23 July 2014

the long horrible trip to europe


It took me 2 days to get to Europe.  Two whole days!

I got to the airport, ready to leave at 10.30am and got told to come back at 9 o'clock that night.  I told them I had a connecting flight from Shanghai to Milan and they had no freaken idea what to do about it, that it'd be sorted when I got back.

I asked if I should cancel my first night's accommodation in Milan and she told me yes.

Got back and they said they'd fly me Shanghai to Beijing and then to Milan and I'd get in at 7pm instead of 5.30am.  Okay, except I'd cancelled my hotel - on their information.  She was like - did I say that?

Finally, at around 1am, the flight took off.

We got to Shanghai, got matched all around the airport and back onto the same plane, same seats (I recognised the Gemma-dog hair on my blanket so they hadn't even cleaned the plane).

We sat on the tarmac.  And sat and sat.

I asked one of the hosties if I'd make it Beijing to catch my connecting flight and she wasn't sure.  The staff on Air China seem to have English skills that disappear when you ask them anything important.  After much questioning she told me if I missed my flight, they'd get me one the next day.  Great, I'd already missed one day of my holiday and now they wanted me to miss another one.  Thanks Air China.

After a few hours of sitting on the plane, they came over and said it'd be another 2 hours at least and, if you wanted to cancel your flight, you could get off the plane.

I said I wanted to get off the plane and fly out of Shanghai that night instead of Beijing the next day because I'd definitely missed my flight.  It took about an hour of mucking around with the ground staff to organise it and get my bag off but they did it.  I got to sit in first class and wait.  Even first class on Air China is pretty shit.

I thought it was all organised but the guy doing the organising just told me to go to check in and left me to my own devices.  Luckily, a Chinese businessman got off the flight at the same time and, since he had to wait around the airport for his driver, helped me sort things out.

After going to about 4 different places, we found where I had to get my bag.  They told me to wait for it but we went to sort out the ticketing.

My feet had swollen up like big swollen things on the flight and my shoes were too tight but I had to follow this guy around the terminal because he was the only one willing to help me.  There is no way I could've dealt with all the Chinese staff on my own.

The ticketing people said to come back to the counter at 9pm.  They didn't say why.  The nice businessman said goodbye and I was on my own.

I went back to get my bag, thinking I'd seen the last of my pretty dresses and having to push my way through the Chinese crowds.  Queuing ettiquette is not big in China.

When I saw my bright green suitcase, I squealed and hugged it.  Literally.

Then I tried to find out if there was a day hotel at the airport.  Both the Air China people and the information booth said no.  There was an expensive airport hotel and nothing else nearby.  I walked around and found a place near the expensive hotel that did day rooms and massages.  They told me for $133 I could get 1 hour massage then use of the room for as long as I liked.  Yay! At least something went right.  Except I swear that massage guy had his crotch a bit close to my hand while I was on that massage table.

Went back to the desk like they said and got waylaid by some chick telling me she'd give me a free wifi card for my phone.  She took my phone, put the SIM in it then charged me for data usage.  I stupidly, in my tired and stressed state, just handed over my credit card without doing a currency conversion.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  The card didn't work and I went back later.  She couldn't get it working either and I told her I didnt want it but didn't get my $$$ back.  Found out it cost me $60 for nothing.  It's a scam.

Got to the counter and there was a huge bunch of school kids taking over the place, behind the desks even.  They all needed a good smack around the ears.  There was no one to help me though.

Eventually, I found someone and she was lovely and super well organised.  Got me a boarding pass and all sorted out.

Finally got on the plane and got to Milan a day later than planned.  I had a train ticket booked for Venice.  The plane had been to spend the night at a hotel in Lake Maggiore, relaxing after my flight then heading to Venice.  I was so not relaxed and my feet were the size of watermelons (I'd changed into my biggest shoes at the massage place but they have very thin soles so not good for too much walking).

