Monday, August 18, 2008

A Million Miles Away

At least that's what it feels like when you glide into the Dalian Airport. I chose this time to ignore the turn off all electronic devices for landing command and ride the bird down to the ground with the Plimsoles blasting in my ears. It's an interesting effect, the music makes it seem so much faster. Or maybe it was faster, I don't know, but more on this later.

I forgot to mention a couple of interesting things from the flight over in my last entry. The first were these really bright lights down on the ground, or in this case the ocean. At first I thought the might be something to do with the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas, until the map on my video console showed us over the water. Having discovered that, I figured they must be ships or fishing boats or drilling platforms, because they were very bright. In most cases what appeared to by two parallel white lights. And they blinked in and out as there was a broken layer of clouds between me and them. But what was strangest was how they were arrayed - strange geometrical patterns consisting of 5 to 10 of whatever they were. One I found was an almost exact representation of the Big Dipper, and for a moment it appeared as though there were constellations in the sky above and on the Earth below. It was an odd sensation.

The second thing that caught my bleary eye was the giant thunderstorm that we descended through. The captain had earlier mentioned that our 4 hour delay in arriving actually had an upside - the storms had moved through Shanghai and were now off to our west. I guess there is a silver lining in every gray cloud. These storms were amazing - non-stop cloud to cloud lightning in all directions for what seemed a long, long time. I've flown over and through such storms in the day time, but none of them looked like this non-stop light show.

Our catch up day was spent getting ready to get out of Pudong. We started with breakfast in the Yi Cafe at the Shangri La Hotel, our emergency landing spot from last night. It was quite a dining experience, a buffet that could feed an army with an almost endless array of choices. You entered past a complete bakery with scones, muffins and pain au chocolate. Next was a fresh fruit bar with 4 inch cubes of watermelon and pineapple. Next was a salad bar that also offered fresh cold meats and cheeses. This was followed by a Japanese section with Miso, noodles and sushi. Around the corner was America-land with Cheerios, Cocoa Puffs, Corn Flakes and various flavors of yogurt.

And that was just the first room.

To get to the second room you passed a hallway with a fresh squeezed juice bar on the right and a smoothie bar on the left. Orange, grapefruit, watermelon and kiwi juices accompanied banana, raspberry and kiwi blends. Next up was a however you want it as long as it's scrambled or over easy egg bar along with sausages, bacon, potato pancakes and suckling pig. The bacon wrapped hot dogs were tempting.

Passing that it was on to Thailand with a host of spring rolls and curry, made to order. A deep fried dough offering was next and the room closed out with food from some part of the world that I could not identify but was clearly not something I was interested in. Given that I was pretty much assured of missing lunch, I sample much of it and it was all great.

From there it was off to the airport and our first trip on Shanghai Airlines. Well actually from breakfast it was on to the Airline Office in the hotel to purchase tickets since American Express had seen fit to undo all of our creative ad hoc travel arrangements by cancelling our reservations. And no, they didn't bother to tell us. That gaffe repaired we caught cabs to Terminal Two, cleared security and went to the Star Alliance lounge to wait.

This was my first outing on Shanghai's eponymous carrier and I'll say it was impressive. We left on time, the staff bowed to us as the read the safety information and the plane was clean and comfortable. Best of all was the in-flight snack - a bag of sugared walnuts, a dinner roll stuffed with dried plum goop, a mocha flavored muffin, a cherry flavored semi-hard candy and a bag of mint-flavored cough drops. Yes, cough drops. Are they trying to tell us something about the air?

We arrived on time and were picked up by our driver and made our way to the hotel where I was presented with a small stuffed Panda in a chef's uniform, my reward for this, my 5th visit of the year.

That's about it for the first half of the day, tonight it's out for Tapas and who knows what else. I'm including some pictures below, the first proves that the cough drops were in fact offered as a snack, the second shows one of the treats from the Star Alliance Lounge and the third is something you can buy in the domestic terminal gift shop as a snack while you wait. I'll let you figure out what they are.



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