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Published: September 24th 2005
Japan Air Lines
Our chariot awaits!
Sunday, September 18, 2005. Weather: Delightful. Temperature: Still in the 80's.
What a long day this will be. We arose early to be able to have the buffet breakfast before catching the 7:00 a.m. shuttle bus to the airport. We could have caught the shuttle bus from the airport to the hotel yesterday if we had known where it stopped but $1.50 cab ride isn't bad.
We are flying on Japan Air Lines via Tokyo to Kennedy Airport in New York City. Since we are in Business Class from Shanghai there is little or no wait to check in. We then go through the formalities of outbound Immigration and the usual security screening that seems to be about the same as you would find in the states. Then we go to the lounge to await our flight that departs right on time. We arrive in Tokyo at 12:30 p.m. just after the earlier flight to New York had departed so our schedule requires us to wait for the evening flight leaving at 6:30 p.m. Since we were on the first flight of the day out of Shanghai this was unavoidable. Thank goodness for having the use of a lounge.
What else are you going to do on a 6 hour layover between flights?
On a layover of 6 hours it makes a difference. Also, the lounge has a wireless Internet connection so Ethel can catch up on some of her correspondence that makes the time go faster. Our flight boards just about on time and we are off the ground by 6:55 p.m. with an expected flight time of 12 hours non-stop. The flight was uneventful (the best kind!) And we reached New York a few minutes early. We had driven our car to New York as it has been our experience that getting to Baltimore by air takes longer than the time in which it can be driven. On a Sunday evening we expected (hoped!) That the traffic in New York would be light but such would not be the case and it took as most of an hour just to get to the New Jersey Turnpike. From there it was smooth sailing and we got into the house just about at midnight. Yes, if you count the hours it was 30 ½ hours from the time we got up until the time that we laid down.
The message to be learned from that is that if there is ANY WAY
On the way home!
you can upgrade your air to Business or First Class, DO IT! I cannot imagine what the trip would have been like in the back of the plane.
BITS AND PIECES:
How would I rate the trip? I have traveled with many providers including Tauck, Grand Circle, Abercrombie & Kent and others. The planning, execution, content and service on this trip was as good as ANY trip I have been on. Travel in China is not easy and Viking has been in this market for only two years. They deserve congratulations for a job well done. Of course, we had the best guide with Ping. But then everyone says that about their guide so they ALL must be top notch people that Viking has hired. There have been some negative comments about the Century Star. We did not find any of the problems experienced on the Star on our three days on the Sky. That is a good indication that next year, when they replace the Star with the brand new Sun, a sister ship to the Sky, things will get MUCH better.
How was the group we were with? Our group numbered 24 consisting of 11 couples and two ladies traveling together. Everyone was congenial and respected the rights of others. Seats were rotated fairly and we had not a single complainer in the group. I could not have selected a more compatible group if I had the chance. It was a privilege to tour with them.
What about going to Tibet? Tibet is not a destination for someone who really has no particular interest in going there. It is a unique destination and I personally am glad that we went there in spite of the problems associated with altitude. I found the visit to the Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple to be inspiring and awesome. The Buddhist people are a friendly, peaceful group and it was a pleasure to be among them. However, if you have mobility problems or respiratory problems this is NOT the place for you. After all, it IS the Roof of the World! It is also a place that you will always remember.
Luggage? Much is made of the luggage allowances. I saw no indication that anyone gave a hoot. As for carry on luggage the only way that I can describe it is ANYTHING GOES! Just position yourself early near the gate so that you can be near the front of the line and you will get your carry-ons into the overhead bins.
Water? We followed their suggestion and drank only bottled water. It was available in most of the hotels and every bus driver had a supply of large bottles that they were selling for 2 for $1.
Computer connections? For the first time traveling we took along a laptop so I cannot provide any advice about locating Internet Cafes as we have done in the past. Each hotel in which we stayed had broadband Internet service in the rooms. In Beijing at cost 10 Yuan or $1.25 per hour of use. Some places we had it available but did not even connect due to the short time we were there. The Shangri-la in Shanghai offered it without charge.
Adapters? Many hotels having Internet service have a wall plug right next to the desk that takes multi shaped plugs. Of course, the juice is 220v but most converters and appliances now will work on either. In only one location, and I can't remember which, we needed an adapter and that was the two round prong variety. I took a converter along on the trip and did not use it once.
Laundry? Same day laundry service was available at the Lhasa Hotel in Tibet but we did not use it. Some did and were quite happy. We waited until the ship and then had some undies done. The cost was $1 per piece. Not cheap but convenient.
Would I recommend travel to China? You bet! It is reasonable, interesting and the trip will teach you that things over there aren't as bad as you hear in the news. They are doing quite well and our contacts with China are going to increase considerably over the coming years. Do it now before the prices rise! From the east coast you can obtain an air ticket to China for about the same cost as one to Europe and it is twice the distance.
If you have any questions just drop me a note and I will be happy to respond.
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