Off to the European summer residence
Despite the best efforts of the weather and the ground services at Shanghai I've finally made it back to Holland.
After a busy week I was lucky to have the Saturday to pack and tidy before my flight. My colleague Murray was kind enough to pick me up and take me to the airport in plenty of time. It was a speedy trip through security and into the bar where all the Kiwi's and Aussie's were gathering to watch the imminent rugby test match. After 15 minutes the Aussie's looked dominant so I had no issue when we had our boarding call.
That morning I had warned Renate that the eye of the "One in 10 year" storm was bearing down on the country and would hit just before my flight. Was I mistaken? All flights were departing on schedule without delay. That was until 5 minutes before our flight was due to leave when all flights were grounded to wait it out. Either that or the pilots wanted to see the end of the rugby match and post-match commentary.
During the wait I got to know my travel companions of which one was a Dutch guy named Maarten heading back to Holland for 6 weeks after working, living, playing rugby and drinking lots of beer in Tapanui for 10 months. We travelled together for the rest of the trip.
After a bite to eat, a couple of movies and some broken sleep we arrived in Shanghai 2hrs late with 45 minutes to catch the connecting flight. In their wisdom the authorities have taken a leaf out of the United States' book on "How to disrupt the travel plans of millions?". Shanghai is the only port in Asia that makes you collect your baggage and re-check it in.
After clearing customs the officer gave some other guy my passport and I was told to follow him. The problem was there were 3 guys. Luckily I followed the right one heading for a bunch of other kiwis where we waited for them to do something with our passports. Perhaps a temporary visa for our so-called stopover?
Next it was on to collect our luggage where we waited patiently for over an hour as the bags were drip fed onto the carousel one at a time. It was like all the baggage handlers were relocated to Beijing for the Olympics whilst one guy was walking between the plane and carousel carrying one bag at a time.
After picking up our bags we then headed for Terminal 1 where we needed to check in. Following the signs we came to a dead end with a number of large roller doors locked down tight. We weren't the only ones as people were poking and prodding them trying to find a way through. Some just driving their trolleys around in circles. Deciding this wasn't going to work we back tracked and took side passage going against the recommended arrows on the floor until we finally made it although there was one last obstacle, an escalator. Unlike some of the other passengers we opted to leave our trolleys at the bottom.
Another hour queuing and we made it to the check-in counter where Maarten spent another half an hour trying to convince the 4 people behind the counter that his ticket was an old, the dates had changed and he was to pick the new one up in Shanghai. Luckily the nice steward on the Air New Zealand flight foresaw out predicament and rebooked us whilst we were still in the air. We finally had our boarding passes and with some time to spare to popped in for a bite to eat and a well deserved beer.
Overall the the process of getting from check in onto the plane was somewhat long winded and of course there was a queue at every point:
- Check in
- Post check in passport scan before leaving the check in area
- Pre security boarding pass check
- Scan boarding pass then have bags x-rayed
- Go through customs (after this you are free for a bit)
- Security check at the gate
- Boarding pass check going into air bridge
- Check half way down the air bridge
- Seating check as you enter the plane
Don't get me wrong I'm not complaining just highlighting the different experiences. Lesson learned, avoid Shanghai if you are flying through Asia and not stopping over on the way to Europe. The most annoying part was that my Vodafone mobile wasn't working. I wasn't able to contact Renate to let her know I would be delayed and the new flight details.