Friday, January 28, 2011

Fresh Start Detour!

I got a treat of a lifetime!  A 2.5 week tour through 2 major Asian cities:  Beijing & Tokyo.
Right here in the middle of it, I can already feel myself being overwhelmed.  

As a favor to myself - and to you all, I figure it makes the most sense to send this out as a serial, in little digestible chunks.  The set of blog posts are going to take much longer than the actual trip - but who has time to read pages and pages of 1 thing at a sitting these days.

And guess what - I don't forget the food.  And there are some good pictures too.  

The Beginning:

Day 1 (well it spools out... 
but we'll call the whole thing day 1)

Good Morning China.

We arrived here last night at about 11:00pm local time.  We landed at the airport right around 10pm, and my brain was approximately the consistency intelligent rice pudding (one that knows which way is down, and knows that it's in a bowl).  

The very best news - after a long series of trips where I've been delayed, late, reassigned, in danger of missing connections, this trip went like clockwork.  Every flight was on time, every layover was exactly what I expected.  

We were picked up by Super Shuttle, and dropped off at the Sea-Tac in excellent time.  The lines at the check-in counter were mercifully small, and since we had done our best to be excellent packers, we were well within the weight limit.  And they had no problem checking our bag all the way through to Beijing.

Tavin ready to head to Beijing

Our flight boarded, and took off from Sea-Tac pretty much, exactly on time.  Tavin and I had a pair of seat to our selves.  Tavin was bouncy with his pre-travel excitement, and managed to charm some serious play time out of the guy across the aisle with the coolest new fiddly toy around - Buckyballs - rare earth magnet spheres.  Between that and some serious video game time all went well.  Airplane food was... well... airplane food.

We arrived at Narita Airport just as the sun was preparing to go down so it shone in our windows in a chill and intensely bright fashion.  After walking off the plane and into Tavin's 1st Asian country we had about 2.5 hours to kill.    As we departed the plane and headed for International transfers, we looked for our flight information.  We were a little baffled as the screen of flights was small (about 2 TV screen worth),  though in English/roman letters as well as Kanji (Interesting note - the Japanese still use a version of "Pekin" for Beijing).  So I could easily see that my flight was not listed.  However, Narita is full of women dressed in a variety of uniforms holding signs and pieces of paper.  The information about my flight was not on the monitors, but with the woman standing next to the monitors.

So we went around the corner, and into a security screening.  Just like when you go to get on a plane (but we had just gotten off a plane!)  I guess when you have a variety of screening procedures feeding into your airport, you don't want to take a chance of feeding a risk factor into the rest of the air travel system.
       A few interesting notes - US screening arches are sensitive to RFID chips (beeps if you carry passports through), Japanese screening arches are not.  Their signs mention "acts of aggression" rather than "terrorism,"  and you get to keep your shoes on.  Apparently the Japanese have gotten tired of telling Americans they can leave their shoes on because we saw lots of people take their shoes off, but if you just watched - you could see that plenty of people left their shoes on, so we did too.

We also got to see the white gloves of the police in action.  As the "Express Access"  line emptied out, they let some people fill in that lane.  But they needed to fill in in both sides of the line.  The police officer directing the action was pointing people on their way with the white glove of authority - and he only had the one glove on.

Interestingly enough, the screeners, when dealing with the shoes of those strange Americans, also tend to wear cloth gloves - like the white gloves, but not bleached white. 

So we made it through the security screening to get back into the airport.

We had just eaten - which was just as well since I didn't really want to get any Yen if I could help it.  (Interesting note, except for the Duty Free shops, the stores and restaurants in the Airport still seemed to encourage the use of cash).

We wandered about in the airport, and did find the kids play area.  There was another family there, with grandfather, parents and a young elementary school boy (K or 1?) and a toddler little girl.  Tavin ran around in the small padded space leaping, sliding, and balancing on and rolling the large cylinder blocks - generally burning off steam, much to the delight of the younger Japanese boy.  The family finished their business in the family play area - and soon Tavin lost speed, so we packed up, and headed for our gate.

Just 1 more 3+ hour flight kiddo - you can do it!
(Tavin running out of Steam in Narita)

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