Really.. This place is not for me… maybe its because I was traveling solo on business but it just did not feel right. What’s more, I had the feeling that all the stuff I usually don’t like about the US were emphasized here… Here are a couple of those things that make me go crazy:
Early december… Shanghai is getting colder and colder… and we decide to go North… to Beijing, where temperatures are well below 0° celcius… Are we nuts? Maybe….
But wait a minute, did I say we??? Yes, I did. I’m not alone anymore and it’s not a secret for most of you… A while ago, I met a wonderful girl, named Lida, who charmed me in no time and these days we share most of our time together. And it cannot be any better.
That trip to Beijing was our first weekend outside of Beijing together, so we both had great expectations. And we were not disappointed. I had already spent a tiring day of meetings with clients in Beijing before Lida joined us. I was almost too late at the airport to pick her up as I was having dinner with one of my staff that had accompanied me to the meetings (You have to try Modo in Sanlitun, simple affordable european food and very yummy too!).
Lida and I were staying in a very authentic hotel called Hotel Côté Cour. It’s a traditional house in a hutong in Beijing. I loved it very much since they mix modern and traditional design which is always a win with me. I spend my time traveling and often stays in major hotel chains, so when I travel on my own, I typically stay away from those and stay at boutique hotels. Hotel Cote Cour is one of them. The staff and rooms were perfect, and I’m pretty sure we will stay there again next time we are in Beijing.
Our big plan for the weekend was to go to the Great Wall as Lida had never been before! Yes, I have to show China to my chinese girlfriend! can you believe it! In any case, the Great Wall is such a stunning sight that going there for the 3rd time wasn’t a problem at all.
But it was even better since two friends of Lida, Lisa and Joe, were joining us for the trip and taking us there in their car. Funny enough, we learnt a few days ago that they were getting married. We were super happy for them!
We had to meet with them right before lunch so Lida and I had time to shop around in the morning. It was a bright and sunny day, but the temperatures were well below zero. So I had no choice but to buy leggings to wear under my jeans. Yes, leggings.
I did not regret those, even during the sporty climb to get on the wall I was freezing! The view was stunning as usual. And especially on this beautiful day. We did not stay too long however, since it was so cold. We were glad to be back in the warmth of the car.
Joe and Lisa took us to dinner to DaDong, which luckily was my favourite place for Beijing Duck! So yummy! We ended up in a bar in the Nan luo Gu Xiang area called Bed where you litteraly lounge on… beds. They were serving an excellent old-fashioned, so I was probably the most tipsy of all…
The second day was more relaxed for us, we slept late to catch up the sleep we did get the past 3 weeks that were pretty intense in working and partying (most notably the week of my birthday that started with a 4am in beds after heavy drinking…). On the menu that day: shopping and walking around in Nan Luo Gu Xiang and HouHai !
I have never been a big fan of Beijing and I believe I will never be. I’m a Shnaghai Ren after all, but this time I must say that I truely enjoyed my stop in Beijing. Enough to say, that I wouldn’t mind going back!
More traveling to come with Lida soon, we are thinking of going even further north, to the Harbin snow and ice festival or for a ski trip somewhere in China… And then, a trip to Malaysia for Chinese New Year!
ThomasShare on Facebook
On August, 7th 2012, Typhoon Haikui hit Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang province. But wait a minute… did I say Typhoon? I meant “Tropical storm” because, by the time it reached Shanghai, it was a tropical storm (not as bad as a typhoon, weaker winds mainly).
According to what I could read online, both on newspapers websites and social networks, it was “apocalypse”… but come on people, get a grip of yourselves… I wonder what they would write if they were living in places like Taiwan, Florida or the Caribbean, where real typhoons and hurricanes hit shores even more often.
Well I cannot tell you my own experience of Haikui because for me, it was clear skies and sunshine! I was actually on a business trip in Japan, for the opening of a Belgian Beer Café in Takashimaya – Shinjuku.
But still there was one major dark cloud in my sky, namely: Air China! I’m lost for words to describe what I think of them now… Usually, among chinese airlines, they are ahead of the pack, but gosh… this time, China Spring Airlines could have done better… (by far the worst airline in China).
First thing first: You cannot blame anyone to delay flights or cancel flights for a Typhoon… It’s part of the game (and well beyond anyone’s control, beside Chuck Norris of course), you take that risk anytime you fly. And I must say things like that have happened to me over the years and the frequent traveling (this year seems to be a record year for me, not even 8 months into the year and already 55 flights), but what you can criticize is the way airlines companies handle such situation. I would classify airlines into 2 categories: the customer centric ones, and the others. And a third category especially for Air China: the worst of the worst!
First problem: To announce the delay of the flight, I received the day before a few text messages in… Chinese. Because hey, of course, everyone speaks Chinese out there! And my name, my passport, my nationality would surely not have been good cues that I was a foreigner… but I guess no one speaks English at Air China? and the text messages kept coming and coming… luckily I have a few Chinese friends, and one of them was still awake at 1am and could help me translate. Lucky for me, because otherwise I would have made it to the airport at 7am instead of 11am…
Arriving at the airport I saw something I had never seen before: “departure time: indefinite”… I should have understood it as: “be prepared you will wait forever”… At that time, I was still in a good mood, so I took their meal voucher, treated myself to some nice sushi and then tried to kill time… I even took a nap in the sun, as Narita Airport has a nice rooftop observation deck. Really a plus for this airport! But I also took the time to have my air cut, and my beard trimmed and shaved! What an experience, it wasn’t a haircut, but an art performance! The guy used at least 15 different towels, did things to my hair I would have never expected… well, you know, Japanese style: “dans les règles de l’art…” But it took forever as well… I think he cut each hair one by one, to make sure they were all the same length…
After spending 2 hours of my time, it was only right to ask an update at the check-in counter… and of course they had no update… that’s exactly when it started to get worse and worse… every half hour they kept pushing back the expected departure time, and kept us waiting there without any info… the other airlines had already cancelled the flights departing around the same time a while before. But no, Air China, was still trying to have us fly…
I was still receiving text messages directly from the airline in Beijing on my chinese mobile, and I had to inform the ground staff that after 10 hours waiting in the airport the flight was finally cancelled! I rebooked a flight the next day, and went straight back to time where I treated myself to a nice dinner, with a cocktail and a cigar (Mad Men style) to recover from such a frustrating day…
But I was really out of luck. The day after, after working the whole morning at the hotel, I arrived at the airport, to realize that the flight departure time was “indefinite” again… I don’t easily get mad at people, but this time, it was too much… They finally upgraded me so I could at least wait in the airport lounge, a nice gesture, but I couldn’t care less about it, as I really wanted to get back to Shanghai where I was suppose to take one of my best friend out for her birthday…
The bottom line is: Please Air China, you have what it takes to become a great airline, just please put customers at the center of your concerns!Share on Facebook