Tag Archives: airport

Flying business

20 Sep

As I mentioned before, I have traveled a lot in the last four months.  I’ve been all over – the States three times, South Korea three times, the UK (Britain and Scotland), Australia, Singapore and Indonesia.  All told I was traveling over two thirds of the time from May through the end of August.

Blue skies

Blue skies

With that much travel, I spent a lot of time in airports – on planes, in lounges and in the duty free shops.  I also saw many, many more blue skies than if I had stayed in China.  My status on Delta and its alliance partners has ticked up to the top and I must admit that I’m getting a little spoiled from not standing in line, cutting security queues and having first access to the plane.

In London I got to explore the Virgin Clubhouse lounge which has waiter service, a hair salon, a music studio and a pool table inside.  In San Francisco, Korean Air uses the British Airways lounge where I was the only person in the highest lounge for nearly an hour with a full buffet to myself.  In Shanghai I now know which lounges let you access the plane directly and avoid the scramble around the gate above.  Sydney’s lounges have a full barista set up where I could get a fresh cup of chai and homemade scone.

A buffet for one

A buffet for one

I bought English breakfast tea and Winston Churchill’s caramels in London, kangaroo jerky in Sydney and my ultimate foot lotion socks in Seoul, plus lots of candy and other small gifts as I made my way through the airports.  I completed a survey on the Seoul airport and got a free toothbrush.

The best way to pamper your feet - only found in Korea.  Single use lotion socks that are incredible!

The best way to pamper your feet – only found in Korea. Single use lotion socks that are incredible!

I spent a weekend exploring the area near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, I ate traditional Korean food in Seoul and caught up with old friends in Singapore.  My boss bravely tried haggis in Scotland where I marveled that there was whisky on the breakfast buffet.  I met up with a former colleague for a weekend in San Francisco where we had sourdough bread and met people I haven’t seen in nearly 10 years at an actuarial conference.

My visit to Jakarta was punctuated with a breakfast with one of my first friends from Shanghai who was in my Chinese class way back when I was teaching English.  She’s Indonesian and had moved back with her husband a couple of years ago.  One visit to the States I had a rental car and enjoyed driving again with the windows down.

Of course I also met with clients and colleagues and had conference calls at odd hours.  I struggled through jet lag and time differences and not remembering which room was mine at the hotel because I had three different room numbers in a week and none of them stuck in my head.

Will my carry-on fit?  Of course... I am flying business!

Will my carry-on fit? Of course… I am flying business!

It was fun and invigorating and exhausting.

In short, it was business travel.

I’m ready for a break.

Have you ever traveled a lot for business?  What are your favorite memories?


Be careful next time

29 Jan

Going through security at the airport can be a frustrating experience, even in Asia.  The US still takes the cake for the most obtrusive, but even the Philippines has the umbrella rule (click here for that story) and other islands weigh you before you check in.  Recently in Singapore I also had an interesting experience.

In Singapore, you go through customs first, but don’t go through security until you enter your boarding gate.  I like the system, for the most part as it is more efficient in terms of getting people trapped in the boarding area which means flights board in a timely manner.

This time after I pulled out my computer, iPad, phone and laid each thing on the belt I took half a step the wrong way and bumped into a pole next to the metal detector.  My pants caught on the very sharp edge which was at thigh level and it ripped a pretty large hole in my jeans.

My jeans after the fact - be careful next time!

My jeans after the fact – be careful next time!

I expected an apology or at least some type of excuse, but instead the screener said “You should be careful next time.”  I don’t see how this was my fault and the comment really bothered me.  Why in the world would any airport put a razor sharp pole at thigh level?  If it was a little kid it could be eye level which would have been very dangerous.

I wish I could have thought of a comeback at the time, instead I repacked my bag and entered into the gate holding area.  Recently there was a study globally that said Singaporeans ranked very low on the global happiness index.  The behavior I experienced confirmed that and was something that I would have expected more in mainland China than in Singapore.

Luckily the jeans I was wearing were pretty old, so at least it wasn’t new clothes, but it still bothers me.  What would you have said if it happened to you?

Traveling during the holiday season

6 Jan

Li and I recently returned from a Christmas trip to the US.  It was the first Christmas that we have spent together because normally I’m with my family and he is working in China, so it was a special trip.  We had a wonderful time and were blessed with a white Christmas – about 4 inches of puffy white snow to make it really seem like the holidays.  Our days were filled with special meals, presents, family and overall relaxation.

But we had to get there first.

Traveling during the holidays is always a challenge, too many people trying to get home, too much luggage in the overhead bins, too many school age kids in seats that I’m used to having business travelers.  Normally people are in a pretty good mood because they are going home and I try to keep that same spirit during the trip.

One year I had torn the ligaments in my knee and had requested a wheel chair escort for the trip.  I neglected to understand though, that once they drop you off at your initial gate they leave.  That year when I had to change planes in Chicago my flights were delayed and I had to hobble through the airport to get to each gate as they changed.

Another year when I was trying to get back to China my flight was canceled at 3:30am the morning of and pushed back to the next day due to heavy fog – but at least I was upgraded to business class!

There was also one Christmas where I surprised my family and planned a secret trip home for Christmas.  Ironically on the last leg of my flight I was seated next to someone else who had done the exact same thing.

This year after we boarded the plane the captain informed us that there was a discrepancy between the stated amount of fuel in the tank and what his gauges read.  We couldn’t leave until it was cleared up which they had to do manually with a cherry picker.  Several hours later (note that we were sitting on the plane already), we finally left.

