On Oct 13, I finally came back to China. I’m currently under the quarantine isolation at a hotel in Dalian. Right, not Shanghai, but Dalian. It is a northern city with 6 mm people in China very close to the border of North Korea.
Dalian was a modern port city founded by the Russians in 1898, and Russian Street is still lined with Russian-style architecture. It’s very different from Guangsha Sky City, or Fake Paris, in Hangzhou. (read: A Chinese Ghost Story: The Return of the Ghost Towns)
I was assigned to stay at a resort hotel called Sheng Xi Wan Resort Hotel and it looks like this. They charge RMB 500 per night (USD 60), including breakfast, lunch and dinner. Outside deliveries are unfortunately not allowed, but we can still order additional foods, fruits and daily necessities from the front desk. Due to the COVID situation, they cannot clean rooms. If you think about it, this is really a good business for hotels as the number of business and leisure travelers is still low, but you can fill your rooms without makeups and other regular services. You can charge additional fees on foods and “special” services.
The hotel serves meals three times a day and delivers precisely at 8am, 12pm and 5pm. The quality is surprisingly good.. they cook a lot of veggies with less oil and salt. In order to make my quarantine life productive, I set a discipline. I only eat meals the hotel provides (and maybe some fruits) and have a 30-min workout everyday. No wonder why people become healthy after being released from a jail. It’s all about forced discipline.
COVID, Catch Me If You Can
Let me explain why I am in Dalian. As you remember from my previous post back in April, I did a reasonably good job to avoid COVID waves by moving cities during the period. The international air traffic is down 99% from the year earlier and I’m the 1%. Here is my 9-month journey.
China is not COVID-free yet, but I feel safe as the government’s public health measurement is effective and quite serious. We saw a mass testing (6 mm people in 3 days) in Qingdao after the government found 10-15 infection cases. This shows how serious the government is.
I was on a Japan Airline flight (JAL 829) on Oct 13. It departed Tokyo’s Narita Airport at 9:35am and arrived at 11:45am in Dalian. Originally, I planned to come back directly to Shanghai, but my online travel agency, Kiwi.com, screwed up. I had additional luggage to check-in, so I called Scoot, Singapore’s budget airline, on Oct 10, a day before my original departure date. When I asked about my flight, the call center guy said “your flight was rescheduled and departed on Oct 4.” I found that Kiwi made a mistake and did not inform me in advance. Even if they informed me, I wouldn’t be able to take the flight because my PCR test (for COVID) was not ready. After speaking with the agent for 30 min, they finally admitted and reissued the ticket. Now, I was supposed to leave on the next day, Oct 12, from Narita. My itinerary was 28 hours long as I had to change flights twice and transit in Seoul, South Korea was 18 hours long. I went to the Narita Airport and found that Asiana Airline couldn’t check me in because I didn’t have a visa to transit in Taipei, my second destination. I had no idea if I needed a visa for “transit”, but this is a special time. I called up Kiwi again, but this time Kiwi did not provide me with a new ticket as it was MY responsibility to check the visa requirement. After two hours on the phone with the agent, I finally gave up.
The problem was… PCR test. It cost me JPY 50,000 (USD 500) for this piece of paper and is only valid for 3 days from the date of issuance. It was already Oct 12, meaning I only had one more day. My partner Julie suggested I could take a flight from Tokyo to Dalian on Oct 13. The ticket cost RMB 11,586 (USD 1,730). There were no other direct flights except for ones in mid-November costing RMB 30,000 (USD 4,500). By the way, this is not a business class, but economy, and I hope this is the most expensive economy class flight between Japan and China I will ever take for the rest of my life.
From my Ctrip App
The international terminal of the Narita Airport is quiet and almost empty. I was quite nervous if everything goes smoothly… The flight was full. Everybody wore masks, but nobody seemed stressed. I realized that this could be the “safest” place on the earth (soon, above the earth) as everybody took PCR test before getting onboard. (see the top-left picture)
After the arrival, I had to queue for another PCR test. They had both English and Japanese speaking staffs, so everybody felt relieved. (top-right)
Then, I went to a small room where a doctor took specimen from my nose and throat. (bottom-left)
This is the bottle with a label of my name on it for specimen. (bottom-right)
Thanks to reading One World, One Fight graphic novel, I was very familiar with the procedure. (https://www.genzgroup.org/post/english_ep2_oneworldonefight)
During the COVID period, our group company, Gen Z Group, worked with Jack Ma Foundation to create a graphic novel called One World, One Fight. We have the entire episodes in 5 languages (Chinese, English, German, Spanish and Japanese) and they are available for free on Gen Z Group’s website.
We also have paper book versions of this book as well. The German version just hit on the store last week. The Spanish version will hit the store soon.
I want to share a little bit more about my experiences in Japan, but this article is getting longer, so I will share it in the next one. The following photos are preview.
My Hometown Tamaki
A Short Trip to Yaku Island
Work-on-the-Wheel Trip in Shikoku