Got the train for the airport to Milan.  Had coffee and a pastrie for breakfast at a cafe in the station.  Then coffee at another cafe...

The train to Venice went as planned but I had to meet the guy from the Airbnb place at the train station.  I got off the train and went to meet him.  He wasn't there.  I couldn't get any kind of wifi connection and set off to find something.  The area was very seedy and weird so I didn't want to ask anyone for help.

I found a pay phone but either it wasn't working or I was too stupid to follow the translated instructions properly.  It was stinking hot and I was exhausted.  I went back into the station.  At the other side of the walkway were steps that looked like they went to another platform.  I went up them and it was the RIGHT side of the station!  OMG!

There was no pay phone there but a cafe across the road had free wifi.

Anyway, after a long time, I got in touch with the guy and he got out of work to meet me.  He took me and showed me my room then had to rush back to work.  And, OMG the cleaner hadn't been to make the bed or clean the room.

I'd booked a ghost tour of Venice for that night and, after all the running around and shit, it was 5 o'clock when I got there.  I had a shower and got changed and thought of trying to catch the tour but put on my shoes and realised I was physically and mentally exhausted.

Two days of broken sleep on planes, trains and massage tables did me in.

I really wanted to do that tour but the thought of even walking two blocks to the station made me die inside.

I curled up on the couch and slept until the AirBnB guy came back.  He was super sweet and even made me an awesome dinner. I had an early night and got up to hit Venice the next day.

By that time, my feet were a swollen up mess and now, a week later, are only just getting back to normal.

16 July 2014

it got worse

After the flight delay, it got much worse. Will post in detail when I am not on my tablet. Never ever fly air china.  They screw you over and lie through their teeth.

13 July 2014

Holiday Shenanigans

Got to the airport bright and early this morning to catch my flight.  Only to find out it had been delayed for 12 hours.  Jumped in a cab and came back home.

No one could tell me anything about my connecting flight so not sure what's going on or if I should cancel hotels or make other arrangements. Plus I'm out $100 in cab fares.

I called my travel insurance people and they've said to keep receipts of everything and claim it all.  I've never had to claim on travel insurance before.

03 July 2014

Other people

I am super grumpy at the moment and the reason is this - it feels like every interaction I have with other people involves me having to be on top of things and constantly follow up.  Nothing goes smoothly.  Is this some Mercury in retrograde shit or just that people can do their jobs?  Since I don't really believe in astrology, I blame lack of competence.

There are just some examples:

I'm flying to Europe with Air China.  I kinda wish now I'd paid a few extra hundred bucks to go with another airline.  I rang them a while back because I have a 5 and a half hour stopover in Shanghai.  I'd read online that there are few facilities at the airport (apparently Burger King is top food choice!) so I wanted to know if I could leave the transit area.

The guy at the call centre said I could get a pass for the lounge but I'd have to call back closer to my flight time.

I called them today.  The woman on the phone said you can only get the lounge pass if your transit time is more than 7 hours -- and then you can only get a 3 hour pass and you have to pay for extra time! I asked her if I could just pay to use the lounge and she put me on hold then came back and gave me the number of their local office.

I called the local office and the guy told me THERE IS NO LOUNGE.  Also, other things she'd told me like if I checked luggage it would be checked all the way to Milan was totally untrue.

Seriously, I've found if I call airlines to ask them questions, I get the right answer about 50% of the time.  I never know which 50% though.

He did organise a free transit hotel for my 14 hour stopover on the way back - which sounded great until I asked about leaving the hotel to go into the city and he told me I could catch a cab.  That was the only option.  Sounds like the hotel is in the middle of nowhere and I'd be stuck there if I use it or have a heap of additional expenses.

***

I bought a new phone last week.  Got it set up and it was ... well it worked.  I did get a heap of weird error messages every time I tried to do anything but it worked.  Then the battery went flat and I recharged it and can't get it working again.  I have to take it back to the shop.  They don't have any of that model in the state and it'll take over 2 weeks to get one in.  I told him I'd be overseas in 2 weeks and I need it before then so he said that, since it's so new, I could get credit for a different phone.  If I hadn't got cross with him, he'd have probably never told me that.

