In this journal:
- two graphic images;
- numerous food descriptions;
- a heart-wrenching piece of history.
Did I promise to try and rehabilitate to normal life after Voyager Series? Yes, I did. Have I complained thousands of times here about my lack of human interaction during travels? Yes, I have. Did I try my darnest not to droll over cheap airfares found on the internet? Yes, I did. But the enemy is just too strong this round, as how can I resist a business class flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai, and then back, for 560 dollars? No I cannot, no matter how hard I try. Don’t worry, we’ll get them next time.
However, the flight departs from Los Angeles, while I was in Shanghai. To get to Los Angeles, I flew Hainan Airlines to Chongqing first, and stayed for 4 days exploring this place that I had never been to, and then flew directly to Los Angeles. I also spent a week back in Vancouver with family. Thus, the entire journal is split into two very distinct parts: first is my experience in the mountainous city of Chongqing, and the second is the flight review of my Hong Kong Airlines Business Class flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai via Hong Kong. As a result: if you are here only for the cultural experience in one of the most invigoratingly historical cities, skip the latter parts after Los Angeles; if you are here only for the flight review, proceed directly to next part; if you are here for the full ride, then you deserve a cookie!
My flight from Shanghai departed from Pudong airport, so I had to trudge through the horrendously crowded public transport, hop on board the maglev, the fastest land transport commercially operating, and arrived at the security checkpoint nearly 2 hours after leaving my front doors. Oh I miss the convenience of Hongqiao while I left for my Voyager series last time! Hainan airlines operates the large widebody with nice entertainment selections on board this short 2.5hr hop to Chongqing, and surprisingly, they even offer a hot meal service on the flight. What a great way to overstuff for my first day! I landed in Jiangbei Airport before I could even realize: let the adventure begin!
First things first, after settling down in my hostel, I proceeded directly for food. Yes, I just had a meal on the plane, and yes, I was still hungry. Any more questions? It was until that moment did I realize that I picked the worst time in the entire year to visit: the Golden Week of October. Everyone was on their break and this national holiday has always been heralded as the most crowded human migration of all time. The area of 解放碑/Liberation Monument was definitely evidence of that. Used to be the tallest structure in the city, now it is overshadowed by the glass behemoths all around. Remember this place, as I will mention it later.
I am not here to take selfies, however, as my stomach was demonstrating the mating call of a whale. The very first stall I paid homage to was the 棒棒雞/stick chicken, a legendary food that I had been thinking about ever since the creation of universe. It is everything chicken(and duck)-related put into a big pot of salted water, boiled, and skewered on a stick. And no, we are not talking about chicken breasts since that is for filthy casuals. Here on offer are chicken feet, liver, kidney, tongue, intestine and gizzard. Yeah, just your Sunday afternoon dessert, right~?
I tried a few, and it tasted awesome, for someone who had fermented shark in Iceland, gazelle burger in Kenya, and wiggly worms in Peru, so beware of the context. Oh yeah, did I mention this journal is not vegetarian-friendly? Oopsies. I continued to line up by the shop next door, named 好又来, literally “good and please come again”, and indeed it was fantastic. Here the famous dish that one can grab for merely 8 yuan (1.2USD) and eat while standing in the street is the famous 酸辣粉/Sour and Spicy glass noodles. Even though I explicitly requested “minimal spice”, the Sichuanese cuisine still punched me in the face, and my head was scorching hot within seconds after I inhaled the first bite. By the way, I do not have a throat any more. It was surgically removed by hot foods in the next few days in Chongqing. When they say Sichuanese food is not for the faint-hearted: trust them.
Then I tried one of the food courts nearby, where they served stick chicken but a bit differently. This shop has everything on skewers, ranging from hot dogs to broccoli, potato to beef intestine, and instead of boiling them in salt water, they were boiled in plain water. However, after you have selected your skewers for 30 cents each, they dunk the whole skewers into a heavy sesame-oil based spicy sauce before giving it to you, rendering it a brilliantly fragrant mouth-burning experience. Oh yeah, a quick announcement, from this moment on, this blog will strictly post only food pictures, and kitten pictures, with occasional exceptions for puppies applied.
