Arriving in Nanjing on a full moon

My work arranged for me to fly to Nanjing to spend a week working my product development group. Our travel agent is a gem; you tell her your preferences and things magically happen. I was booked on China Eastern Airlines, which I’ve never flow before (apparently it’s a lower-cost option to China Airlines, which I enjoy flying). My driver showed up on time; we made it to Taoyuan Airport in less than an hour. The check-in was uneventful; my one bag (filled with clothes for the week and goodies from Taiwan for my Chinese co-workers) weighed 18.4k – amazing, no? (Guess I’ve learned to pack!) I found out my flight was delayed – oh well. I wasn’t sure who to contact in Nanjing (The travel agent had arranged a driver on that end for me as well); I hoped they would check the flight status.

At TPE airport, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Getting through immigration was a breeze. Then,  at customs (security) they spent a lot of time looking at my purse (I worried that they would take away my tuna sandwich and guava slices, but they didn’t) and then they pawed, literally through my entire purse, paying special attention to my umbrella and my wallet. Not sure why…NOTE: I was the only obvious foreigner in line. on the way to the departure gate, I exchanged NTD for RMB. It’s strange trying to keep up with how much everything costs. I am always trying to convert the foreign currency into USD to figure out if something is a good price or not.

Once in the empty waiting area (where is everyone?), I ate my snack and played a game online. Finally, we got onboard. As usual everyone was very orderly getting on board, and we were off! We flew on a A321 which was comfortable but I have say I could not eat the food we were served. I’m not sure if no vegetarian meal was ordered or available but we were served beef noodles, a white roll in plastic, something that looked like a catsup packet but felt more like bean sprouts, some dessicated fava beans, and a half a canned peach. The crew had no clue what I was asking for when I said wo bu cher rou (I don’t eat meat.). In the food department, CI has it all over China Eastern! In flight, there were no magazines in English.

When I got off the plane at Nanjing’s Lukou airport, I waited in line for customs, and when I finally got to the front,  I was told I needed to fill out an Arrival Card (usually this is done in-flight, but not here). After that, it was smooth sailing. I got my bag, found my driver (he had water waiting for me), and headed to the Jinling hotel.

On the drive, I tried to get some sense of Nanjing but at night, even with a full moon, it was difficult. One thing was for certain: the air quality really is BAD (when you can see the smog at night, you know you’re in for some difficult times breathing).

Welcome to Nanjing!

Nanjing traffic is very orderly, the faster cars honking at the slower ones to get out of the way. Tall trees lined the median and side of the freeway. I could see really tall buildings, all along the freeway, outlined with bright lights (apartment buildings?). Once we got off the freeway, we could have been in downtown LA, except for the signs in Chinese. Everything is modern, clean, brightly lit and I noticed a few familiar signs: Howdy CVS, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and Cafe 85 (from Taipei).

The Jinling (named after the ancient term for Nanjing/Nanking) is a gorgeous building, the best hotel in town. I was graciously checked in and taken up to my room so that porter could show me how everything worked. The view at  night from my room is pretty amazing. I couldn’t hear the traffic but the lights are gorgeous!

I was able to figure out how to get online (many, many sites are blocked here in China). WordPress being one of them. I checked out the mini-bar – outrageous prices on Coke (3.00) and the  nuts were 6.00! Okay I broke down and had the nuts – they were packaged so cutely and after missing dinner, I was hungry.

Tomorrow I will attempt to make my way into the office (they say to take a taxi but i’m feeling brave….)


I’ve arrived! Dog-tired but safely ensconsed in the Taipei Fullerton South. As you might imagine, it was difficult to say goodbye to my folks, not knowing if/when I’ll see them again. (I never was good at goodbyes!)

Props to the LA-based SuperShuttle for getting me to the airport on-time (read: hours early)! Being early for my flight turned into a blessing because the line was already forming for China Airlines check-in when I pulled up and I only had to wait 10 minutes before check-in began and was able to get an exit row seat!  I knew my bags were overweight and was prepared to pay the fee at the counter. What I wasn’t prepared for was the weight limit for carry-on! Luckily the limit for carry-ons had only recently changed so the CI counter rep offered to check my carry on at no additional cost! (Try that on any other international carrier.) NOTE: Luckily there are all sorts of SmartCarts along the Bradley International terminal arrivals lane ($5.00USD non-refundable) so I did not have to lug my heavy bags anywhere!

Although I booked my flight through Delta, the carrier (CI) check-in (at LAX) is located several terminals away from the Delta Sky Room. It was another beautiful day in southern California so I walked….and enjoyed the sunshine.

