(This is an expanded version of the report originally posted in French)
This started in Suzhou, at China Eastern's city center office, where there is a scheduled bus to SHA, a two hour freeway drive away. 上海红桥 (Shanghai Hongqiao) and 苏州市区 (Suzhou city district) is handwritten on the hold's doors, together with two other destinations.
A policeman checked the ID of each traveler. What looks like a calculator on the desk is actually a reader of the contactless chip in the Chinese IDs.
The trip is in the plain is not very exciting; all I remember is countless flyovers in the vicinity of SHA.
The long distance buses, like that from Suzhou, arrive at the old (and old fashioned) bus station at Shanghai Honqiao's original Terminal 1, which is only used by low cost airlines. The shuttle bus has to go all the way around the airport to reach the modern Terminal 2.
At check in, we are surprised to be upgraded in business class, even though I did not have an FM FF membership and I only flew with them a couple times (that flight was before FM and its parent company China Eastern joined Skyteam). Maybe the full fare (but reasonably priced) ticket? Maybe, but I flew full fare several times on CZ, and my FB Platinum card never got me an upgrade, only being seated in the first rows in economy.
Boarding started on time: it is a flight code-shared with MU
This flight was unusual in that it continued towards Chengdu, but I doubt that many passengers would stay on board, because there is no dearth of direct SHA-CTU flights. More probably, it brings passengers from SHA to TXN, and takes others from TXH to CTU, and the reverse in the return direction.
As usual in Mainland China domestic flights, there are only 2 business class rows, with comfortable leather 2+2 seats and an ample seat pitch.
Take off a quarter of an hour late from Shanghai Hongqiao.
In the foreground right, a Juneyao Airlines plane; I posted FR on that company. Yes, the quality of the picture is poor, due the equally poor weather.
We first flew above the boundless new housing projects of Shanghai
On such a short flight, better not waste time to serve the meal, which is actually quite disappointing: bland sandwiches and a peeled fruit cut in two. The only refinement to my eyes is black coffee, a rare treat on Chinese flights. We also have a white napkin, white china and a metal spoon. Compare that with what Air France offers on short flights in business class.
The plane starts a long descent over the countryside of the Anhui province.
… and lands two minutes before schedule (they always have a comfortable margin in their schedules).
It is another tiny airport, without a taxiway, but with jetbridges
The tarmac is just behind the wall of the luggage delivery room. The aircraft being that close, it is easy to deliver them quickly: exactly eleven minutes after touchdown.
The terminal is modern, but there is no shuttle bus, and no taxi left for the last passengers out of the terminal.
The first taxi after over a quarter of an hour tries to rip off the half dozen foreigners. Bad luck for him, there is Spaniard and a Frenchman who speak mandarin, and all the less eager to spend 80 RMB that they have enquired about the standard fare inside the terminal, and they know that it should be 30 RMB.
Why go to Tunxi ? It is the logistics base to visit Huangshan (the Yellow Mountain), and according to Lesson 31 of my Chinese manual, published in Mainland China, you all heard about the place.
Song Hua : Have you already been to Huangshan ? Ma Dawei (= David, a foreign student): No, I have not been there yet. What is there in Huangshan ? Song Hua : The landscapes there are famous all around the world.
Granted, my Mainland Chinese teacher had never heard of France's Mont Saint Michel, Carcassonne and Mont Blanc, when we studied this lesson.
Huangshan's misty landscapes inspired countless Chinese painters and poets.
The pines which cling to the rocks are equally famous in China.
The place draws crowds, and space is limited on top of the stunning cliffs, but we were careful to express comity.
An isolated mountain is prone to lighting, but there is protection far away.
Space is limited and 1.3 billion Chinese have been taught that it is great, so the prices range from very to outrageously expensive, and forget about the quality-price ratio (divide by 6 to have USD, at present exchange rate, but these are the super peak prices. We did not pay that).
Misty landscapes also means that we can also have plain rain. We forgot about the famous sunrise: the chances of seeing it were nil.
But no matter the crowds and the price, the landscapes were worth the trip.
Shanghai - SHA
Huangshan - TXN
Since this was an upgrade, I did not rate poorly the meal, which would have been below my expectations if I had had a business class ticket to start with. Generally speaking, the comfort and meals in economy on Chinese domestic flights is quite high, and do not justify buying a significantly more expensive business class ticket.
Accessibility was below usual in both airports, due to the inconveniently located bus station in SHA, and the absence of shuttle bus + wasted time to negotiate a decent taxi rate at TXN. There was also a waste of time at the entrance of the terminal in SHA generated by an initial security check.
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