When we signed up for the EMBA program at WashU, the China residency seemed like a far away blip on a fairy tale radar. The program being 20 months, it was hard to imagine the trip nor its impact on our thinking. The world is certainly a big place with much diversity but much in common. Over the next few weeks, I’ll do my best to provide some quick recaps on the trip with commentary on various hot topics. This morning we’ll get the review started by a couple of overarching points on the travel related.
First of all I have to say I have a fond appreciation for Delta and Northwest Airlines. We booked a first/business class ticket using Skymiles many months ago and were curious on whether or not the trip would come off without a hitch. It did! Every flight was on time. My bags made every leg. The service on the flights was great. I didn’t get bumped from my seats. Check-in, boarding, everything was first rate. Given the many problems my classmates had with traveling on other carriers (United and American being two), I was thankful for the effort made to get me to, and particularly, home safely.
This was my first trip abroad in the sense there were no sandy beaches, warm waters, and cold beverages within an arm shot of the American coastline. It certainly counted as my first trip over the Pacific and I had never been on an airplane over 5 hours before. So the 11+ hours going to China was an adventure in and of itself. I was kind of like a kid in a candy store in business class. The pampering really gets poured on.
From the moment you board to the moment you depart, the service never ends. Before departing, the staff hands out slippers, an amenity kit, menus, and every supply necessary to enjoy the accommodations. They take your dinner order before take-off and then about an hour in start with the first course before delivering the entree. Snacks and drinks are available the entire flight. They even bring your choice of breakfast on the tail end of the flight about an hour before landing. Of particular excitement to me was the strawberry shortcake served “Yankee” style with a biscuit. An “ode to Myrtle” if you will…
Movies, music, and other video is On Demand in business class. There are an assortment of hit movies and classics to choose from. On the flight out I particularly enjoyed listening to some new music. Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis’ collaboration from 2007 was the hit for me. That album has made it onto the iPod since returning and I can’t seem to get enough of it.
First/Business Class tickets grant access to the Northwest airport clubs between flights and those were particularly convenient to grab a clean and cold glass of water (oh how clean water has a new appreciation on this end!). And let’s not discount clean restrooms. In China, the toilet in the restroom had a control panel and oh by the way, bathroom stalls in China and Japan have full doors. Back to this control panel which I didn’t notice until sitting down and being pleasantly surprised that the seat was heated. I glanced over at this panel to notice that there was a bidet built in to the toilet with various settings on water spray, temperature, angle, etc. I was tempted but oh so scared. So we didn’t test out the bidet but did enjoy the heating.
(Sidebar: Couldn’t resist sharing a link to the Washlet from the maker of the luxurious toilet I experienced on my trip. Do you have that happy feeling?)
In China the airport club had an assortment of local food items and so too in Japan. I was particularly impressed with the seating and layout of the clubs, and the cleanliness. These clubs were much cleaner than those in the States. In Japan, the club had iMac computers for travelers to browse the web and check email. And of course there was sushi.
I was fortunate to have a classmate on the outbound and return legs of the trip – nice to have company and chat between flights etc. If I hadn’t been with a classmate going out I would have missed riding on the Maglev, a bullet train built to take people to and from Pu-Dong airport into Shanghai. Wow. It was only an 8-minute ride at 301 km/hr but worth every cent paid. What an experience riding on a train at that speed. Very cool indeed.
The Howard Johnson that the group stayed in was… ok. Probably nice for the average Chinese but lacking in some basics from my view point. It was clean. The personnel were very friendly and ultra-service friendly. The breakfast buffet was most definitely the best hotel breakfast ever conceived – must find where they get their bacon. However, the business center, fitness center, and other parts of the hotel were not available 24 hours. For a hotel with westerners, these things are a must have given the time change and sleep patterns. The double room was way too small for two adults too. Location was great but not a hotel I would recommend going back to.