I began my next day with a bowl of 豌杂面, literally meaning “Miscellaneous Pea Noodle”, made of dried peas and 20 kinds of spices. Yes, it is very common in this area to begin your day with a spicy, dry, heavily seasoned noodle bowl, and this is one of the best go-to options. For the morning, it was time to check out the plaza near 大礼堂/Grand Hall, and the Three Gorges Museum. The Grand Hall, or as the government calls it, the auditorium, was built right after Communist China was formed, and represented a big symbol for their will to develop the mountainous southwest, using the classic folk building style, but blown up 50 times larger.
The Three Gorges Museum was originally Chongqing City Museum, but after the construction of the insanity called Three Gorges Dam, it was renamed and housed mostly items related to this mega-project. For those who did not know, this is the single biggest hydroelectric project in the entire world by a wide margin. Over 3km long and costing 625 billion US dollars, this dam sat a few hundred kilometers downstream from here, harboring 5000000000000 gallons of water. It is actually so effective at storing potential energy that it slowed down the Earth’s rotation by a measurable difference! The power generated by the dam solved a lot of energy crisis around southern China, and also regulated Yangtze River’s chronic flooding problems. However, it is not farfetched to assume that this much pressure on the mountains might be one of the causes that led to the massive 8.0 Richter scale earthquake in Wenchuan in 2008, which claimed about 400000 casualties. It was so powerful that the young me studying in Shanghai could feel it thousands of kilometers away!
Another negative aspect about raising quadrillions of gallons of water by about 100 meters is that many villages and settlements had to be submerged. A massive exodius had to be carried out. Justifying that in the exhibition, the communist government showed the above wood carving, which told the research of Xiang family in the area, which followed orders by the emperor in Ming dynasty, demonstrating that relocating following orders is a common practice. Additionally, they also put up special exhibitions outlining the exhilaration of the 1 million people forceably removed.
Disregarding the English grammar, it was all sunshine and rainbows, which is very hard to believe when you move entire cities from ancestral homeland. However, I guess for the upside of avoiding an energy crisis and saving millions of lives from future disasters, it was worth it. However, the lop-sided presentation in the museum disgusted me, as everyone looking at their homeland for one last time was smiling as happily as when I daydream about having a girlfriend. Is it even too much to mention the fact that some people would rather die with their home than relocating?
Then I had even more noodles to boot, because noodles are life. Additionally, Chongqing is famous for a strange kind of wonton called 抄手/Chaoshou, basically a smaller sized wonton that is boiled and dunked in a heavy sesame spicy sauce. It of course tasted like heaven for the sauce, but I am not exactly sure if the dumplings contributed anything. For the afternoon, the place to be is of course the marvellous Sichuan Art Institute, situated an hour outside downtown. It is a place rare for China, given the abundant arts flourishing with no constraint in style, content and expression method. The youngsters studying in this art school used paint brushes, clay and their own bodies even, as emotional catharsis for their hope for the uncertain future.
The most iconic image of the campus is the Luozhongli Museum of Arts, covered in all kinds of mosaic images. During normal periods, it remains shut for the most of the year, but right before the graduation season, each graduating artist had to demonstrate his or her final work in the museum for examination, both by the public as well as the instructors. Unfortunately that was 3 months ago so I had no luck of entering.
On the way back, the middle point between the new University Town and Downtown, was the ancient village of 磁器口/Ciqikou, where the old porcelains were produced and transported downstream. However, now it was turned into the most bland, commercially vibrant but culturally insensitive place I had seen. Everything was torn down for new shops lining around the tiny cobbled streets, and the insane concentration of human did not help either. I had a terrible time at the place and the historical harbor was being demolished for a mall, so I felt like I just wasted my time getting an involuntary sauna with 2000 people at once. A classic showcase of how Chinese hyper-commercialism destroyed its past and future.
