One of the scariest feelings in the world is being on an airplane when you know the pilot has fucked up.
We were finally taking off after hours of delays. For some reason, airport officials in China don’t want to admit that the weather is delaying things; they feed you lines about “air traffic control” problems at the destination. Never mind that a typhoon has just parked itself over the runway, that can’t be the problem.
Five hours later, we sat at the end of the runway. I pressed myself against the back of my seat, anticipating the run and gun takeoff. When planes are trying to get through low-hanging storms, they generally jam down the runway at top speed, pull up at a virtual 90 degree angle, and rocket through the unstable air. The speed and g-forces mean less turbulence and an overall safer flight.
But, apparently, this was not to be. We meandered down the runway, as if the pilot was deciding whether or not he actually wanted to take off, then eased into the air like dipping a toe into a hot bath. We EASED through the clouds, getting our asses handed to us in the process. We dropped hundreds of feet at least twice, the lights in the plane shook and people screamed as we felt every inch of that storm.
Like I said: it’s really bad when you know your pilot sucks.
After multiple drinks in the hotel room at 4am (after our van got a flat tire and drove for miles on the rim), we finally hit Shanghai the next day around noon.
Unfortunately, our tour guide was worse than the pilot. She seemed to take exception to the idea that we didn’t want to start our day at 8:30 after checking into the hotel at 3 (I guess we were ugly Americans?). So we got a mediocre tour of one part of a place in Shanghai that…I shit you not…is called “Chinatown”, and she dumped us back at the hotel.
The next day (and next post): On to the Yangtze River (which has become a bit infamous since we left).