Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Back in shanghai

I’m writing this on the plane to Shanghai, heading own for two days. Tonight the Cleveland Cavs are playing the Orlando Magic in the “china Games” and I’ll be blogging that up for slamonline – will post a link when the itime is right. It just feels like an event I need to attend, and there are lots of people to see. There is also a big music convention going on and tomorrow I’ll put on my Guitar World hat and stroll through there, hopefully picking up an acoustic amp in the process.

Traveling within China is really easy. There are flights more or less on the hour to Shanghai. In fact, there were two leaving at 9 am, when I departed. Air travel here is really easy. They have a few quirks to work out – for instance, when you have a connecting flight, you have to pick up your bag and recheck in, which we almost learned the hard way last year in Yunnan.

But the planes are new, the service is crisp and officious, they always serve a meal – Chinese people will not ever skip a meal! – and best of all, you can buy a ticket the day you are traveling with no penalty. I bought these tickets on Monday. And sometimes that’s really nice. My plans were in total flux until the last minute. Becky has been in Singapore for three days (we passed each other on the road this am – her coming home from her red eye flight, me heading out) and I really didn’t want o leave the kids for a night. But I thought I had to be down there last night, or early this morning.. when things finally shook out, that turned out to not be true. It’s really nice to be able to remain flexible in booking a ticket.

The ticketing works like this – there is a price for each route and then you can get discounts depending on what’s available – 10 percent off, 20 percent off, etc. up to 40 percent off.. each ticket is purchased as ao ne way. And the initial price is not astronomical. It’s not like in the U.s., where a full fare ticket may be $1,000 or more. Basically, a Shanghai-Beijing ticket starts at about $160 one way full fare and then you get what you can. Purchasing 48 hours before departure, I got 20 percent off going down and 30 percent off coming back.

It’s all really easy and pleasant. I wonder how many years it will take them to crumble to the pathetic American level of service, unfriendly pricing, etc. It really is an unexpected twist for me how much more I enjoy flying in China than within the U.S… and the one time we took Air China home, rather than a U.S. carrier, it was similar. The whole process was much more relaxed. Of course, if someone hijacked a plane and flew it into the politburo, I’m sure the relaxation would vanish pretty quickly.

On a lighter note, I do sometimes pause and marvel at the fact that places like Singapore and Shanghai are now part of our lives. I spent so little time thinking about Asia until a few years ago..