Feeling: UP IN THE AIR(port, level 3)
Aren’t airports fabulous?
Yes there’s the occasional bastard security dude on a little power trip, the outrageous price for a single pack of chewing gum and the number of roaming about tourists searching blindly for the right counter/gate/claim/take your pick, but I genuinely see it as a magical place of such love, opportunity and eons of people watching entertainment.
The appearance of an airport is massively important. I mean, it’s any arriving passenger’s first taste of the country they have come to. If you were to step off a 747 and trot along into a run down facility with no flair or flavour, your first opinions of the place aren’t going to be exactly sky high are they? That’s why so much money goes into grooming such establishments. There like the gateway to the city, the first taste of what’s to come if you’re staying there, allure to come back if you’re in transit, or the parting point before you jet set off home.
Shanghai Airport. (The Pudong one. Appeals to me as it sounds like “pudding” and I keep imagining cakes and tiramisus all dotted about). It’s very clean. Very well signposted. The people at the information and counters seem (for the most part – one woman was not overly friendly, so my parting words were, “You could be nice about it”) rather lovely. There’s a massive mishmash of cultures teeming about, nicely manicured gardens out the window and a decent amount of sitting spaces, seeing as it is China’s biggest aviation hub in terms of cargo and passenger flow.
As I have a few hours before I can hustle into duty free, I am sort of mixing my time up by sitting in different areas. I started off in arrivals, watching the just-landed be greeted by their nearest and dearest (or taxi drivers). Then I wheeled along to domestic departures, to scope out what was on offer in terms of waiting space and what not (scores a solid 6.9/10). I am currently in the midst of all international check in, and thought after this I may head to the outside to watch the somewhat perplexed newbies to the country navigate their transport into the city centre. (I just retread this and realised how creepy/spectator-ry/easily amused I am. I bet security are voicing no over their wallow talkies to keep tabs on the little blonde girl with the massive backpack upon backpack wandering about and watching everyone).
On one of my many lengths of the Wuzhou Middle Path (the main through way between the terminals), I was taken aback to see what looked like a big Maori carving gracing the middle of the hallway. On closer inspection (I.e., wheeling right up to it and having a geez) I learnt that it was in fact from little old NZ indigenous culture, erected (teehee) (that word always brings out my inner form-2-Baradene-girl-at-a-puberty-talk immaturity) alongside a good eight others including a Japanese emperor, a Native American Indian, some gent wearing a top hat, a Greek goddess and a fellow in a poncho and penis-shaped hat (Mexican maybe?); all were plaqued with the same, “Multi-national character” label and the following:
I love all that one world, one people sentimental shit. Seriously, it really stirs some compassion and fist pumping from me.
I apologise if the following comes across in any way racist or what not. In the past, I have been, shall we say, somewhat dismissive of cultures anything other than my own white, European derived lineage. At uni, when gal pal Steffanny and I would be cavorting down Queen Street at pace, we would express great frustration at the gaggles of – apologies for this horridly generalising umbrella term – Asians holding up the foot traffic as they stopped to take photos, wait for friends and shrieked about in their native tongues. “They’re in NZ, they should speak English,” we’d declare to each other. How naive and self cultural centred were we?
It’s only through travelling and taking myself to more Eastern terrain that I’ve clearly seen that people are people. Regardless of what culture, colour, social norms or belief system abided to, we are all people made up of the same matter. No one race is more important not more superior to any other, although in this capitalist and hierarchal modern society that message isn’t commonly shared. Asian, Indian, Dutch, Kiwi, Croatian, Turkish, whatever; we are all people. No more, no less. People.
Enough of that deep lark – back to the airport observances.
One way I deem a place to be friendly or not is whether upon flashing a smile at a stranger, they reciprocate in (literal) kind. Hustling around Shanghai Dessert Airport (sorry, Pudong) I’m pleased to report smiles seem to be returned a good eight out of ten times. I’m someone who gets extremely disheartened when a “hello” or genuine grin is given with no similiar response, so such a result greatly warms my heart.