We made friends with the people behind us who were going with their young son to Disney World for Christmas and discovered that we would be traveling back on the same date two weeks later.  I did see them again on the flight home, so they made it, but seeing them was the high point of the flight back.  I was unable to sleep, a rare occurrence for me, and the woman next to me had a killer cold and coughed and hacked the entire flight.  It was not pleasant.  I haven’t come down with a cold yet, but am still a bit nervous that the germs will get me at some point.

The holiday season will actually continue through the middle of February here in China until after Chinese New Year, so I’m not done with holiday travel yet.  Let’s see if I encounter anything else.

Do you have a favorite holiday travel story?

Layover at Kunming airport

22 Apr

I was recently in the Kunming airport to do a transfer to another city in Yunnan called Tengchong.  The Kunming airport is definitely not up to the standards of the Singapore airport – with my major example being that all of the toilets in the airport (that I was able to find) are squat toilets.  This time I had a much more pleasant experience than the last time I flew through when I had some stomach trouble and the state of the bathrooms was higher on my priority list.

Since I had a couple of hours, I wandered through quite a bit of the airport and even pulled out my camera.  Because Yunnan is so close to Myanmar and Thailand, there is a lot of fruit available and some of it is very unusual.  These photos show Buddha’s hands, which I have never had, as well as the classic smelly fruit – the durian.

In addition the beautiful weather in the province means that there are beautiful flowers everywhere – even the airport.  I didn’t buy any because I was transferring and at the start of my trip, but the idea that you could buy them and bring them home was really nice.

So many beautiful flowers!

After I took these photos I still had some time so I paid 20 RMB (about $3 USD) for a chair massage and then headed to my gate.

Any favorite places for layovers?

Duty free shopping

10 Apr

One of the benefits of flying so much internationally is the ability to purchase goods in the airport that are either not available regularly in China, or at much reduced prices from what I can get here.  In an overarching generalization, Chinese citizens are firm believers in buying as much as possible from duty free shops – to the point that most folks have at least one if not two bags that they will carry onto the plane.  Alcohol is of course popular, as are cigarettes, make-up, perfume, designer handbags and my favorite – chocolate.

Unfortunately I’ve also gotten a bit snobbish – US duty free stores – at least the ones in Chicago – are not up to par with the stores in Asia or even in Europe when I went to Paris a couple of years ago.  But, because I fly at least once a quarter to parts elsewhere, I have ample opportunities to browse and/or select things at the stores.  I’ve purchased the occasional Christmas gift there and looked at new technology and even considered (but didn’t purchase) buying some new luggage.

During my last business trip, I was feeling a bit peckish when in the airport ready to fly off and so passed the time browsing – knowing that soon I would be in the same seat for 5 and a half hours.  I didn’t want sweet, but I was looking for something salty and I wasn’t in the mood for typical Chinese snack food.  The only thing that I could find in that flavor profile was a bag of Combos.  Combos are a pretzel with some type of flavor in the middle – cheese, pepperoni, garlic, pizza – all very processed and not typically something I would choose.  I haven’t eaten Combos since high school, but after deciding that yes, I really did want salt, I purchased a bag – which was industrial sized – from the duty free store.  During the remainder of that trip I munched the combos – Pizza Flavor – until the point when I landed in Singapore and felt rather ill.

I actually snapped a picture when on the plane as I could tell this was not going to end well!

The remains of the bag went into the trash.  Uggh.

Be careful when duty free shopping.

Butterflies at the airport

8 Apr

In my post on business travel summarizing the success I had in Singapore, I may have said that my project was “almost done.”  For better or worse, those words came back to me when last week my company requested that I return to Singapore – yet again – to try to finish it.

The trip was even shorter than the last one and even more jam packed, but I still took the time each night to have a walk and look at the brilliant sunsets over the Singapore skyline.  I tried a different hawker’s market, found a roast chicken restaurant that served the chicken with mashed potatoes and green peas (I don’t know the last time I had a green pea) and even managed some yoga in my hotel room one evening.

I’ve been through Singapore’s Changi airport a dozen times in the last several years, but when I got to the airport, my departure gate was in an area that I had never been to before.  As I was looking for the restroom prior to my flight, I stumbled across a sign that read Butterfly Garden.  Pushing open the double doors and then through the chains protecting the door, I pulled my roller bag into a butterfly paradise.  They were everywhere – on the bushes, on trees, even on a little girl who was standing entranced by the bushes at the front.

Butterflies everywhere - even on her head!

There was one large butterfly who was attracted by my bright blue purse.  As I was trying to pull my camera out it flew directly to my purse and wouldn’t move.  I wasn’t sure what to do – it was sitting on the zipper.  I have never touched a butterfly before – so I gently shook my purse until he flew away and then I pulled out my camera.

Beautiful flowers - and more butterflies.

Bright colors, warm air – a tropical feeling engulfed me as I stood there for a few minutes, then hurried to my gate, much better for the experience. Singapore’s airport has won awards and even locals will come there sometimes for recreation and shopping and food.  They also have koi ponds (which I have seen before), lots of seating with speakers built in, huge desk areas to charge your laptop, free internet browsing and of course, lots of shopping – I normally buy peanut butter M&Ms.

Happy Easter to you!  The butterflies (with a touch of chocolate) seemed to be the perfect post for today.  Any favorite airport stories or Easter stories or Easter airport stories?  Best wishes as spring rolls us forward.

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