Finally back in the city, I paid a visit to the interesting metro station of 李子坝/Liziba on Line 2, which made national headlines back in the days for its strange position: it is built in a residential building! Just like the highway I saw in Osaka, the elevated track goes right through the building’s 8th floor, but it is because of the mountainous nature of the city. Actually, if you look closely, a road goes through the back side of the building on the mountain, which connects to the building directly! So it is both on the first floor and eighth floor. Additionally, the metro line is actually a monorail, and the tires of the trains are very soft cushioned rubber, so they do not make too much of a noise at all.
For the tranquil night, I spent most of my time walking up and down Jialing River. Chongqing is built on a peninsula formed by Yangtze and Jialing River coming together, and the peninsula is called 渝中/Yuzhong, which literally means “center of Yu”, with Yu signifying Chongqing. This strategic place had commanded significant premium since the beginning of time, as Yangtze River had been the only efficient route of traversing the mountainous western China.
I sat down by a singer, and looked into the financial districts across the river, where thousands of lights illuminated the water surface. Some of my favorite songs came and went, and I slowly realized the city is always changing, the politics is always shifting, but the people are what remains after the brush of time and erosion of power, and their voices are truly indelible.
I woke up extraordinarily early for a little excursion on the other side of the Yangtze River, since it was the holidays and this was the most iconic Chongqing landmark to visit, so I had to beat the crowd or wait 12 hours in line. Behold, the marvelous Yangtze River Cableway. It was the first cable car across the torrential banks, built into large buildings on both sides during the 60s. Used to be the primary method of transportation for the citizens, now it has been completed rendered into a tourist attraction, demanding a whopping 20 yuan for the 3 minute ride. But as a first-timer, there is nothing I can do but to suck it up and swallow.
Around this area, you can see quite a lot of old housing from the 60s, some of them over 24 stories tall, but they had no elevator at the time. Do not panic yet, as these buildings are built into the mountains, so they have surface access at both ground floor, 8th floor and 16th floor. So the most stairs one would clime would be 8 floors, but for folks living on 12th floor, they can go up or down for 4 floors to catch the bus!
After landing back at Yuzhong Peninsula, I was bored, and the Luohan Temple was right around the corner, so why not? For 10 yuan, I got access to the complex but also a few incense for the Buddha. The area was being torn down for new temple structures, so it was not particularly pretty, yet it still felt strange when you look up and there are giant advertisements for the new iPhone featured on a 65-story glass building, while the incense smoke and Buddhist chimes surrounded you. Do not worry, the temple had been destroyed multiple times, including complete annihilation during the Second World War bombings by the Japanese, so it is just one of the newest rounds of reconstructions.
The temple is famous for a wall of carvings of Luohans, some kind of Buddhist version of angels, made in the 11th century. However, now it had been battered by the vehement pounding of time, leaving only barely recognizable bumps as evidence of its once-famous pride. Because of this wall, people also raised money for a Luohan Hall, where many of them were lined up in rows. You enter by left foot(male) or right foot(female), and then walk any direction you want, take any turn you want, and count every Luohan you see, until your age. The one you reach is your “lucky Luohan”, and each one has a different trait, so you can pay for a master to decode what does it mean to have this Luohan as your lucky charm. It is communist China, nothing is for free of course! There are 500 of these, so it is hard to completely memorize all of them.
From here on, I want to tell a story, one that is harrowing and interesting at the same time, based on my visit to the Nationalist Party Headquarters leftover on the hills outside Chongqing, as well as General Sitwell’s old house downtown, and finally, Song Ching-ling’s house downtown. Sadly, all of them were not particularly conducive to Communists’ interests, so they had been rendered as AA category sights, below, for example, Chongqing Reptilian Park, which got an AAA rating. Beware, a lot of history is coming your way, but trust me, this will be one hell of a ride.