Our flight was delayed but we were eventually ushered onto the 747-400 carrying us across the ocean. I found my “window” seat (38A) did not have a window but by leaning forward, I was able to watch the buildings of Los Angeles get smaller and smaller…

I have nothing but compliments for the CI crew – their attention to detail (the flight attendants actually cleaned the lavatories every hour, themselves!) and willingness to accomodate (and remember) requests was amazing. I hadn’t requested a vegetarian meal in time but they still managed to find an extra dinner and breakfast for me. (I have no idea what I ate but it was delicious and apparently not meat!)

The flight was uneventful. My seatmates all spoke Chinese so I was able to practice a bit with them. (Today’s word is hen hao which means “very good”.)

Arriving in Taipei, I wondering what the immigration and customs procedures would consist of. Would my luggage actually make it intact? Would I have to declare something? Actually, the process was simple: queue up to show your passport/visa, take the escalator down to the (very well marked) baggage carousel, pick up the (free) baggage cart and wait, wait, wait. Side note: why is the worst part of any flight the endless waiting for one’s luggage?

I found ALL my luggage intact and was able to find the rental car counter, my driver, and eventually (after a lovely 20 minute drive), my hotel. Now, SLEEP!

Take off!

Yesterday was my last full day in the States! Seeing my children and grandchildren the past few days was wonderful!

I puttered around with my parents and attempted to handle last-minute details: talking with the customs broker in SFO, arranging a shuttle to LAX, printing out hotel and work information (in case my driver doesn’t speak English). After dinner, my Mom helped me pack – she somehow managed to shoehorn all my stuff from three suitcases into two! I tried checking in online with China Airlines but was missing a code on my Delta itinerary (I’d booked my flights through Delta; CI is one of their partners.) The Delta representative tried to explain how my itinerary says Delta but the flight is operated by CI – all I care about is that I have a seat on a plane (please, please, please let them change it to one with more leg room!) headed to Taipei and that it arrives safely!

After packing, I weighed the suitcases – ouch! One is just under 50 lbs and one is definitely OVER! The airline representative told me that 51-70 lbs over will cost an additional 50.00. Heck, I should try to shove more into my Samsonites…

I think I’m prepared….but who knows! I’ve got all my paperwork in order and hopefully I’ll be able to make it through Taiwanese customs with all my items intact! It’s a sobering feeling knowing that all support systems I’ve relied on in the past will be…in the past! I’ve still got my wits and sense of humor – and really, isn’t this the essense of adventure? I explained to the ‘rents that it’s like one of those cooking shows: you have a basket in front of you and are required to create a meal. You won’t know what ingredients you’ll be using until the basket is opened. So that’s me: getting ready to open the basket and make something wonderful out of whatever is inside.

T minus 5

My bags are packed, which is a minor miracle considering I left SC Tuesday afternoon, scheduled to fly out of ATL Wednesday evening. I managed to keep them both under 50 lbs; the items must last at least 6 weeks until the boxes I hastily packed Wednesday morning, arrive. I decided to mail my suitcases to SoCal (I fly out of LAX) so as not to have to lug them through the various stops I’m making to visit family before leaving this continent. I hope they make it to CA before I leave.

When I arrive in Taipei, I’m to collect my luggage (sure hope I have luggage to collect!) and make my way to the car rental counter where my “driver” (sure hope he/she speaks or understands English!) is to take me to the Fullerton. My flight is 16+ hours, non-stop on China Airlines (sure hope I can get an aisle, bulkhead, or emergency row seat!). The flight arrives at 8:20pm and I’m curious as to how long it takes to make it through customs. (The last time I had to pass through customs was last year in Belize and that was a breeze. The time before that, when I returned from Germany, took literally hours despite having nothing to declare!) Wish me luck….I’ll let you know what happens.




T minus 8

The theory of getting ready for an international move and the reality are really NOT the same! All those little details that seem to escape mention in most travel blogs become abundantly obvious as the days before take off dwindle!

Last week’s big stressor, the visa! Did I send the right information? Would it be approved? Would VisaHQ get it out the door on time? Would Fed Ex actually deliver it? I’m happy to report that a visa was issued (though not the type I’d applied for….hmmm, will have to figure that out in-country) and sent back on schedule. The only glitch being that I had stepped out to verify international wire transfer protocols with my bank when the guy in blue/orange arrived. (Of course!) So I headed to the North Charleston “World Service Center” (a counter manned by a very patient guy and miles of warehouse space). Thanks to good timing and a new car locking mechanism I met the hunkiest Brit on my way out the door (visa in hand). A gurl can look, can’t she?

Packing, packing, and more packing. A word of advice: read the airline’s fine print on the size and weight of allowable luggage (checked and carry on). I bought one of those handy gadgets that clip onto a suitcase handle and within seconds was pleased to realize I’d actually packed LESS than 20 kg (50 lbs) allowed by China Airlines. Whew! Guess I’ll have to figure out how to shoehorn more footwear into them. Now I just have to worry about whether my vitamin supplements and powdered protein drinks will make it through customs.

And the packing continues…

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…