Sunday, 24-11-2014. Day 96.
16 Hours in China
The room phone woke me up. I answered it quickly to keep it from ringing a second time, and before I could speak, a voice belonging to the young man from the night before told me that the shuttle would be leaving at 6:30. The voice sounded tired. I said, also sounding tired, "Okay, thanks," and hung up. Could we have overslept? We'd gone to bed so early it seemed unlikely. I checked my phone—it was 4:30 in the morning, which seemed a bit early for this sort of notification call.
I dozed for a little, then roused the rest of the family at 5:45 a.m. I figured 45 minutes would be enough time for us to get all packed up and ready for the shuttle. As we were going through the morning routine, the phone rang, again at 6:00 a.m., notifying us that the shuttle would be leaving at 6:30. We were packed and wanted to get out of there, so we hustled down to the lobby.
The place was kind of busy; there were about 15 people (including us) standing around in the lobby. On of them was the driver of our van from the night before. He shambled by—bed head in full effect, lit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, carrying a coffee cup that held a toothbrush and tube of toothpaste—off towards the restroom while we checked out from the hotel. We checked out, and the young man from the night before gave us our boarding passes back, I noticed he'd slept behind the desk on a makeshift bed of four chairs set up in a row and covered by a yellow blanket, which he still wore around his shoulders. This was a weird place.
We took our place in line for the shuttle. Along with us was a group of men from the Philippines who were in some sort of band and a woman from Hong Kong, who was the only one of us who spoke Chinese. The band was laughing and goofing around while the woman looked annoyed. At one point, as we were trying to fit everyone's luggage into the van in a logical order, she muttered in English, "The employees here don't even understand Chinese."
We all climbed into the van. Between the ten passengers and all our luggage, it was one packed truck. We made it as far as the end of the parking lot before the driver's phone rang and the truck stopped. We sat there for a few minutes, through two or three stoplight cycles as he held the phone to his ear, before he popped the truck into reverse and backed up to the door of the hotel.
He left the van and went inside, where we could see him talking to the young man for abut five minutes. Then they walked out together, and the young man stepped onto the van and asked, "Who was in room 203?" No answer. "Room 203?" One of the band guys raised his hand. "Can I have your room key, please?"
There was much laughter from the band, the Hong Kong woman looked even more annoyed, the room key was handed over, and then we were on the road to the airport at last. At some point along the way I realized the van was driving on the right side of the road, which felt strange after months of being in and around cars on the left side.
We checked in and one of our bags was selected for special screening. I went over to the inspection station and we took everything out, then put it all back in. Nothing appeared to be wrong, and I'm still not quite sure what they were looking for.
We didn't have long to wait until our plane boarded, and we were soon on board and ready to fly to Tokyo. As the plane took off, we could see a thick band of gray pollution settling over Shanghai like a shroud.
The rest of the day was relatively uneventful, although the descent into Tokyo was pretty rough. The plane did one of those "drop from the sky" moves and everyone screamed.
We arrived in Tokyo at 1:30 (we crossed back over a time zone), and after customs and immigration, we found our bags and hopped on a Friendly Airport Limousine (which is a bus) and took it to the Grand Hyatt. From there we caught a taxi to our small but nice apartment in Nishi-Azabu, arriving only 14 hours later than we'd first anticipated.
After settleing in for a bit, we wandered around for something to eat, ending up at some restaurant that was just opening up. We looked at the menu and it looked pretty good, if a little expensive. But after last night we figured we could reward ourselves a little. We didn't have a reservation, but they seated us anyway. The food was pretty good, and there were a lot of Westerners dining there. Not until we left did we realize this was Gonpachi, where the restaurant scene from Kill Bill II had been filmed. There's no escaping Hollywood.
- Planes: 1
- Buses 1
- Vans: 1
- Taxia: 1
- iPadographers: 1