Late 19th century, China was at the brink of destruction. The Opium War cracked open the skull of the country, and the resulting Boxer Rebellion failure crumbled the Qing dynasty: they were hanging by a thread. In a wealthy merchant family in Shanghai, three sisters were born to a westernized father: Song Ai-ling, Song Ching-ling, and Song Mei-ling. Few knew that these three sisters were about to reshape the fate of China, and the world as a whole. Their father, Song Yaoru, happened to be a good friend of Sun Yat-Sen, founding father of modern China. (Think Washington level of founding father.) Song spent a significant amount of time growing up in the United States, fell in love with a girl named Aylin, but she passed away young. (Personally, I think it is highly that Ai-ling’s name comes from his deceased first love.) Later he returned to China to become a businessmen, and fathered these three girls. Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which ended 2000 years of imperial rule, and began the Republic of China, was rather ill-fated for Song Yaoru and Sun Yat-Sen from the start. Yuan Shi-kai, the military strongman of the north, refused to take the pre-negotiated presidency in Nanjing, demanding the government move to his stronghold Beijing. Sun Yat-Sen, the temporary president at the time, started a secondary revolution against Yuan since he was clearly aiming for dictatorship. Yuan quickly forced him and Song into exile in 横滨/Yokohama, Japan, where Ai-ling worked as a secretary for Sun, and fell in love with a businessman in exile, Kong Xiangxi. They found out that each other had outstanding business acumen, and decided to get married. She quit her job as Sun’s secretary and referred her sister, Ching-ling, to take over.
The frequent talks between a well-educated visionary secretary and an experienced revolutionary leader rapidly sparked something for the two, and they fell desperately in love. Quickly, the news of Sun Yat-Sen and Song Ching-ling’s marriage spread around the globe. Their relationship was the ultimate: they were not only a couple, but a pair of partners. Sun Yat-Sen returned to China in a few years, and started Constitutional Protection Movement, trying to break through the blockade of dozens of local warlords. During the time, Sun Yat-Sen talked with the newly-formed Communist Party of China, and decided that USSR was an important ally to combat regionalism in China, and a big proponent of Chinese revolution. But at the final moment when peace in China was within tangible reach, after numerous failures, Sun Yat-Sen passed away during negotiations in Beijing. The newly unified China broke again, with Chiang Kai-shek, the military right hand of Sun, taking over the government, and started eradicating communism in Shanghai. Song Ching-ling, heartbroken, claimed that she was the only person who carried on what Sun started, and was sympathetic to the Communists. Meanwhile, her youngest sister Mei-ling decided otherwise, she had sparked mutual attraction with Chiang Kai-shek, and married each other against family’s objection. Chiang is mostly a staunch militarist, and he believes there is nothing that can be gained by splitting the wealth up and redistributing it, so he saw communism as an excuse for another round of power grabs. After a few series of internal turmoil against the newly-independent north, as well as the communist power, it was time for Japan to invade.
【WARNING: 2 GRAPHIC PICTURES FROM HISTORY】
Japan had already taken over the island of Taiwan during earlier treaties, and in 1931 invaded the entire Northeastern China. 1937, it started full-on assault, 2 years before the first battle on European soil in Gdansk. Japan had vastly superior weaponry and manufacturing systems, so poorly-equipped Chinese soldiers were mowed down like overgrown grass under an industrial lawnmower. Beijing fell, then Shandong Province, and quickly Shanghai capitulated. Japanese Imperial army then had nothing stopping them, and marched quickly towards the capital of Nanjing. Wuxi, Hangzhou, Suzhou, all fell within hours, and the Japanese still managed to rape an average of 1500 women a day, which was sickly impressive. Nationalist government started emergency retreat, moving the capital to Chongqing.
