Kissed the family goodbye, jumped into the taxi and headed off to sunny Manchester for the beginning of a very long journey. The conversation in the cab (Kevin, Liverpool born Sikh) was wide ranging and enjoyable focusing on international travel and cultural difference but ultimately what unites us all rather than what divides us. A very positive start to my journey. This was my first long haul trip for a while and my first trip further east than Prague! My mind was full of optimism about the conversations I would have on my travels. I had hoped to have a blether with folk on the flight, a chance conversation in Copenhagen airport during my long changeover, and in depth chat with a taxi drive taking me to Suzhou.
Sadly none of these things happened. There was a lot of silence, uncomfortable sleep and very little conversation. The person sitting next to me didn't want to chat, no random exchanges in Copenhagen airport either. Copenhagen airport was a bit of an eye opener though. I saw the leading Danish actor Lars Mikkelson striding towards the smoking area (below)
I know smoking is bad for you and has fallen out of vogue in the last decade, but I didn't expect smoker to be squashed into a see-through pen and made to inhale the smoke from eight other smokers at the same time! Seemed cruel to me.
The flight was overnight and uncomfortable. Body not used to it. The food was nice and the entertainment was great. I watched ALL the movies - Moonlight & Dr Strange came out top. I also spent some time watching the world flying past beneath us as the airplane was equipped with two camera facing front and back. The snow-capped mountains of Mongolia were a particular delight to watch.
We touchdown in Pudong Airport at 10.30am. Tired and emotional I travel through passport control and baggage collection with relative ease. I stagger toward the exit hoping there is a taxi driver there waiting to whisk me straight into a cab and to my hotel in Suzhou for a well-earned nap. Sure enough there was a gentleman waiting for me.
He didn’t speak a word of English and I have no Mandarin, but I did have a print out of the name of the hotel in Chinese. I tried to stay awake to soak up the sight of Shanghai but ended up dozing off and on. My main memory of the journey was looking upon row after row of towering blocks of flats interspersed with huge channels of electricity pylons carving their way through the city. Two hours later I arrive at my hotel – the very lovely Sheraton. The sun is shining. I have nap. Wake and explore the surrounding lake and gardens.