First Class Lounge
I have a grand total of 25 minutes in San Francisco, but I have a first-class ticket to Beijing, my first ever first class international journey. I am bound and determined to suck the marrow out of my time here and experience the first-class lounge, which I have never been in.
I rush over to the lounge, slavering at the chance to dine exquisitely with the fancy folk in my tattered sweatshirt and huge backpack. The staff informs me that I’m at the plebian business-class lounge, and haughtily direct me to the first class lounge further along the concourse.
And then, I take the wrong escalator down, and walk straight outside of security. Oh MAN!! I actually catch myself at the last minute, and argue with the security guard before I pass the angry-looking “ONCE YOU CROSS THIS LINE YOU MUST CONTINUE TO EXIT,” but he says that since I’m already down the escalator, I must continue to exit.
Meaning I now have to go back through the looooong security line, get frisked yet again, pull out my laptop and baggie of liquids again, and be on my way again… Now with a grand total of 10 minutes until boarding begins.
After making it through security, I zip over to the correct lounge, which takes me another five minutes. I wander in, half-bemused, half-compelled, to grab some food before getting on the plane, as I haven’t eaten any breakfast.
The place is… grand. The high ceilings, the quiet calm, the huge plants, sushi and carefully presented food are intimidating. However, by this point I only have three minutes, so I snatch a California roll, a banana and a cookie, snap several dozen photos and scoot out on my merry way. As luck would have it, they call for “Group 1” to board the moment I arrive to the boarding area, so I stroll up and right onto the plane, just as if I had planned it to the second. Not bad.
First Class Comfort
They have the same lie-flat seats in business, but in first class they provide “turn down service” where they set the seat into a bed for you and bring a mattress cushion to make it plusher. There are also more attendants for less passengers, and they make a clear effort to engage you in conversation if you to want that.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I must admit that my absolute favorite part of first class is the ice cream sundae. After dinner they bring a dish of ice cream sundae and offer to drizzle hot fudge syrup, hot caramel syrup, crushed oreos, fresh berries and other yummilicious toppings. The actual hot fudge and hot caramel on the cold ice cream is quite a treat, as is having them prepare it right in front of me. I feel like I am at Coldstone, but 38,000 feet (11,500 meters), and with an attendant just for me.
In short, I feel special.
Would I do it again? Oh yeah. And by the way, it only cost 80,000 united points plus nineteen bucks. For that price, hell yeah I’d do it again. I just checked the usual cash prices for my flights, and it would have been $338 from Denver to San Francisco in Economy, $4,643 San Francisco to Beijing in First Class, and $1,136 from Beijing to Taipei in Business class, or $6,117 total.
Whoah. Now I feel even more special.
I wander around the airport for four hours before I go to my gate, keeping moving to stay warm. Every five minutes, an announcer comes on to share yet more flights being canceled or delayed. Mine is delayed one hour, two hours, three hours, and finally deemed “probably won’t fly.”
Meanwhile, I had previously thought I could get some work done. However, I forgot completely about the Great Firewall (™) walling China off from the rest of the Internet. No Google. No Facebook. No Gmail. No many-other-things-I-need-to-get-to, including my own website. So I recommence wandering and hoping and praying.
I eventually wend my way to the gate, and they inform me that we still won’t be leaving for “quite a while” and “probably not at all.” However, they also inform me that because of my business class ticket to Taipei, I am entitled to use the lounge of China Airlines, where they have free (cold) food and hot (thank God) drinks to enjoy, so I gratefully do so.
While the cold is certainly off-putting, the airport itself has a stark beauty to it. The zen garden, the vaulting ceilings, and the magnificent fountain are all a joy to behold. Our plane does fly after the 3.5 hour delay, for which I am immensely thankful. I fall asleep immediately under a warm blanket and know nothing of the world until we arrive in Taipei.
First Class Welcome
And so, after forty-some hours of travel, instead of a nice warm bed, I board a bus for five more hours to end up in Tainan, my final destination, where I get a somewhat different welcome…
I arrive in the early-ish morning, and my roommates are still asleep. Furthermore, they have no clue I have arrived home early. When I come in, they just about die screaming, each working to outdo the other in terms of volume and projection of abject terror as my unexpected entry turns what were apparently lovely dreams into nightmares.
Umm, whoops. Sorry, guys.
Once they calm down, they are happy to see me, and we have a lovely day together, I get another lovely welcome sign, and all is good in the world.
It’s good to be home.