So I chose to fly China Eastern to Australia as compared to all other companies they seemed really cheap. Everyone I spoke to pre-holiday all had never heard of China Eastern so I was relieved when I arrived at Heathrow to find they were a real legit company.
Once I had this confirmed I set out to get some food and a glass of champagne to toast my solo adventure. Had I not had such a massive night the night before I think at this stage of the holiday I would have been freaking out, however due to sleep deprivation it hadn’t quite yet dawned on me quite what I was embarking on.
Plus I had my mother constantly texting me to goad me into purchasing a money belt to stash all my monies inconspicuously to distract me. As I knew she was worried about my trip I complied and sent her a picture of me with the stomach attachment in place. However, personally I feared this drew more attention as I jingled jangled everywhere I walked and had a strange bulky midriff. So I was hardly smuggling anything incognito but it pleased my mother and that is all that mattered. Who knew at 32 you would still be taking instruction from your mother.
When I boarded the flight it was quickly apparent that I was the only person on the plane who was not Chinese or Shanganese. Not that this was a problem and it meant that I could observe some culture en-route.
My first thought was that everyone seemingly knew each other, now I didn’t understand the language but everyone on the plane appeared to be either talking in harsh tones or be pretty much shouting at each other, so someone, somewhere, had clearly dropped a bollock and there was one almighty fight about to transpire.
Turns out that actually the flight wasn’t for one huge wedding party or for the Chinese MMA it is just custom to yell at everyone around you.
Once everything settled down, thanks to the air hostesses, the flight got underway. I have to say the food was amazing, but if you do not like Chinese food, my advise it take a different airline. I on the other hand, bloody love it so was in my element to be fed three superb Chinese meals.
There were plenty of latest films and game to entertain but personally I took the opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep. In fact, with the exception of when I chowed down on food, I slept all the way to Shanghai! Impressive.
I had a 5 hour stop over in Shanghai so outbound I had decided to remain in the airport and make use of the ‘in airport hotel’.
When you get off the plane and head for the transfer lounge it is all relatively straight forward. Most people seem to leave but a handful of us went through the eerily quiet maze of corridors to get into the main body of the airport. No one directs you so just keep going, I luckily stumbled over another girl who was equally discombobulated by the layout and ambiance of these strange little corridors.
Together we managed to find out way and ended up spending those 5 hours together in the airport as we were both heading for Sydney.
We tried to find the ‘in airport hotel’ but this couldn’t be found so a ‘wet-wipe’ wash for the both of us had to suffice.
There are plenty of restaurants in the airport and water is about 20 pence – so be sure to take some small Chinese change with you. There are lots of shops which sell weird and wonderful things like chicken feet and fish heads – these are in the confectionery shops so be careful!
There are lovely big fantastic windows in Shanghai airport but you can see naff all out of them due to the intense smog that surrounds the airport. It kind of feels like you have landed at an airport in the clouds.
It was nice to meet up with someone as this made the time zip by and we were again boarding for the final leg of the journey to Sydney.
By this time I was absolutely dead on my feet. I boarded the plane, buckled up and soon nodded off to the noisy hum of the arguments that continued as people took off where they left off from the previous flight.
I woke after what felt like had been hours and we were stationary, I had slept through the whole flight, how efficient of me! I turned to ask the air hostess if we were in fact in Sydney to be told we had in fact been on Shanghai runway for 1.5 hours. I had in fact, slept through a reasonable length delay.
Not deterred by complete embarrasment I let myself fall back into a deep sleep and woke once we were in the air. I slept on and off like this, again only being interrupted for food until I woke for the final time and we were on the runway in Australia. A sleep that not even the take off or landing could be shaken by – so I guess I can report that the flight was a pretty smooth operation.
I would go as far as to say I would recommend getting trollied before any long haul flight as this made this journey completely pain free!
The flight back however, I couldn’t say the same for.
I unfortunately didn’t live by my rule and I was only mildly tipsy the night before my flight home. That coupled with the fact that I felt I was leaving my home and not going home put me in a bad mindset for a long journey back to the UK.
Thankfully this time I had a longer stop over in Shanghai which I was muchos looking forward too.
Checking into the flight I noted the amount of luggage Chinese people shift around. No suitcase and carry on for these guys. It is all about looking like you are moving house with trolleys full of boxes containing goodness knows what. When on the flight they stream the obligatory flight information about what you can / cannot take in and out of the country. This is not like any flight information I have ever seen before this details the strangest of items and food things I have never seen. I can only assume these unsuspecting boxes contain some of these items as customs has never looked so busy as chickens feets, potions and bits of wood are pulled from luggage.
