Planes, Trains, Autos and...LA Chinatown?
Trip Start Oct 22, 2007
13Trip End Dec 12, 2007
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My flight itinerary included stops in several Chinese cities including Shanghai and even though my final destination is Kathmandu, Nepal, upon check-in, China Eastern airline told me I had to have a China visa. Now, a month earlier I asked several American Airline representatives that very question aboout the visa and they assured me I did not need one. They were wrong. American Airlines is the ticketing parent company of this world flight alliance and apparently has communication problems with their Chinese airline partners. Meanwhile, I was told, sorry, no can get on plane without visa.
Thus, began my planes, trains, buses and automobile LA odyssey.
Fortunately, Los Angeles had a Chinese consulate downtown where I could initiate the visa process.
Over the course of many years I've traveled to 48 countries, mastering their various transportation systems but when it comes to the home USA Los Angeles turf, I haven't a clue. I normally drive like the majority of American society. Today however I found myself without a car and my ride was back in San Diego two hours driving distance away.
Remembering that all good seasoned travelers must learn to quickly adjust to their new surroundings, I took a deep breathe and proceeded to get into my traveler mode. First, the shuttle buses and the rent-a-car. The next day after I received my visa and returned my expensive rent-a-car, I needed to arrange bus transport to the Union Station train station where I booked an Amtrack train ride back to the San Diego area. Hey, I lived in San Diego over 12 years and like I said, I always drove! Now I know a whole new LA transportation world !!
The LA experience was actually enjoyable. As a Far East traveling consolation, I visited LA's Chinatown, since that was where the China consulate was located. Maneuvering through LA's byways and freeways is always an interesting challenge, the westcoast version of Nascar racing. And, instead of hanging out on Freak St in Kathmandu I chilled with the cool freaks along the Venice Beach boardwalk, watching the sunset together . A scarlet-hued sunset, created by the eerie drifting smoke from the Malibu fire. Of course, poor Southern California was inundated with numerous fires that Monday evening. My visa setback was ridiculously miniscule compared to the horrendous tragedies that people were suffering from at that same moment, losing or the threat of lost of home and property to the raging fires. My heart goes out to them.
As international travels go, Los Angeles actually presents quite a melting pot of humanity, observed whether you're at the airport, driving the freeways or hanging out at the Jack in the Box near Chinatown. Everyone I dealt with from transportation personnel to consulate staff and convenient store clerks were friendly and helpful. Relearning how to make a simple phone call without a cell phone certainly required assistance ( getting a phone card, finding change, finding a functioning phone booth, etc.).
The next available flight to Kathmandu would be this upcoming Sunday, so I shall hopefully be beginning my Far East journey in earnest tomorrow. Until then...