Dan Dot Blog

Based on a true story

The Long Road Home, or Planes, Trains, Ferries, Buses, Cable Cars, Automobiles, etc…

I’m sitting in O’Hare now waiting for my baggage to come out. I picked up a netbook in HK and am so glad I did. It’s perfect for blogging or answering emails in brief moments like this when my iPhone is kind of a pain but bringing out my behemoth laptop sounds a little frightening. I think this little guy will actually see more use than my laptop in the near future.

Getting home was trickier than I thought it would be, but thanks to my awesome operator and travel manager Adam I made it home in one piece, or at least back to O’Hare, and I assume I can make it the rest of the way.

Because I flew as a “companion” of Adam’s it meant that my flights were super cheap compared to for realz international tickets. The downside was that I had to fly standby. When I went to Beijing, I took a bus to Chicago then flew direct from there. Because I flew out at the beginning of Easter weekend, very few Americans were headed abroad and so I was upgraded to a mostly empty business class. However, I would not again be met with such luck.

I spent the last week in Hong Kong hanging out with Frankie and her family and bumming around CUHK. There is a direct flight from HK to Chicago, and it looked to usually have open seats. On Sunday I headed to the airport and registered for the flight.

Ok bag just came out on the luggage claim in Chicago; I’m going to go grab it.

Alright, now I’m sitting on the CTA headed back in to Chicago. I suppose I could just write this as though it was all written in one cohesive narrative, but since I think I write these more for myself than for readers (sorry 3 people who read this), I like to include details for my own enjoyment later.

I just overheard a foreign language and looked up to see two Asian girls on the train with me. One is holding a guidebook that looks like it’s in Korean. My usual jealousy of tourists is a bit tempered by my desire to get home, but still it’s hard not to envy somebody whose journey is just beginning as mine draws to a close. Alright, back to the HK narrative.

I was listed for the flight on Sunday, and had even gotten a celebratory text from Adam indicating his confidence in my making the flight as the check-in agent came over to tell me I had not made the flight due to weight restrictions. I talked to Adam, and evidently for whatever reason most flights out of HK go off with 5 empty seats, but are at the weight limit, so what looked like pretty easy flights to get on were actually packed to the max. The next week from HK didn’t look good, and I knew I had to make it home by Friday for my friend’s wedding.

Fortunately Frankie stayed with me the whole time, so when my plans changed we just turned around and grabbed a bus to go meet her parents. While I rode, Adam investigated flights from Shanghai, Beijing, and Tokyo, and thought that Shanghai looked best. However, the window was small. Monday from Shanghai I would have a decent chance, but for the rest of the week it looked very tight.

Once I met up with Frankie’s parents, her dad helped me to buy a ticket from Hong Kong back to Shanghai. Fortunately I have a multi-entry Chinese visa that doesn’t expire for another week, so I would be able to land in Shanghai, go out through immigration, clear customs, collect my bag, change terminals, check back in, go back through exit immigration and customs, and then hopefully make my flight. I started to relax once we found a relatively cheap ticket for me to Shanghai early the next morning.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out at the mall where I bought a Samsung phone that runs Android. I haven’t played with it yet using my ATT SIM (though I verified that it works), but even over WiFi it was pretty damn cool. It’s a lower end Android phone so it doesn’t have huge performance benefits over my iPhone, but Google Voice integration is sweet. I’m looking forward to skipping the awkwardness when people ask me to give them my number by calling them, and I have to explain that the caller ID my phone shows is inconsistent with the number I want them to call.

For dinner we had pizza hut which was actually really awesome. The variety that Frankie ordered had thousand island dressing for sauce, which sounded kind of crazy but turned out to be super tasty. We got some huge crazy meal that came with chicken wings, pork chops, and garlic bread. As we chowed down I became reacquainted with a facet of American eating that I had started to forget: as we ate I got progressively more and more tired, but it was delicious! After dinner we hung out, watched Extract and Arrested Development, then went to bed.

Early Monday morning (it’s still Monday but this is going to be like a 35 hour long Monday for me), Frankie’s dad drove me to the airport. I actually had a seat for realz on this flight, so things were a little bit more straightforward as I checked in and boarded.