Can I just say that I am very amped with my choice of travel attire for this long haul? Although I desperately wanted to wear my hiking boots (I fancied given them a trot about the Swiss Alps, but Deb voiced that only taking them with me for such an occasion was rather silly) the lacing up of my much loved grey and neon green New Balances has proved quite the success. And the wearing of my purple North Face vest (I dislike the word “vest” but that’s what it is so that’s what we shall use) was the most stellar pick – in the insanely air conned airport it has provided great insulation while leaving arms free, as well as doubling as the most sensational pillow aboard the plane to conk out on. And a change of clothes in the old carry on to refresh before the next flight? Mate, I’m becoming quite the peppered passenger (I.e., seasoned traveller). (Actually, it’s just common sense. But truth be told I don’t have a lot of that. So sensible actions on my part I greet with major self high fives). (Internally, of course. I’m weird enough already as I walk up and down with my trolley over and over again and observing everyone without slapping myself a full hand high as well).
And obviously along perusing all the milling about people I’ve side stepped into a few stores to see what’s on offer. At one luggage looters I came across the most sensational suitcases – car shaped belonging holders that double as both a ride along car toy and a seat! And not just any cars, but Lamborghinis no less!
The poor shop assistant obviously thought she’d nailed a sale as I pulled along a red then the green with absolute glee; she wasn’t overly impressed when I spun the whole, “I’ll think about it” line and gapped with no parting of funds. The size and scale of the suitcases showed them to be designed as for the younger male child (as did the attached tag stating so) but this did not lessen the excitement of them for myself in the slightest; you see, older brother Michael and his significant other Rachel are going to have a baby in August! And if it comes out as a male (literally), it is going to be christened none other than Hank Wortman III. Mate, I’m pumped. Getting my Aunty Pop mode on. Thus, the fizzing over the automobile shaped suitcases that may have otherwise passed me by (or only incurred a brief moment of my attention, albeit it in a wow-ed way). (And if said offspring comes out as a girl, I spied some pretty fab glittery princessy ones at the back).
And the convenience stores, my word – how thrilling is it to see staple confectionery in Chinese packaging! Skittles, Snickers, Mentos, even some Chinese labelled Ferrero Rochers; it never fails to have me in awe (easily amused fellas, take note). I spent a fair while scanning the shelves and having a jolly chuckle at them all (Chinese Chuppa Chups? Oh yes they do!).
What really tickles me silly about Chinese cuisine is how eating places often put plastic presentations of plates prominently out to entice in passers by. Like literally human sized versions of the Barbie dining set I had as a kid. It literally looks like congealed dumps of glued crap. But all around me people were pointing and saying what could only be the Mandarin equivalent of the English “delicious”, before barrelling on in and ordering the very displayed dish.
I only hope their fried eggs came out more appetising than those pictured above.
I was doing an hour up and down of all the terminals whilst listening to my iPod when I realised I hadn’t inhaled in actual Chinese air from outside; I spotted a side door exit and thought it’d be the go to get outside and literally have a breather. Unfortunately I didn’t realise until it was too late that it was the unofficial designated smokers’ area. My deep gulp of what was supposed to be the Shanghai surrounds was instead a mass intake of second hand smoke and nicotine, a much despised smell that makes me feel heartily ill (unless in a pub or bar outside area. Then and only then, when mingled in with the aroma of alcohol, does it smell like the promise of a party). Not overly ideal, but nothing an immediate retreat, a cough and an intake of air conned air didn’t fix. (I managed to find the main exit point and get my smoke free Shanghai. As I stood admiring this massive curving bridge thing I suddenly had a moment of disbelief: Holy fuck. I’m in China!).
So now I am back in another cafe in the domestic terminal this time, listening to Ed Sheeran and charging all my electronic goods for the forthcoming flight. Thinking a sandalwood massage could definitely be the go, followed by some colouring in, writing and a spot of traipsing around duty free once I’m finally allowed through. (Seven hours and counting until bag drop off).
So the verdict on cheesecake airport? (Pudong I mean, Pudong). It has all the essentials. It has some buzzy art. There are ample places to set up yourself, though cafe wifi is fickle (Facebook won’t load and the notification icon is teasing me) and the free airport roaming is not available until past immigration (well, I bloody hope it is). If you are a soulful sort like myself for whom boredom is a foreign concept, absolutely have a significant layover here. If not, follow Melanie909 from the previous post’s advice and keep it snappy.
On my way back to the massage shop I may head back to my luggage lady and have a go with the green Lamborghini. After all, Hank III has got to have the most top notch and enthralling suitcase for when I appropriate him for a jet set to Nepal or some sort. And to keep him occupied during our lengthy layovers.