China – part 1 (of 20)

For the most part society is weird, if not nonsensical: you can turn any age and most people simply congratulate you, but beware turning 40 (in 2015), then everyone – without fail – would like to know when and where the party is going to be. As such I knew all along that I will not be around when this date arrives – there is simply just too much to explore and to experience out there and whilst I have time and good health on my side, hell why not?

We wanted to go to Disney World in Florida long ago, but ABSA at the time suggested that we rather consider going to Thailand. Subsequently we have changed to FNB and with a little bit of financial discipline we planned and executed a great holiday to the best Disney theme park in the world (2013). They say if you do something long enough, it becomes a habit. Thus, gearing up for China was not difficult at all.

But why China? The Orient intrigues me. It is an unbelievably old civilization, yet we know little about it. They are the manufacturing hub of the world and they use a complicated language. Why not visit them and try to demystify it a bit? Oh, they also have the Great Wall and then there is that thing about the terracotta army.

part 1 01

With all my travels, I have never flown business class – I suppose it says a lot about my choice of employers. LOL. Not really. For the most part, flying is overrated and workwise I am happy to stay put and operate via email/phone. However, flying internationally in economy is a sense of community I can do without. The masses and the cramped space is simply enough to rather watch YouTube videos about all the great and marvelous places out there … but behold, if you are a good customer then eBucks Travel opens a world you never knew existed. Or let me rather say, I knew it existed, but always though it is for other people. Indulge with me, if you like.

What a pleasure travel has become – flying economy might now be spoiled for me. Emirates pick you up from home. There is one car per ticket, thus if we wanted, Pension Fund (“PF”) and myself could have traveled separately, from home to the airport. You get dropped at the door and it is really a short walk from there to the non-existing queue of business class check-in. The staff seems a bit friendlier and helpful and issue you with a voucher to get into the lounge. After good coffee, some refreshments and Wi-Fi, you join reality again, but wait … you queue in a separate line that gets to board first. We waited in line long enough just for me to feel almost sorry for the sea of miserable faces that knew they will be emotionally and physically abused for the next nine odd hours to Dubai by a relentless team of fake yet very professional cabin crew that will pretend to care about you. At least that’s how it felt to me in the past.

en route

Entering the Boeing 777-300ER, and we get to turn left! OK fair, business class is left and right, but the front section only holds 14 seats (two rows of a 2-3-2 configuration). There is no need to fly better and still feel crowded 😉 No sooner have you arrived at the warehouse allocated to you, and there is a waitress forcefully trying to part with booze. They even address all the alcoholics by surname. There is no fluffed-out earbud, but instead a proper mini-me pillow, complete with cotton pillowcase. The gauze-like ‘blanket’ made way for a proper blanket with cotton on one side – for you to decide on your level of comfort. Oh my word, here she is again. Smile. Took second glass. I am so going to get drunk. There is no fighting for overhead storage. My carry-on bag flew in isolation.

Remarkably the catering staff leave you in peace. There is no German matron marching up and down commanding you to sit down, strap in, sit up straight and be quiet. In comparison, we are being pushed back from the building and the enabler is at my seat again offering a top-up. One doesn’t want to be labelled standoffish, so naturally you nod.

emirates business class 777-300ER

The real class discrimination starts once we are airborne. There are 11 cocktails (ignoring the selection of aperitifs, beers, mocktails, spirits, cognac, vodka, gin & rum). Some liquid poison arrived with hot roasted salty nuts … on a small ceramic plate, I have you know. A large part of the flight is consumed with faffing and decent dining. How many hot towels can one person possibly need during a nine-hour flight? I liked the tablecloth idea and the ability to use proper knives and forks. There are no trolleys. Everything is personalized. And enough with the booze, I want to try out the seat that can go flat and see if I can fall asleep myself, but “dear, do bring me another cappuccino please”. (had 3 during the flight CPT-DBX)

emirates business class 777-300ER

Just as I was suitably intoxicated and conceivably bloated, with my seat down (and not being able to touch the seat in front of me with my toes – I tried) and blanket over me, I was told by the Alcohol Fairy to undo and sit up. Did I miss anything? Could there possibly be another course after my cheeseboard and Hennessy? I did turn the page to check, but it was in Arabic. OK, if I am not allowed to sleep, I will take two Tums then. Nope. PF plotted with Emirates in advance and it was time for an early birthday surprise!! Due to bureaucracy ‘happy birthday’ was not available, but ‘bon voyage’ was. Same effect. Out comes the cutest of cakes and more Kir Royal – had it earlier. Not bad. Next, there is an Instamatic for a memory moment and a photo bomber (see below). How do you expect me to sleep after such excitement? Oh well, might as well order another cocktail.

en route

Before landing in Dubai you receive a ‘fast track’ ticket. It basically means you get to go through the security screening via a separate (and shorter) queue, while more souls and will-to-live is being extorted from the economy test subjects.

part 1 06.jpg

Continue reading China – part 2 (of 20).