I arrived very early at the airport – why linger once ready to go since the traffic will be worse later, even though it is a Sunday.
Hong-Kong and Macau have been returned to China, with highly special status which makes them similar to a foreign country with regards to immigration and customs controls. Taiwan is de facto an independent country, even though China keeps claiming that it is part of China. For that reason, I shall board from the international and Hong-Kong, Macau and Taiwan flights sector (this is a reminder for those who did not read my previous FRs)
This is PVG's Terminal 2.
There are also many international (and HK, Macau, Taiwan ;) flights at Terminal 2: the list which is displayed here is a reminder that Shanghai is with Beijing and Hong-Kong one of China's three major gateways to the outside world. We'll see that later during the plane spotting phase of this FR.
Two and a half hours before take-off, there is nobody at check-in, but it has opened and I'll have Boarding Pass Number 1: zero waiting, and the staff that you can see standing will check me in immediately. FM is now part of Skyteam, and I gave my FB number (I had left my FB membership at home). The staff calls a colleague, then confers at length with another. I understand nothing of what they say for the simple reason that they all use Shanghainese, a Chinese language which is very different from Mandarin. The entire vacation was actually in regions of China where the mother tongue of the local is not Mandarin and therefore totally unintelligible to me: they use Shanghainese in Shanghai, Hokkien in Xiamen and Quanzhou, Cantonese in Guangzhou, Hakka in Yongding. And they talk Taiwanese in Kinmen, which I could not avoid visiting from Xiamen. But all the people I met spoke more or less fluently Mandarin, with sometimes a strong accent.
Anyway, all this chatting is about what my FB Gold card entitles me to, and it does provide me access to FM's lounge. It may be the first time that in three years in China that it is of any marginal use to me.
Note the way that in pinyin (the transcription in Latin letters of Chinese, which is now official in both Mainland China and Taiwan), Taipei is actually spelt Taibei, which is much closer to its pronunciation in Mandarin. I masked my name, but there was an inversion of letters in my name due to an error of the travel agency, which did not generate any difficult in any of my flight inside China, and to/from Taiwan during that trip. From my experience, if the passport number is correct, and if the last name + first name is reasonably nearly the same, there is no problem in China. In the US, it is another story; I know something about it.
PVG is one of the major airports in the world whose configuration is easiest to grasp to a first time visitor: two straight and parallel terminals, connected in the middle by a pedestrian corridor, the whole thing being forming the letter H. At the center of the H, parallel to both terminals, there are two hotels which can see here in front of Terminal 1 in the background.
Both terminals are very wide and uncluttered; I never saw them clogged with passengers. A children playground is on the left. The panoramic assembly of several pictures with Autostitch distorted the floor which is flat, of course.
Free access to the internet, at these open access computers or by wifi, but like anywhere else in Mainland China, Flight Report is considered as a subversive website, and therefore blocked by the Great Firewall, the nickname of the Chinese internet censorship.
The end of the terminal was then curiously unused, but it is nevertheless beautiful. Since then, I saw in the FR posted by another traveler that this area is now being used.
The windows provide an ideal view on the plans pier side, which come from all over the world. The only problem is the sun's direction: in the morning, you either can see the right side with poor lighting against the sun, or the left side which is partially hidden by the jetbridge. Ideally, one should board at Terminal 2 for a morning flight and at Terminal 1 for an afternoon flight. No matter which terminal, the natural haze together with the pollution severely reduces the view on planes parked away from the terminal.
I am not going to list all the aircraft and airlines; no doubt that you will have no problem to identify them. They all are long haul aircraft, because Shanghai' geographical position is such that most destinations are remote.
This CX aircraft ends my plane spotting. FM's lounge is called D77: it may not be very poetic, but it makes it easy to find next to gate D77. EK's lounge F75 is evidently in the immediate vicinity.
A welcoming smile when arriving by the escalator or the elevator.
Maybe I should not show the lounge's wifi code, but it is of little use because both wifi networks of the lounge (SALAP1 and SALAP2) provides zero signal, whereas the free wifi coverage of the terminal, accessible to anybody from anywhere is working correctly.
At first sight, the location of FM's lounge is not very good for audio comfort, in an open mezzanine in the terminal, but the terminal is actually very quiet: there are quite few flight announcements, at a muted sound level, and the loud speakers must be highly directional, because I do not remember hearing them in the lounge. The PA system of the terminal is actually excellent, which is unusual. On the other hand, low quality loudspeakers in the lounge send too loud boarding announcements to the passengers who are there.
A general view of the terminal from above.
There is little choice in the food section, but at least there is one. There are maki in the Japanese food section, of low quality as usual in China. The few Chinese and European dishes are OK.
The big white box with blue labels is a chopsticks sterilizer/dispenser. If you never saw one before, you may look for chopsticks for quite a while, especially if you are in a company restaurant where there has never been forks and knives.
I do not remember seeing alcoholic beverages stronger that these brands of beer. There is also tea, coca-cola, water… I did not draw a complete list.
… and also a decent coffee machine.
Actually, the only advantage of this lounge is the modest food and drink offering, because everything else is available to any traveler in the terminal: quietness, space to sit without being next to each other, wifi access, power plugs to recharge your favorite toy.
