Tuesday, December 23, 2008
China Trip Day 1: Leaving for China
I recently got back from a 15 day trip to China. I kept a journal while I was there so I wouldn't forget everything and was averaging about 6 notebook pages per day. I now present to you these journal entries along with pics! This first post will be a bit lacking on the picture front though. Airports are just not interesting enough to take pictures of.

I tried to wake up early to finish packing, cleaning up my apartment, and take out the trash but that plan sort of fell through when I woke up around 10am instead of around 8am like I had planed. I did manage to finish packing and taking out the trash, but the cleaning will have to be done once I return. Anyway, I left for the airport around 11am and took the train for about 3.5 hours all the way to Narita along with Janet. Had to make a few necessary train transfers along the way and even threw in an unnecessary transfer that involved us getting of the train and then realizing we should have stayed on the same train! Oooops.

After getting to the airport, we discovered that our flight had been delayed by an hour in order to wait for other people's connecting flights to arrive. So, after we checked in, with my check in being as hassle as the ticket reader machine wouldn't work for me and I had to go to a gate agent to check in, we wandered around the food/shopping area of Narita. It's actually a really nice place to hang out. There is a Lush store that sells bath and body products that I really like to browse around. Sadly, many of their products are liquid and thus unpurchasable right before a flight. Janet picked up a bagel from this really yummy bagel place (I got one of their BLT sandwiches and a chocolate bagel the last time I was at the airport) but I passes on getting any food as I wasn't hungry.

We found a few chairs and I took a little nap while Janet ate her bagel and filled out the last of her new years cards. I finished mine the day before, but it seems she was a bit behind! The cards are sort of Japan's version of a Christmas card, just sent at new years time and they have numbers on them that are part of a lottery that happens in mid January. She mailed them at the conveniently located airport post office. Before heading to the gate, we both picked up a drink at Starbucks.

Getting through security, per usual, was fast and hassle free. We then walked to our gate area and still had some time to kill. We browsed around the tiny airport convince store and I bought a water bottle, cough drops, and a cute toothbrush and toothpaste set. Then we sat at our gate (16) to wait for our flight. After sitting at the gate for what felt like forever, I overheard one of the Northwest employees telling a group of Japanese travelers that the Shanghai flight was changed to gate 22. This was definitely NOT the gate we were sitting at. It was kind of frustrating because no one told us about the gate change and it wasn't posted on any of the flight info boards. We rushed over to the right gate and found that the plane was already boarding and hopped on. We got seats in a weird 2 seat only row while the rest of the rows had 3 seats. The extra space was really nice. I did more sleeping on the plane than anything else (I got a lot of sleep that day ^.^). I pretty much only woke up for the in-flight meal which was a fish and rice dish along with a salad, dinner roll, and a muffin thing. Fish is not my favorite, but they had already run out of the chicken dish option. Thankfully, due to my cold, I couldn't taste anything anyway so it worked out. I should also note that once we got on our flight, we still had to wait about an hour on the plane before taking off, thus, by the time we landed, we were more than 3 hours behind schedule.

Once in Shanghai we made it through security with no problems. Janet managed to set off an alarm on a large gray security gate thing in customs, but nobody did anything or came over so we just walking, though a bit faster than before! Outside of customs was a huge line of people waiting to pick up friends and family. I almost felt like a movie star surround by a bunch of paparazzi. There were even a few Santas and a reindeer. Having consulted the internet and lonely planet, we knew to only take a taxi from the official taxi stand and is was a good thing we did as there were plenty of people trying to get us to do otherwise, even late at night. We made a bathroom pit stop before going to the taxi stand where I ended up leaving all the stuff I bought at Narita before leaving. Oh well.....

After waiting in the taxi stand line for what felt like forever, we finally got one, but I wasn't impressed. It smelt like smoke even though there were no smoking signs in the cab. It did have a little TV in the back that kept me entertained if that's any consolation. On our way to the hostel, we ran across this truck carrying a HUGE tree. The thing looked like it was going to tip over at any minute. After arriving we checked in and immediately crashed for the night. My first overall impression of the hostel is that it is nice and clean, but the stairs to get to the top part of the bunk bed sucked. They hurt my feet every time I went up and down.

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