The flight was very much the same as the way to Oz except I didn’t sleep. I watched every film going instead and read as many books as I had in my bag. I was plagued with insomnia which was not great what with heading back to the humdrum of work and routine.
When we got to Shanghai a very impatient little man insisted on constantly jabbing his boney little fingers into my back and pushing me despite the fact that I had literally no where to walk what with us being at the back of the plane and around 200 people being in front of me but that didn’t stop his incessant prodding. Now I guess this should have been my point where I should have started to shout but not knowing the native language, I didn’t feel well equipped enough to hold my own. So through gritted teeth I let him have his victory.
Spitting, whether inside or outside, pushing, jumping ques, shouting and generally being rude seem to be permitted in this part of China. I am accepting of any culture but we all know how the English like a good que.
Well I had arrived in Shanghai, I grabbed my bags and headed out to the taxi rank. I knew this was going to be difficult as I had already read that no one speaks English – quite right too. So, baring this in mind, and not wanting to insult by attempting the language and getting it so badly wrong on intonation that I said something rather awful rather than ask directions, I had already had the hotel address translated.
The taxi rank had a door man of words, he ushered people to cars and waved in cars, a system I was thankful of due to the lack of want to ‘wait in line’ here, I could have been standing there all night otherwise.
I got shown to a taxi and the driver and this dude talked it out with my translated address and off we went in what I can only describe was a shell of a car – but hey I have been to India this is not something I am new to.
So I was excited to see more of Shanghai whilst in the taxi but the smog had other ideas. It holds Shanghai in some perpetual drunken haze that it can never shake the drab clutches of. I did see some crazy spaghetti junctions that had I been faced with on my driving test days I wouldn’t be driving today. It looked like a million worms on a plate – it looked like some scenary from the film Aliens had been accidentally put there and was something I was glad to not be navigating.
My driver kept talking to me every now and again but I had literally no idea what he was asking or how to respond. So my only move was to keep handing him the address on my paper – this seemed to work. It turned out my driver had no idea where he was taking me and we worryingly drove around for some time stopping and asking people directions, turning around and going back. My biggest concern about this was money. I knew it was cheap in China but I didn’t know how cheap it would be when you are driving aimlessly round with no real clue – and I had a feeling I couldn’t haggle the price based on his sat nav not working correctly.
Thankfully, the large building we had been circling for what felt like an age turned out to be my spectacular hotel. Had the smog not been hiding the name on the oversize sign I am sure we would have found it sooner.
The taxi cost next to nothing so for his troubles I left him a rather large tip.
The hotel was amazing, Shanghai Palace airport hotel. It was the first bit of luxury for the whole trip and frankly my whole life. I was seriously living it up in this place it was AMAZING.
The staff were really helpful and there is a bell boy to show you to your room, which I declined as I am unsure at this point what the rules are on tipping and with lack of sleep anxieties are fast creeping in, therefore the desire to stand uncomfortably with an unknown other is less than appealing. Best to be in my own company at times like these.
So, I set out to find my own room, got lost, cursed my anxiety but found it in the end.
I had a nice high up room but as you guess, I couldn’t see much out of the windows, but I didn’t need to. The room was an awe to take in all on its own. Had I not been so wired on zero sleep I would have ventured out but with my original taxi driver getting lost I didn’t fancy trying to find the train into the center to then not be able to find my way back. So I settled for a bath with bath salts watching Chinese TV with a Chinese beer.
After which I donned one of the heavy cotton dressing gowns from the wardrobe and ordered some authentic fodder which really exceeded my expectations.
The room had bags in the foot of the wardrobe which I liked to think were for you to take the dressing gowns home in, however, I figured that would be too good to be true and begrudgingly left it there.
I had been very excited for going to Shanghai but I was a little put off by the rude people on the flight and in the airport. I am by no way tarnishing everyone with the same brush but that can be a little off-putting when a solo female traveler. I thought Chinese people were calm and serene but I think too many Gibli films conjured up that image in my head and I somehow got Chinese and Japanese confused. My bad.
I think if I were to go again I would still fly with China Eastern if they were the cheapest option but I would opt for a longer lay over to truly explore the surroundings and to understand their culture more.