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Super mom — 11 month baby on a long haul flight

When I took my baby to China, he was 9.5 months old.  Here is the link: Super mom — 9 month baby on a long haul flight

When we travelled back to Finland, he was 11.5 months old.

ATTENTION: our returning trip was a daytime flight, with 9:20 AM take-off!  If possible, better to avoid daytime long-haul flight when traveling with a baby.

Some facts about the airline and the aircraft

Shanghai (PVG) – Helsinki (HEL), 10 hours
Finnair.  A350-900, similar, or almost the same as A350-XWB, in terms of cabin layout.  Again, there is only one baby cot seat, which is 41H (Row 41 is an exit row).  This time, this seat was booked by somebody without a baby.  And there were at least three babies on board.  But anyway, there were plenty of empty seats!  I took three seats in the middle.

ATTENTION: the advantage of non-exit row seats is that the carryon bag could be stored under the seats in front.  In this way, everything is easily accessible while taking care of the baby.

Shanghai terminal T2, check in

The check in process was pleasant.  They did not care about the 2 kg over-weight.  Plus, they provided a big bag for our stroller.

At the custom, we went to the baby priority line, so it was fast.  At the safety check point, there was no priority lines.  But they were nice, and they offered to hold my baby while I was arranging belongings.

The Gate is close by.  I really appreciated that.

Welcome aboard

During the long taxing, my baby did poopoo.  We couldn’t go to the lavatory, and I had to feed him.  Maybe he was not that hungry, he stopped drinking before take-off.  When the plane was stable, we went to the lavatory.  He cried really hard!  He didn’t like it at all!  But I had to do it!  After several trails, I succeeded, barely.  Luckily it was not a huge mess. Then we went back to seat, and continued feeding.  He slept!  Fortunately, they started to serve lunch.  And I was able to finish it before he woke up.  Yes, he slept for only 40 minutes, as he always do.  Still about 8 hours to Helsinki!

We started to play toys.  Snacks.  Milk.  Play.  Walk.  Round and round.  I rocked him to sleep, but I failed to put him down.  Then we went back to our round.  I tried walking and feeding for many times, but he didn’t cooperate.  About 3.5 hours to landing, he finally slept.  He was waken up by other baby’s cry. Still 2 hours 20 minutes to go!  I gave him some food, and he was a good boy.  For whatever reason, he refused to drink milk.  About 1.5 hours to Helsinki, dinner was served.  I had to pass.  So it was good that I ate a little snacks while he was sleeping.  We kept playing, walking, and talking to people.  He did poopoo again!  Omg!  This time he did a mess in the restroom.  I felt lucky that I prepared enough wet tissues.  When I took him out of the restroom, I was afraid of looking at people, because my baby cried really hard in the restroom.

During descending and landing, he still refused to drink milk.  So I had to give him veggies bag and water.  His ears seemed uncomfortable, but he didn’t complain at all.  There was a baby kept crying during landing.  In fact, my ears were also quite uncomfortable.  Everything after landing was fast and easy.  I mean, he had enough distractions from people collecting their belongings.

Helsinki airport

After exiting the plane, we walked for quite a bit.  Interestingly, I saw more people going for the flight connection.  There was no line at the custom, at all.  Then, luggage claim.  I asked an airport officer to help.  After exiting the baggage claim place, D was waiting for us.

 

So, I survived from two long-haul flights with my less than 1 year old baby.

Did I mention that Finnair gave gift to every baby?  It’s an activity book, and a small Moomin towel.  What a sweet touch.

 

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Super mom — 9 month baby on a long haul flight

I did not know that I would do the same thing – taking a long distance travel with a baby all by myself.  I did not know that I could do it.

Some facts about the airline and the aircraft

Helsinki (HEL) – Shanghai (PVG)
Finnair.  A350 XWB, a new and beautiful aircraft.
There is only one baby cot seat, which is 41H (Row 41 is an exit row). The baby cot can accommodate a baby weighting up to 11 kg (although Finnair website says 9 kg).  Length is unknown, but my 72cm baby could fit in. The baby cot is mounted once the seatbelt sign has been turned off.
There are two seats beside 41H. And the arm between those two seats can be lifted. If the plane is not fully booked, the airline typically blocks all three seats for the mom.
There are four restrooms in front of Row 41,so it is a bit noisy. But where else is not?