December 13th, Japanese forces entered Nanjing. First thing they did was killing off the couple dozen thousand POW, and then on the same day they began the infamous Nanjing Massacre: 300,000 civilians who did not even have the ability to bear arms were massacred in “creative” ways, such as tying them all up and setting just one on fire, or the good’ol fashion of spraying bullets. Two Japanese soldiers Mukai Tushiaki and Noda Tsuyoshi competed with each other how many they could kill on their way from Shanghai to Nanjing, whoever reached 100 first wins. By the time they got to Nanjing, one had killed 105 and the other 106, so they had no idea who reached 100 first, so they reset the value to 150 instead. However, they had to stop early because their katanas broke after chopping off too many heads. While their professionalism in manslaughter was respectable, I hope both of these executed war criminals rot in the boiler room of hell. An American missionary Minnie Vautrin wrote:
There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today. Thirty girls were taken from language school last night, and today I have heard scores of heartbreaking stories of girls who were taken from their homes last night—one of the girls was but 12 years old… I suspect every house in the city has been opened, again and yet again, and robbed. Tonight a truck passed in which there were eight or ten girls, and as it passed they called out “救命！救命！ Jiuming! Jiuming!”—save our lives. The occasional shots that we hear out on the hills, or on the street, make us realize the sad fate of some man—very probably not a soldier.
In a mere week, the entire Nanjing turned from the thriving capital to hell on earth: 1/3 of the city burned down, 90% plundered, over 20000 women raped, and over 900 billion Yuan worth of damage were done. As for Minnie, she could not do take all that any more, and was sent back to US in 1940. A mere year later, after all those traumatizing moments in the occupied Nanjing, this devout Christian who worked half of her life in missions committed suicide at home in Minneapolis. The last entry of her journal reads:
Had I ten perfect lives, I would give them all to China.
But only from here begin our major focus, the latter, more stagnant stage of the war. Japanese was spread far and thin, and they had begun invading other parts of Asia. Mongolia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Thailand, each fell quickly or joined the Axis power under pressure, and Japan thought their success was right around the corner when Myanmar fell. Myanmar was the very last land access to China at the time, and that cut off the supply chain from the UK and US to Chongqing. It was over: China had no access to the outside world any more, and it would be easy to smother out the last surviving bits of this ancient nation.
At the same time, they fully utilized their air-dominance and launched numerous air raids against Chinese cities. Their goal was not only crippling the resistance, but also more importantly instilling a sense of despair and hopelessness, so the people would pressure Chiang for an unconditional surrender. As a result, a lot of the bombings focused on Chongqing, and at densely populated areas as well as hospitals and schools. The traditional housing style in Chongqing was stilted wooden houses, which could easily accommodate a few families in the rough terrain, and the Japanese found out that they were rather flammable, so much so that an incendiary bomb could wipe out a whole block. Needless to say, within weeks Chongqing was mostly a pile of charcoal. More devastatingly, these incendiary rounds consume a breathtakingly large amount of oxygen, literally, so when one dropped near the entrance of 十八梯/Eighteen Step shelter, it suffocated 3000+. In total there was one bombing air raid in Chinese cities every 6 hours on average during the war.
However, it did not mean China would just roll up and die. Japanese’s original plan was to force out a surrender from China within a year, and then proceed through the entire Asia-Pacific, and then North America, but China stubbornly held on for way too long. By invading the Dutch, British and French colonies in Asia, the European powers were already urging USA to stop trading with Japan. Chiang Kai-shek sent Song Mei-ling to US Congress, and pleaded with the government with an excellent speech, outlining the travesty Japan had committed in China, greatly shifting public opinion and generating sympathy for their “brothers on the other side.” USA finally decided to freeze all Japanese assets and stop exporting oil to Japan, which constituted 70% of their oil source. This desperation led to their attack on Pearl Harbor, and USA officially joined the alliance. General Sitwell was sent to Chongqing as one overseeing the American operations in Eastern Asia, and Chiang Kai-shek was chosen as the supreme commander of all ally forces in Eastern Asia scene, with Chongqing as the headquarter.
