply would not connect. On my phone, I could get to Yahoo, and the Archdiocesan email, but that’s it. Not Google, Google Voice, Blogger, Facebook. None of my apps worked. I looked up a few details on Pudong Airport for tomorrow, and now it’s to bed.

I hope to get up early, say Mass in my hotel room, and then make it back to the airport, store my bags, get WiFi, and get a car to take me to Our Lady of Shesan.

(Monday, July 7)

* The ticket was bought for me, in case you're wondering, which you are if you're reading this. 

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