Finnair A350 baby cot

Finnair A350 baby cot

Helsinki airport terminal T2

I put my baby into the baby-carrier, and went to the family gate at the security check.  After taking out all liquid products and cell phone, I took my baby out, because I had to carry the baby to go through the security gate.  Unopened baby food is fine.  Even water is OK.  After the security check, I saw a high chair, so I let him sit there while I was collecting belongings.  What if the baby cannot sit? I feel there has to be some sort of assistance.

Our gate is 53. What a long walk! The passport control is around gate 30, meaning gate 32-60 are for flights that exit the Schengen region.  There are two lines, one for EU passport holders, and the other for all (other) passport holders.  Of course the latter is longer.  We waited for about 20 minutes.  The officer needs to see passport, residence permit, airline ticket, and face.  The officer was nice and quick.  After the passport control, it’s still a long walk to gate 53.  Very long walk.

HEL airport terminal T2

When I finally reached gate 50, it was already the boarding time.  Anyway, I saw a changing station, and took advantage of it.  God knows where the next one will be.  So diaper was changed, we were ready to board!  Gate 53!  People were already in the line.  However, thanks to the baby, I could directly go to the priority line. For boarding, they check both the ticket and the passport.

HEL airport changing station

Welcome aboard

A350 is beautiful!  Inside is elegant and spacious.  I settled down to 41H, the only front row seat that can have a baby cot mounted on the wall.  One Chinese flight attendant helped me to watch the baby, so that I could store my carryon bag in the overhead bin.  It was then I noticed that the arm between the two seats beside me could be lifted.  Apparently those two seats were not taken.  Most likely they were blocked out by flight attendants for my convenience.  I got a baby cot and three front row seats!  Can’t be any better, right?

Before takeoff, the baby cot was not there.  I put seat belts on myself and my baby, waiting for the takeoff.  Had not because of a curious baby, I wouldn’t have felt the delay was that long.  It’s only about half an hour — but to me it’s like ages.  Luckily, other passengers helped me to entertain or distract him.

As soon as the plane started to move, I was getting ready for breast feeding.  From the screen I could see where we were heading.  A350 is a fancy aircraft. The taxing took long, and I had to start feeding to shut him up.  Since he was tired, he was drinking slowly.  He didn’t stop until we were 3000-4000 meter high in the air.  Woohoo, he slept, so that’s it!  Was not it too easy?  As expected, my unpredictable baby woke up after only five minutes.  But thanks to that five minutes, I could get some stuff out from the carryon bag.  He was very excited, smiling to every body.  The meal service started really early.  I had to delay it, but not for very long, because they can’t keep the food warm for too long.  When I was hesitating, the lady sitting across the walkway offered me a hand.  She took the baby, then I quickly finished my meal.  The food was delicious!  Meatball, mashed potato, and a little bit carrot.  I didn’t eat salad.  But I saved the fazer chocolate for later.  I took back my baby, and tried all kinds of ways to make him sleep.  He was clearly sleepy.  After all, he only slept for five minutes since his last nap.  He wouldn’t sleep.  He was still smiling to people; he played the lifted arm and bagged blanket; he climbed the seat; he looked around.  He sometimes showed signs of sleepy, but he just would not sleep.  His eyes were wide open. Maybe because it’s too bright?  Once the lights were out (almost three hours after the takeoff!), his eyes started to close.  And then, he dozed off fast, while I was rocking him with small steps.  I waited for about five minutes before putting him into the baby cot.  I let him sleep on the side, and used a pillow and clothes to stabilize him. After an hour, he wanted to rotate to be on tummy, so I helped him.  Although he moved some times due to noise (toilet flushing), he seemed to be sleeping well.  Only five more hours to go!  Maybe he would sleep till we arrive at Shanghai? (Now I should sleep.  Four hours to Shanghai — so fast!  But I couldn’t sleep! At all!)

100 minutes before landing, they started to serve breakfast.  It was delicious too!  Scrambled egg, spinach, mini hash brown, strawberry yogurt, and orange juice.  Yummy!

 

Finnair breakfast

Shortly after I finished the breakfast, my baby was waken up by light and noise.  Still 1.5 hours till landing!  Since he had some decent sleep, he was beaming to everybody.  I wanted to save breast feeding for the landing.  Therefore I only gave him a fruit bag.  He continued to play on the seats.