This was a strange period to be certain. It was the height of Chiang’s political career and China’s international importance, but it was also the time that these two were suffering the most. To solve the supply issue, allies came up with an insane idea: fly everything through the Himalayas, from India into Yunnan province. That was practically suicide, and it proved true for a lot of American and Chinese pilots. During the 4 years of “the Hump”, named after the extreme up-and-down movement required to traverse the route, over 500 transport planes plunged into the abyss, and over 1500 brave men and women gave their lives to the “Aluminum Valley”, nickname of the route filled with crash debris.
To boost national morale, the Nationalist government set up a monument, the tallest in the city at the time, at the heart of the city. It symbolized the Chinese fighting spirit: as long as it remains standing, we will keep fighting. But that quickly attracted a squadron of bombers, and it became a pile of rubble within 2 months. As a substitute, the government erected a flagpole due to lack of resources. It was only until the end of war was it rebuilt, as a thank-you gift to the people of Chongqing. After Communists took over, it was renamed the Liberation Monument, shown way above.
By 1943, the European scene was beginning to wrap up, so the superpowers put their attention to the still-headstrong Japan. In Cairo, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Chiang published Cairo Declaration, deciding to fight until the unconditional surrender of the Japanese empire. In the photo above, you can see Song Mei-ling was sitting right next to the male leaders, showing her importance in the world at the time. Both Churchill and Roosevelt praised her for her bravery and steadfastness, after knowing that she single-handedly revived the Chinese air force, as she gathered many resources to train fighter pilots as well as buying aircrafts. You can also see General Sitwell standing in the back.
Interestingly, the special squadron from USA that helped defending Chongqing and Kunming was the Flying Tigers, a group of volunteers under the Lend-Lease Program with about 100 fighter jets. They fought teeth and nail against the southwesterly invasion from air, completely scaring off the Japanese bombers from Vietnam. They originally painted the teeth on their P-40’s thinking that the Japanese would be scared of sharks, but the people of Kunming thought they were tigers, so the nickname stuck. On the chit shown above, the flying tiger logo was designed by Walter Disney himself!
During the war, Communists and Nationalists co-operated under the same Nationalist China banner, and the Red Army was incorporated into the system as the Eight Route Army. But that was just a small squadron compared to the massive army China had at the time, but any help was appreciated. After Japan declared unconditional surrender a week after the nuclear bombs dropped, Mao and Chiang, leaders of the two parties, came together under the supervision of Americans, to negotiate for a future China. They spent 50 days discussing, trying their best to avoid a civil war after 14 years of struggle: yes, for Europe, WWII might be 5 years, but for Chinese, it lasted one and a half decade. But as one can see, that never worked out for two megalomaniacs who wanted 100% control of the entire Chinese nation. Just 2 years later, Chinese Civil War broke out, and within another 2 years, the mostly decrepit Nationalist Army lost almost everything, and the land was burning red. Chiang Kai-shek, along with Song Mei-ling, decided to retreat to Taiwan for another fight, while Song Ching-ling, still holding on to Sun Yat-sen’s idea of “whoever can give China a better future should govern it” stayed behind, and became a communist. The sisters never saw each other again. As for Song Ai-ling, she had already taken off to USA, where she passed away, with a lot of money in hand.
Chiang family never gave up on their idea of reclaiming China, and they ruled Taiwan with an iron fist until 1988. Even in his will, Chiang Kai-shek declared his determination to “reclaim the lost mainland”, but situation changed quickly. His wife, Song Mei-ling lived until 106, when she passed away in the United States, also stating her support for her long-gone husband for the final reunification. Her sister Song Ching-ling, on the other hand, joined Mao Zedong for the top tier decision making level for the New Communist China, and was widely regarded as the founding mother of the new scheme. Yet she showed significant discomfort later during the cultural revolution era, and was finally laid to rest next to her parents in Shanghai, where the story began. Now, China and Taiwan still stare across the Taiwan Straight, recounting every single history they shared, but unable to reconcile.