The other marginal advantage of my FB Elite status is this VIP bus instead of the ordinary passenger bus, because my plane is not parked pier-side. It is really very comfortable, and I continued my FR there, with my laptop on one of these tables.
The plane's parking position was quite remote, next to three other identical ones.
Aircraft door closing, pushback for a hundred feet or so, and waves of the ground staff after displaying the front wheel locking pin marker.
A tiny sign of FB Elite+ status: a glass of fresh water. OK, this is only water, and I do not really need it.
The seat pitch is ordinary: this is the result for a standard sized passenger, my size is as most people know adapted to economy and low cost travel conditions :-)
I do not know if it is a consequence of the load ratio (80% or so), or of a deliberate strategy to provide added comfort to Elite passengers flying economy (something that CZ does officially), but the middle seats of the first economy seats are all empty, although they could be used if the plane was full. Seat 36L is indeed located in the sixth row of the economy section, whose numbering starts at row 31, behind two rows of business seats, like with CZ.
The flight attendant does not give me a choice and serves me the omelet breakfast (announcing the name in Mandarin), whereas my Asian neighbor is given the choice and chooses the Chinese version. I do not like Chinese breakfast very much, so I do not need to complain, even less so that my breakfast is actually delicious, way above the standard fare in economy in Chinese domestic flights (the price per km is also much higher…). The coffee, on the other hand, is again quite strange, and has an evident burnt after-taste.
The flight is mostly over the ocean, and the weather is quite cloudy.
When approaching Taiwan, the ceiling is very low, so much so that the tip of the 500m tall Taipei 101 tower is in the clouds. The advantage is that since I land roughly at noon solar time, on runway 09 as always, I have a very good view of Taipei, which would have been in a dramatic contre-jour by fair weather.
This wide green area is a former branch of the river Danshui, which serves as a floodable area in case of a flood caused by a typhoon. There are only non-vital installations which are easy and cheap to clean up after being drowned: grass, sport fields, cycling lanes. Together with the mountains which surround Taipei, they are the green lungs of Taipei. They are a typical example of areas of little interest for the temporary visitor, but which provide significant quality of life to Taipei residents. In the bottom, the confluent of the Dahan river on the right and the Xindian river in the background, which become the Danshui downstream on the left.
Another view of the confluent
The Taipei Bridge in the foreground. In the background, on the right bank of the Danshui, the heart of the city center.
The tallest building here is the Shinkong Tower, which was for a long time Taipei's tallest building.
In diagonal from bottom left, the viaduct of the subway's Danshui line, which goes underground in the city center. There is a soundproofing cover before the Minquan West Road station in the background.
You can't find this ovoid building on Google Earth. No wonder: it was built in 2010 for the World Floral Expo.
I never managed to have a satisfying picture of the labyrinth in the Xinsheng park. The World Floral Expo was also held there; it was over six months before that flight.
There is nearly nobody at Taipei's premier plane spotting location which I described in my FR of the flight out of Taipei. Small wonder on such a cloudy day.
Two corporate jets seen during taxiing
I was last to leave the plane in order to take a picture of the economy cabin and the usual to rows of business seats.
The plane arrived pier-side at the gate furthest away from the immigration control, with a long corridor providing an ideal view of the tarmac, with no obstruction and facing towards the north, therefore with ideal lighting at whatever time of the day, with Yangmingshan National Park in the background. Plane spotters cannot resist, and half a dozen take countless pictures, all the more so that no airport staff pushes us towards the exit: they are cool on such matters in Taiwan.
Two FAT MD-83s
Two private jets
The 738 which I just left. As far as air purity is concerned, there is no hesitation between Shanghai and Taipei, even when the cloud ceiling is very low.
Note the brand new Skyteam sticker: all FM planes in PVG did not have it yet.
A China Airlines A330.
A JAL 767 with the new logo (see the old one in the FR of the flight to Shanghai).
They may not be as much plane spotting to do as in PVG, but here, you can do when you fly out and in, whereas this is possible only when departing from PVG.
Alongside this corridor, information panels retrace TSA's history
… and promote Taiwan, which deserves it. As far as professional excellence is concerned, my own experience is mixed, but it is like restaurants: the kitchen is often less clean and tidy than the room where customers are served.
Taiwan's natural sites, monuments and other tourist attraction are not world famous, but they have not been damaged by mass tourism.
And Taipei is at the top level when it comes to the sincerity and quality of its welcome of visitors.
It was the end of my vacation, but it felt good to be back in a country where they speak Chinese, but where drivers stop in front of pedestrians and where FR is not blocked by the censorship. It was the end of my vacation, but it felt good to meet again my Taiwanese colleagues with whom I could talk freely in public about their country's politics. It was the end of my vacation, but it felt good to resume my Chinese language classes, which made it possible to spend two weeks in China without using English. It was the end of my vacation, but it felt good to feel at home so far away from home.
Cathay Pacific Lounge
Shanghai - PVG
Taipei City - TSA
Shanghai Airlines confirmed its position as one of the best airlines in the Skyteam alliance, well ahead of some of its more prominent members.
(to the administrators : please reference for PVG the Terminal 2 International Lounge n° 77, that of CX was the only one available in the drop-down menu)
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