About 40 minutes before landing, the captain announcement came.  Soon the plane would be descending, and thus people should remain seated and seat belt fastened.  I kept my baby on my lap, and put on the seatbelt for both of us.  He didn’t like to be restrained, so he was trying to be free and of course he screened a little.  He was fuzzy also because he needed more sleep.  After all it’s still midnight time in Finland.  He was supposed to sleep.  Anyway, to prepare for landing, I had to hold him, and constantly distract him.  I kept checking the clock, hoping we would land right away.  Finally, about 20 minutes before the estimated landing, I just couldn’t “fight” with him any more.  So I started breast feeding.  He was drinking well, but at some point he was scratching his ears.  Perhaps he was suffering from the pressure change when the plane was descending.  He did not cry, so it was not that bad.  Since he was sleepy, he kept drinking for long time, which was good.  Soon after we landed, he stopped feeding.  I don’t remember much about what happened after landing, maybe because I was too happy that this journey was almost done.

After the plane reached the gate, people were busy gathering their belongings.  They helped me to get my bag, so I could prepare to get out.   I don’t think I used too much time, but when we exited the plane, the cleaning ladies have also reached the gate.  Were we that late?  When did all those passengers leave?

Shanghai Pudong Airport

There’s again long walk to the passport control.  But I did not mind much.  After the overnight flight, my legs were longing for a walk.  On the way I spotted a changing station, so I changed his diaper.  At the passport control, there’s no line at all!  At first one needs to pass a temperature check gate.  What if I had fever?  I showed our passports to the officer.  Interestingly, my baby’s travel document did not work.  The officer asked about our flight number, checked the information, and let us go.

Next stop was baggage claim.  I used 10 seconds to spot my suitcase, and someone helped to get it for me. The final stop was custom clearance.  Since there was a long line, I went to the restroom first.  After coming out, the line was much shorter.  I remember they only do random check in the past, so there’s usually no line.  But now, every bag needs to go through the security check.  What happened?  Again, somebody helped me to handle the heavy suitcase.

Finally we could go out.  Only less than twenty people were waiting outside for picking ups.  My mom was not among them.  I went to an info desk, hoping to get a WiFi code. And I was told to go to a WiFi kiosk to get one.  The kiosk is close to a purple column. If you exit the arrival gate, and take a left, you will find it. I used my passport to get a code.  Then I was able to contact my mom.  Within ten minutes, I found her!  By the way, while I was dealing with the WiFi code, my baby dozed off at some point.  It’s the first time to see him sleeping in the carrier.

Pudong wifi kiosk

wifi code

 

 

 

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Travel in China – Huangshan/Yellow Mountain – Day 2

Day 2  汤口 (Tangkou Town)    –>     慈光阁 (entrance of the front side of mountain)    –>     迎客松 (Welcome Pine)    –>    光明顶  (Bright Peak)   –>    飞来石 (Flying Rock)    –>    排云亭 (Paiyun Pavilion, for sunset)    –>    排云楼 (Paiyun Lou, hotel)

 

I think we successfully avoided crowds!  Here’s the Day 2 in our Yellow Mountain trip, or the first day we were actually IN Yellow Mountain.

As mentioned in the overview post, one needs to take the shuttle bus to the entrance of Yellow Mountain.  The bus firstly took us to the 慈光阁 cable car station.  From there, another bus is available to take us further to somewhere close to the entrance.  (Only a few people were on the bus.) There’s still some distance from where the second bus dropped us to the actual entrance, as we joked: “We are already tired before we even start to climb Yellow Mountain”.

We were among a very small number of people who were able to enjoy Yellow Mountain in peace.  Many times, we couldn’t see any other people at all.

yellow_mountain avoid crowds
No crowds at all

Climbing Yellow Mountain is tough, especially from the front side.  We were extremely slow.  Even if Heaven Capital Peak were open, we would not have enough time to do it.

Heaven Capital Peak closed
Heaven Capital Peak (天都峰) closed due to weather

The first time when we met with crowds was at Yupin Lou (玉屏楼), where the Welcome Pine is located.   Nearby there are also a cable car station and a hotel, so no wonder it’s always crowded.  We could find a stone table, and enjoyed lunch – the takeout fried rice and homemade bamboo shoot.  D was very happy that he could carry less stuffs.  We were really exhausted.