And this is where my story for you ends. The Song sisters were truly the most significant trio during their time, and each of them picked a different path. A historian once recounted: for the three Song sisters, one loved money; one loved power; and the other one loved China. It was truly the time for patriots, no matter what ideology you believe in, no matter how you want to execute it, all people I discussed in this lengthy journal, Mao, Chiang, Song, Sun, they all wanted a better future for China, so do not judge them base on the current political viewpoints. They all fought hard for what was right for China, and what was worth fighting for the people. Yet sadly, all of them fell victim to the unrelenting world. Power corrupted Mao and he became one of the most prolific systematical killers; Chiang died with a dead wish that was impossible to accomplish; Sun never saw his unified China came to fruition; and the Song sisters now rest in lands far away from each other. No one was to blame for this sad situation, yet all of them forged it together.
Finally it was time to leave. A quick bus ride took me to Chongqing Jiangbei Airport, which was basically indistinguishable from any large Chinese modern airport with its design. Soon I boarded my direct flight to Los Angeles by Hainan Airlines. The service was relatively good, and the legroom was decent with excellent padding. I got the “poor man’s business class” of three empty seats, and it was perfectly serviceable. The food was relatively good for a Chinese carrier, featuring predominantly Chinese food, and the mostly-occupied cabin was 95% Chinese too. They even had 2 main meals rather than a dinner and breakfast like many other carriers, which I applaud.
I am not going to detail anything about my days in Los Angeles, since I spent most of my adult years studying here, and I was merely back to see some of my friends who I had not seen since the San Diego adventure last year. However, in short, I missed the casual vibe and easy-going sunshine of California, there is no denying for that.
Of course, another thing that I missed was the readily available cheap tickets from LA, but I did take advantage of a lot of those during my years in UCLA, such as weekend in Tokyo, Cancun and Mexico City, as well as the mind-numbing cheap Japan Airlines business class from Taipei. I just wish Shanghai or Vancouver had anything close to LA’s connectivity and competition, so I guess you can call me a capitalism fan!
I boarded my flight towards Vancouver, where my family lives, and got upgraded to business class thanks to my Platinum status on American Airlines. The regional flight departs from the ugly remote American terminal they call Eagle’s Nest, but in my humble opinion I would like to call it Pigeon’s Hole. They are all labeled as gate 52, which is pretty misleading, since there are buses from Terminal 4 and 5 to the place. One had to spend 10 minutes waiting for a bus, 10 minutes waiting on the bus, and then 10 minutes sitting in the bus to get there, so time was rather tight for these departures. And do not forget the squeeze one has to experience in the bus! I almost lost 2 pounds sardine-canned during the 10-minute ride!
However, once on board, the experience became much nicer: a large seat that is both an aisle and a window. Because of the narrow body of my regional Embraer jet, business class comes in a 1-2 configuration, making it perfect for solo or couple travelers. The seats are well-cushioned, and the leg room is not bad at all. I slept most of the way since this flight has no meal service, only a snack basket, as American cuts off meal services by 8pm departures, which is very early. The flight is perfectly fine for what it is: the flight attendants were mildly nice, and the ride was smooth, and I touched down on time.
I will also not detail anything about my boring days at home, certainly nothing compared to cruising down Antarctic Peninsula or summitting Kilimanjaro, so I will spare you the pain of reading even more words. To catch the main reason why I decided to take this trip, Hong Kong Airline’s cheap 500 dollar business class ticket, I had to get back to LA first, so on the morning of my flight out, I flew from Vancouver to Los Angeles on board American’s first flight from Vancouver. It was cheap and gave me 2.5 hours at the terminal, so it was perfect. Normally I would not recommend doing this, putting two separate ticket only 2.5 hours apart, but I live on the edge, as I allowed only 2 hours between my connecting flight and my Qatar business class adventure in Ho Chi Minh city, so I clearly do not give a fuck. But also this first flight usually has very good on-time performance, so I was very confident I could make it. And voila~! It worked out as smooth as a good cup of milk!