A version of this story was published as part of monthly series that ran in the Warrensburg, MO The Daily Star Journal from Oct. 2000 through May 2001.
Lugging Our Lives to Beijing
In Honolulu, we boarded All Nippon Airlines (ARA) for the final legs of our trip to Beijing. It only took us three tries, with four giant size suitcases in tow, to find the correct line. As the clerk took our tickets for Tokyo, I asked if we could just check our bags on to Beijing.
The four suitcases had provided us with some problems. In San Francisco, it took me 30 minutes to find the storage room while Sara stood with them and 30 minutes to pull them to the storage area. The cost for storing them for four days was $120, considerably more than we had hoped, but, a savings over shipping. Of course, knowing they would arrive securely in Beijing made the storage cheap.
Still, based on the experience in San Fran, we decided to take the cases with us to our Honolulu hotel and pay whatever extra that might mean in taxi fees. It was the right decision because they only added $5 to the taxi fare; and, our room there was large, with a closet that held three of the cases. Also, I got my workout with them since the hotel did not have an elevator and we were on the fourth floor.
So, when the ARA agent said, "Sure, you can pick them up at baggage claim in Beijing," I felt the load ease a bit. That one sentence endeared me to ARA and may have unduely colored my perception of ARA as being a quality airline. However, Sara and I were impressed with the attendants, the comfort in coach and the meals during our eight hour flight to Japan and the three hour fight, the next day, to China.
Japan provided a needed respite. We got a room at the cheapest of the luxury hotels offered by the service at the airport. Sara was slightly unhappy when I paid $110 for the room at the Narita View, but when she considered that the amount included transportation to the hotel and back (we had paid $60 round trip in both SF and Honolulu), she felt better. Then we learned that the amount, also, included breakfast, and she beamed a smile. When she saw how nice the hotel was, she concluded that it was the best bargain in lodging for our little "vacation." The breakfast, listed as a $30 value, added flavor to the bargain. The buffet offered both western and eastern dishes. We savored our meal while relaxing in the garden setting with a direct view of the mountain side.