I landed in Shanghai and tried to quickly make my way out of the airport to get my bag so that I could come back in and check in for the flight back to the US. The airport was a ghost town, so customs and immigration lines were really short. However, I hit a snag when going through immigration. The officer gave me a quizzical look when she read my departure card and saw that for “destination” I had scrawled, “PVG airport to get bags and change airline.” I explained what was going on but she wanted to see a ticket or e-ticket receipt to back up my story. I didn’t have one since I was going to check in as a standby at the gate. After arguing for a while, she finally let me pass. I scurried out, got my baggage, and cleared entry customs which seemed kind of silly and unnecessary since I was only going to be in the country for 2 hours, but I understand that that’s how the system works.

Once I was free in the airport, time was running out and I couldn’t find the United check-in counter. I then realized that Shanghai Pudong (PVG) has two terminals, and presumably United was in the other.

This time, after a harrowing wait at the check-in counter along with all the other non-revenue standby passengers, I was assigned a seat. It was not business class, and was in fact a middle seat, but I was on board for a flight to San Francisco, and then hopefully on to Chicago.

Once I made it to my seat I discovered that I was in “economy plus” which on United means extra leg room (very comfy). Moreover, the guy who had the window seat in my row had been upgraded to business, so I moved up the arm rest, slid over, and stretched out. The flight went really well. I took an ambien at the beginning and spent some time half-sleeping half-tripping for the majority of the flight. As we neared San Francisco I sobered up and ended up watching the better part of The Blind Side and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately we started a descent right at the climax, so I’m not really sure how things turn out. I think I also watched an episode of House and some movie-esque thing called The Philanthropist that featured the actor from Rome who played Marc Antony, but those were on during my ambien trip so who knows.

In San Francisco, I deplaned, cleared customs, and made my way to the gate for a flight from SFO to Chicago that I would hopefully make. Anybody who followed my twitter or facebook feeds knows that it was a really close call for me to get on that flight. Initially there were like 60 open seats and I was number 5 on the standby list. It looked like it was going to be a piece of cake. Then, suddenly, there were 20 open seats and I was in slot number 23. Things looked grim as the line advanced. Finally, with only 6 open seats left, I somehow jumped forward as there were a couple of no-shows into the #6 slot and just barely cleared. Once again I had economy plus seating, so it was a pretty comfy flight.

From O’Hare, I took a CTA line back into the city, wrote most of this post, and then spent the evening with Adam and Mary Kate. The next morning had another close call as I was almost late for my bus, but yet again dumb, undeserved luck won out and I made it.


May 13, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Read More Links

Hi everyone! Those of you who just read the blog from Facebook or click the links that go directly to the full posts should be unaffected by this, but I’m experimenting with excerpting for blog posts on the front page. If you’re reading any of my longer articles on the front page, they should now get shortened and you’ll see a link like the one below. Just click it and you’ll get to the full article. Hopefully this makes the front page a little less cluttered when I occasionally write super duper long posts.

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April 13, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , | 1 Comment

Good Morning Shanghai

Just woke up, and it seems are train is going really slowly now. This leads me to infer that we must be pretty close to Shanghai by now. I slept pretty well, about as well as I could hope to sleep on the top bunk of a short bed on a train. I think I’m going to need some additional napping when I arrive at Connie’s in order to feel rested, but that sounds like it’s going to happen anyway.

Honestly, this train ride felt much shorter than my flight. To be fair, the flight to Beijing was like 2 hours longer, but the train ride felt like half the trip. Maybe the advantage is in leaving when you’re about to naturally sleep anyway.

Right now I have a queue of like 5 new blog posts sitting on my iPhone that I want to get launched, so hopefully Connie’s place will have wifi.

April 12, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Farewell Beijing

I’m on the train now headed south to Nanjing and then on to Shanghai (and Connie, woo!). This will be an exciting trip in travel abroad.

I bought a deluxo-seat on an ultra-modern train. These trains would be the envy of Eurorail and put Amtrak to utter shame. I guess I actually got a bed rather than a seat. The D class trains that run between Beijing and Shanghai are the pride of the fleet and boast truly flat bed experiences for those willing to shell out upwards of 600 RMB (~ $90). For those on a budget there seem to be decent regular seats more in the 300 RMB range.

It was a pretty exciting and hurried trip to the train station. Zhi hui, my new buddy from the coffee shop at Jingshan park, recommeded that I take a bus or taxi to the nearest subway station. Once I got my bearings, I opted to walk to Tiananmen West instead, failing to take into account how far North-South the Forbidden City runs.

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April 12, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment