On booking my flight (Skyscanner mate, it’s the goods) (aside from Caraline at Cambridge Hello World – she’s the best), I found I had a stopover in Shanghai. Fab, I thought. Although I am a massively massive fan of Singapore Airport, a dose in an alternative layover location appealed.
So I got on Google, reading reviews as to what Shanghai Airport offered in the way of amusement as one waits to board their connecting flight. Massage chairs? Butterfly gardens? Fun-to-ride mini trains between the terminals that you pretend to be on as you need to switch to a new gate, but are actually just rather fond of the 30 second cart about? My expectations were high (after a Disneyland experience in Singapore, my standards couldn’t help but majorly rise).
I came across a review that said, “Had a five hour stop in Shanghai and was far too long – the airport does not have much at all in anything, aside from free wifi. Very few food options” – not a problem here – “only minimal duty free shops and lounges lacking”. But was I disheartened? Especially with my 17hour pit stop there exceeding Melanie909’s five hour by more than three times? No I was not. The airport – any airport – is one of my top three favourite places to hang about in. Who cared if there was only place to buy authentic Chinese souvenirs? I was in a prime situation to do a number of my favourite pastimes: people watch, learn some Dutch (not really a pastime – more a “new time” it must be said) and write many a popyarns post (apologies for the upcoming barrage of blogging).
(I did flirt with the idea of actually leaving the airport and heading in to the city centre for a bit, but decided against it. I don’t think you get how much I love airports, plus the whole conundrum of sussing out a whole other currency and being rather jet lagged upon attempting to find the Bund put me off).
So. Here i am. Hour one.
How was the flight, I hear you ask? Swell, cheers. Well, as fab as 12 hours in economy can be I suppose. I spent the time colouring in my new Zen mandala colouring book, writing a freelance piece on an Auckland restaurant, editing some chapters of the book and watching (well, using as background noise) some movies on the old Air NZ entertainment system (mass marathon viewing of star-studded feel good flicks such as He’s Just Not That Into You, Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve).
I have to say, having an evening flight for once was excellent. It seems every other trip I’ve had had either been early AM or midday for departure, but this midnight take off really sat well with me. I had all day to lay out all to be packed, cull, walk around the house in my big backpack, hang with Deb, book some sweetly dealed flights to Spain to hang with my cousin Sarah, even have a nap. How good to have a day to organise and arrive at the airport relaxed and on point (major polarisation to that of when going to India; I was slightly on edge, questioning Deb what would be to happen should I decide to actually not go and just head home with her. Rescue Remedy was well and truly in the hand. Only calmed down upon catching the eye of a rather good looking fellow traveller and proceeding to flirt with him the whole way to Singapore). (By flirt I mean sidle up to the water fountain to refill my drink bottle so he would talk to me and then make him sprint across all three terminals in Singapore so I could see my friend about to take off from gate 28. Feel like he lucked out on engaging me in chat).
My word I’m glad I followed up check in with an actual person on a stall thing (stall thing? Counter? You know what I mean). What with using a self serve kiosk to hustle my passport into and obtain the necessary documentation and what not, I was a tad perplexed that no boarding pass to move onto Paris nor a luggage tag detailing sending my (fucking fabulous) back pack through to the Charles de Gaulle Airport automatically came through.
Well, cripes be hailed that I questioned it, else I’d be having a freak out at the Parisian carousel in two days time as my beloved new bag swanned about in a Chinese lost and found. What with booking my flight through with Star Alliance partners I’d assumed said backpack would be checked right through to my final destination as always before; alas, not the (suit) case. (See what I did there?).
No, apparently on transit in Shanghai one must recover checked in baggage, clear customs, then U-turn back in to go forth to the connecting flight. While the whole process doesn’t bother me as such (like I’ve said, got a fair bit of time to toy with), I was just hoping they would be able to check my bag in so long before my flight so I didn’t have to bandy about with it the entire stopover (how was I going to do pacing lengths of the departure halls with that bad boy strapped on?).
Being on a flight to Shanghai, the major portion of the passengers were Asian. I sat next to a lovely elderly Chinese woman as we waited to board, and her granddaughter was a gem in swatting away some sort of cricket insect thing swarming my head as I was immersed in my book (mindless rom-com type read picked up for a mere $4 at market day on Sunday, what a steal). (In the saying sense of the word, I must clarify; I handed over my coinage to be an honest owner of the manuscript).
So how elated was I to find on nestling into my little plane posy for the following 11 hours and 05 minutes (the captain gleefully informed us he was going to shave a good 50mins off the flight time) (realised an hour in that he was overly optimistic – the “NZ289 lands in…” was at a steadfast 11hours 04 when we’d already been in the air for 69mins) that I was sitting next to a just over middle-aged Dutch couple! And not just Dutch, but living only half an hour away from my Opa’s hometown of Alphen aan den Rijn! “Don’t worry about me,” I txt Deb (always one to have a restless night when one of the Wortman kiddettes takes off to gallivanting the globe). “I’ve hustled two new Dutch mates, no need to fear.” (Txt before take off, I’ll clarify; I abide by the “flick to flight mode” instructions given by the in-flight safety vid). (Plus I doubt reception would be overly great whilst at cruising altitude in the sky). Unfortunately, any hopes of some sensational Dutch language lessons and a chance to put the tit bits I’d garnered from The Fundamentals of Dutch Grammar (cheers Opa; I’m determined to use the learnt phrase “She has a nice piano” at some point on this trip) were quickly put paid to; upon take off (when you’re flying sort of perpendicular to the ground at midnight, the Auckland landscape looks like a fallen over Christmas tree – all trussled with tinsel), the pair promptly settled to slumber, leaving me in the world of Britt and Mia once again (the lasses in my book, realised that may have not at all been clear).
Can I just insert here that I had no idea there were two versions of the Monarch butterfly? Good old Air NZ, their toilets on board had two cubicles (are they still cubicles on a plane? I guess it’s up in the air) (see what I did there? Oh so fitting) with wallpaper detailing butterflies found in NZ. I took a relievance of the bladder in wonderment as I learnt that there is in fact a second species of Monarch deemed the Spiral Monarch, a sort of regal looking navy winged beauty. Perhaps butterfly watching shall be one of the new hobbies undertaken upon return; I’m determined to view one of these spiral types in person, add it to the must-do to-tick list.
I got in a good eight or so hours of shut eye myself, draped over my tray table with only sporadic stirrings. I woke up feeling refreshed and relaxed and chin wagged with Lyda, my fellow Dutch passenger, for a fair while; she engaged me in chat (for once I wasn’t the instigator!) after seeing my mandala colouring in book and telling me I reminded her of her daughter – a 28-year-old yogi who spent her early twenties globe trotting as well. What a lovely coincidence.
Anyway. I’m in China! (Kind of. Does the airport count?). (Yep. I’m saying yes). Apologies if this post is rather all over the place; I’m slightly underslept and antsy-ly searching for a remote-yet-in-the-outskirt-midst-of-it-all-region where I can write, do yoga, perhaps a few headstands and peer observe for the next few (well, many) hours.
So. Updates. Unfortunately I am unable to check my massive fuck off back pack in until three hours before my flight at the earliest. Meaning 9pm tonight. It’s currently 8.37am. How fab.
Luckily I have managed to commandare a trolley to cart it about in (apologies to the older Chinese lady whose heels I was blithely ramming into as I gazed about in awe at my Shanghai surroundings. Fortunately she was quite taken with my sincere and profuse “I’m so sorry!”‘s and clasped my hand in forgiveness with a smile).
Secondly: that free wifi I told you about? Yeah, so that’s only available upon passing immigration. Which I can only do once I’ve checked in my baggage and what not. Which cannot be done until 9pm tonight. It’s currently 8.38am.
But am I downtrodden? Not in the slightest mate! I spotted a Starbucks on level 2 that sported signs signalling free wifi, so I shall skidaddle down there and hustle a green tea and do an ET (I.e., phone home) as well as upload this tangle of thread. I spied a massage place on the upper level, which upon closer observation (I.e., rolling on in and asking) found does a 45minute massage with your choice of oil (quite the array ranging from rose to sandalwood); upon converting yuan to NZD concluded that $85 was a bit steep for a bit of kneading, but am leaning more to the “splurge and go for it” side of things now with the idea of lying down on something that isn’t a wooden bench and scoring a shower afterwards. Aaaaaaaaand I have mapped out a work out route for wheeling my trolley about and getting a bit of cardio, plus come across a discreet slab of ashphalt were I can jam some sun salutations. Suberb!
Plus I have a flurry of notes whirling about my mind for writing, in blog, freelance and book categories.
17 hours? Mate, it’s going to fly! (Oh so fitting).