Thursday, October 30, 2014

Back From China!

Just made it home after a loooong flight.  No kidding internet is spotty in China, well, no that's not right.  Internet is very accessible in China, in fact I feel like people in China are more dependent on internet than we are even here in Silicon Valley, but the sights we are used to here are difficult to access in China.  Even using VPN it is very slow to access anything Google related, hence no posting on Blogger these past few weeks.

Now I am exhausted since I never sleep on planes, but I will have plenty of posts with pictures, stories, and updates about how much China is developed over the last 6-7 years. Now it's time for a shower and a nap!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Asia At Last

Yellow Mountain Scenic Area
At last, it's been 6 years since I've been to East Asia.  Tomorrow we have our flight with Asiana Airlines.  Our first stop is a layover in Seoul.  It's an overnight, but not a lot of time to actually see much.  The fact that it seems like the majority of the things to do in Seoul are shop and eat, I don't think we'll be missing too much.

I'm quite proud of myself, after a number of trips traveling with one bag I was wondering how difficult it would be packing for colder weather, but somehow I fit everything I need in my trusty Campmor with room to spare!  That includes clothes for cold mountain weather, business meetings, and rain.  I'm still debating if I need any rain gear since rain forecast are looking spotty.
My Packing List Should Be Good Unless I Run Into The Same Weather As My Last Time At Incheon Airport

Our plans are still up in the air for a good portion of our trip, but that's because it all depends on if we can get everything done in Hangzhou and Shanghai or if we'll need to head north.

I'll end this post with another handy tip for using Asiana Airlines' website.  The American site does not allow check-in until 24 hours in advance, but the European site allows for check-in 48 hours in advance (47 hours if it's daylight savings).  Thank goodness I discovered this yesterday.  I was able to change seats to closer to the front of the plane and get all aisle seats next to each other for the three of us.  It seems like 48 hours in advance is when Asiana releases blocked seats so I had a good number of seats to choose from.  I checked again today using the American website and just about all the seats that opened up were taken, expect for middle seats.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

Buying Train Tickets In China Online

How quickly time has passed, next week we leave for China.  We just bought our train tickets to and from Yellow Mountain, forgoing the bus and flight options.  Wow, it is not easy for a foreigner to buy train tickets for China.

There are plenty of sites to monitor train ticket availability, schedule, and ticket prices, but those same sites also charge a pretty hefty premium to use them to purchase tickets.  We were about to use the more popular China train ticket site when our $42-$45 train ticket ended up being $60 after all fees per ticket.  With 6 tickets (round trip), that's a total of $90 - $108 extra in fees.  Seriously, the travel industry really takes advantage when they can.  Luckily we ended up asking distant family living in China to purchase our train tickets from the site, it's the official China rail site, but you need a Chinese credit card to be able to purchase, foreign credit cards are not accepted.

Before we went the route of having someone in China purchase tickets for us, I did notice the Chinese travel site, Ctrip now allows for train tickets to be purchased through them.  They had that option removed in the past, but for the time being it works again.  Their fee of 20 RMB (roughly $3 USD) is much more reasonable.

We thought traveling after the Golden Week there would be less tourist heading to Yellow Mountain, but surprisingly tickets for the soft sleepers were almost sold out.  Not looking forward to the crowds, but the fact that we were able to get a great deal on our hotel room on the mountain at least indicates not a lot of people are staying overnight, which gives us some peace when the day trippers are gone. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Slow Moving - Updated

I'm revising my original post about the work being done by Wingard Construction, and more specifically with our project manager, Shane.  This girl knows when to admit she was wrong.

I wrote about how we felt that our home was not properly protected against the rain and that we were mislead about the actions taken to prevent damage.  Turns out it was miscommunication and not deception that was the culprit.  Shane took the time to explain what was done to protect our home prior to the rain and then went into detail about how water would or wouldn't affect the work being done.  My frustrations with the delays caused by the city should not have been taken out on Shane.  He's still a dependable guy who's been doing what he can to get us back into our home.  As a former account manager, I should have remembered how much work goes into simultaneously juggling various teams and venders while keeping a client happy.

The schedule has been revised by two weeks now since we had to play the waiting game with the city, but a lot has actually been done to our roof now that trusses have gone on.  It seems like the roof was the biggest hurdle and the rest of the steps should have fewer delays.  I can't wait to see how everything comes together in the end.  It's been interesting to see the different stages, from initial shock of the fire and seeing our kitchen and master bedroom covered in soaked installation, after demolition and seeing just how much brighter our home can be without a roof (now if only going roofless didn't mean being exposed to the elements), to the current stage with the new trusses in place and the roof work getting started.   

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Helpful Flight Related Websites + How To Choose A Seat Online For Asiana Airlines

After a lifetime of being called a free spirit I think it's time to come to terms with the latent fact that I'm probably a bit of a control freak.  I can blame my past career all I want, but when it comes to travel I sometimes get obsessive about picking my seat.  That's why when I found out I couldn't select my seats for my upcoming flights on Asiana Airlines I started to feel a little panicked.  I checked the official website and after confirming my confirmation number was not going to get me access to a seat map I did what any normal flyer would do, I searched Google.

From Asiana's website:

  • The online advance seat assignment feature is currently available only for passengers who have purchased tickets on Asiana Airlines website (excluding US website) or mobile application.
  • For tickets purchased through our reservation center or travel agencies, seat assignments can be made at point-of-ticketing, or can be arranged via online check-in service up to three days in advance.

I know the first reaction to most readers is, "Why not call the reservation agents and have them book a seat."  That takes the fun out of actually seeing a seat map and being able to control my optimization from the best available seating combinations.   The wording of the above notification caught my eye and made me wonder if using a non-US website would allow me access regardless of having booked through a third party.  This brought me to some very useful websites.

Created by Amadeus, the software that powers a large majority of airline bookings, you can use your confirmation number for any airline using Amadeus to see real-time information regarding your flight.  This includes special meals, special requests, baggage allowances, seat selection (though you cannot choose or change seat selections, it only displays information).  Very useful for seeing what seats are available and for making sure any requests you made while booking your flight were actually updated.  For example, today I called the reservation agent to change the special meals I requested for my parents to no special meals and to add their frequent flyer information.  I also asked to see if we could get access to some blocked seats, but no dice.  Immediately after that call I checked and saw the updates for the requests I made.  Pretty handy one stop website.  Great especially if you are flying with an airline with a less than stellar website (Asiana's site kept giving me an error when I input my confirmation number).

Another useful site that provides more information than even some of the actual airline websites is expertflyer.  Here you can not only see the seat maps for your flight, but it also shows if the seats that were unavailable are actually unavailable because they are booked, reserved for premium customers, or blocked off.  You can even setup alerts for specific flights to notify you when certain types of seats become open.  That's how I learned a large majority of seats for two of my Asiana flights were actually blocked for assignment at the airport rather than because the flight was full.

Super happy I found both sites, but it still didn't solve my problem of being able to select my seats.  I almost gave up when I found a link through my beloved FlyerTalk to an elusive orphan page that allows access to seat selection!  At the writing of this post this link works, but if Asiana Airlines updates their site that may not be the case, but for now at least there's an answer to, "How do I select seats on Asiana Airline's website?"

Advance Seat Assignment

You're welcome.