Also, it means a trip into the city and a whole lot of time wastage because their phone was dodgy.  If businesses sell dodgy products, they shouldn't just give you a refund, they should compensate you for the time loss involved.

***

I have a novel I've written under my pen name that I need to have released before I leave.  Without going into all the details, I've had a fuckton of stress and it looks like I'll have one day to approve edits, format it and get it loaded to have it out by the release date I've used for all promotion sites!

***


30 June 2014

Mothers ::eyeroll::

The other day I went to the shops - a rare enough occurrence in itself since I never leave the house any more.  I got half a dozen yummy sausage rolls from the bakery to freeze for later.

I happened to tell my mum that and she have me very detailed instructions on how to heat my frozen sausage rolls in the microwave.  No kidding.

I think she forgets that I've lived out of home for many, many years and now have an adult son (actually I sometimes forget that myself since I never see him).  It's not rocket science, is it.  You put them in the microwave and turn it on.

27 June 2014

It's a bit windy...

I've never understand "typhoons" in Japan.  I'm sure they get bad sometimes but every typhoon I've ever been in has been just a heavy rain and some winds.  In Australia, we'd call that a bit of a storm.

It's been a bit stormy here the past few days, more stormy that any Japanese typhoon I've been in.  Monday was the worst, rain bucketing down and strong wind.

I've been doing some work in the garden lately and had cut some plants back so, when my sister went out to the back deck, she thought I'd been over-zealous until she realised the whole freaken tree had been ripped out of the ground.


It's not a great photo but I'm not going out to the backyard to take another because it's bloody cold and windy out there.  You can get an idea of the size of the tree if you look at the roof of the back deck.  I'd say it's about 2.5 metres.

A bloke's coming around on Sunday to get rid of it.

26 June 2014

5 kg luggage challenge - update

I posted before about how my Air China flight has a 5kg one bag cabin bag limit.  I'm determined to meet it but I've run into a few issues.

Firstly, OMG how heavy are tablets?  My tablet and headphones together weigh about 500 grams.  That's a hefty percentage of my overall luggage allowance.

Then there is all the other handbag type shit and other tech like my camera.  My wallet alone makes a big difference.  I carry this shit around with me everywhere, often with other shit that I'm not taking with me.  No wonder I get back aches.

I also have plane essentials like fold up slippers, eye mask etc that I need to deal with being around other people.

My actual clothing type luggage I've reduced to 4 dresses, underwear, 1 pair of pjs, 3 pairs of tights and 2 cardigans plus one super light pair of shoes  - I don't think I can get it any less than that without getting rid of essentials.  I could maybe lose one cardigan since I'll be wearing one on the plane, maybe.

I got some luggage scales off ebay and now I'm getting obsessive with my luggage.  I'm not really sure how flexible they are with the 5kg limit.  I've found that when I fly if I am extra super careful to get my luggage within the limits, the airline seems to let on people with all their worldly possessions as hand luggage whereas if I'm like 100g over the limit, they are super strict and I have to pay a fortune.

That actually happened when I moved to Japan.  I wasn't even that much over but they told I didn't have time to repack my bag then sent me to another counter to pay the excess fees -- and I had to wait forever in that line.  I so could've repacked my bag!

Also, I think it's kinda shitty because if I got a jacket with big pockets, I could stuff my tablet plus other shit into those pockets and have kilo or more stuff on me.  Maybe I can fashion some way to wear my tablet as a necklace?

The other ridiculous thing is that I could get my bag super light then go through to duty free and buy 2 x 1 litre bottle of booze and a shitload more stuff and that would be fine.

I think I might try getting through with a bit over 5kg.  To be honest, the worst case scenario is that I have to check my bag (I have a 23kg hold luggage allowance) but I don't want to be lugging more than 5kg around Europe anyway.