Then we kept going towards Bright Peak (光明顶).  Again, nobody was around.  Probably because of the timing, we really did not see much people this day (see photos).  Most people climb from the back side of Yellow Mountain, and we did from the front side.  Therefore, we kinda of “missed” each other?!

yellow_mountain avoid crowds 3
After Yupin Lou (玉屏楼)
thread of the sky down
At the bottom of Thread of the sky (一线天)
At the top of Thread of the sky (一线天)
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Lotus Peak (莲花峰)

On the way, we saw West Sea Canyon.  Wow!  we couldn’t wait to explore it – we got excited for the next day.

west sea canyon
west sea canyon (西海大峡谷)
west sea canyon cable car
west sea canyon (西海大峡谷) cable car

After passing the Flying Rock (飞来石), we finally arrived at hotel!  So tired!

yellow_mountain_flying_rock
Flying Rock (飞来石)
flying rock
Amazing Flying Rock

How much time did we use?  From the entrance to Welcome Pine was about 4 hours! Then, from there to hotel (Paiyun Lou) was another 4 hours!  What a day!  If the Heaven Capital Peak (requires 3 hours) were open, we would have had to hike in dark…

However, we still went to see sunset at Paiyun Pavilion (排云亭).  It was cloudy… unfortunately.  But we enjoyed the peace.

Paiyun Pavilion sunset
Paiyun Pavilion sunset
Paiyun Pavilion locks
Paiyun Pavilion locks

Although the hotel room was a bit wet, we had a good night sleep with sour legs.

 

 

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Travel in China – Huangshan/Yellow Mountain – Avoid crowds

If you have been to China, you know that it’s almost crowded everywhere.  Since Yellow Mountain is one of the favorites of Chinese people, you can be assured that it is crowded everyday, rain or shine.  But, you still want to ask this question: how do I avoid the crowds … as much as possible?  As a Chinese, as somebody who has been to Yellow Mountain before, I also asked myself the same exact question.

Here is my answer —- There is no way to avoid crowds, but there are ways to avoid large crowds!

Rule No.1   Do not join tour groups.  Yes you know the reasons.

Rule No.2   Try climb up the mountain from the front side (慈光阁), and try not to use the cable cars.  Most tour groups go from the back side (云谷寺).  And to save time and energy, they always use the cable cars.

Rule No.3   Visit the West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷), where the tour groups do not go.  Be assured that it is really worth going, even if you have to give up some other sites of interest!

Rule No.4   Stay on the mountain, and enjoy the early morning and late afternoon (before tour groups come up, and after they are gone).  Plus, you may be lucky to catch a breathtaking sunrise or sunset!

Rule No.5   Discover your own Yellow Mountain.  I mean, do not just look for those iconic sites, where are always packed with people.  For example, there is always a long line in front of the Welcome Pine Tree for photos.  In fact, there are so many things to see in Yellow Mountain!  Please do not ignore them!

We stayed two nights on the mountain.  If you are interested in our itinerary, please check out this overview post and Day 2 and Day 3 in details.

 

 

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Travel in China – Huangshan/Yellow Mountain – Tips

Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain, is truly my favorite place to visit in China.  It is not far from my hometown, Hangzhou.  The first time I visited Yellow Mountain, I was about 10 years old.  At that time, there was no cable car, so we climbed up on foot.  The second time was in 2016 summer, when I took D there.  Although most people are using the cable car to climb up and even come down, we chose the tougher way.

Chinese people say: you do not need to visit any other mountain after you come back from Yellow Mountain.  Maybe that’s why I have not been to other famous mountains in China 🙂

Yellow Mountain is known for “Four Specialties”: unique pine-trees, strange rocks, cloud sea, and hot springs.

yellow_mountain_4
Welcome Pine Tree (迎客松)
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Flying Rock (飞来石)
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Monkey watching the cloud sea (猴子观海)

However, my favorite part is the newly opened West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷).  I will talk about it more in the next blog, but here is a photo:

yellow_mountain_14
West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷)

 

In this blog, I would like to share some tips.

How many days in Yellow Mountain?

Depends on how much you want to see, and whether you plan to use the cable car (which significantly saves time).  We climbed up from the front (慈光阁) side of Yellow Mountain, which is the more difficult side.  In order to see sunrise and sunset, we stayed in Yellow Mountain for two nights.

Day 1   Hangzhou    –>   Tangkou (汤口)  Hotel

Day 2  Tangkou (汤口)    –>     慈光阁     –>     迎客松     –>    光明顶     –>    飞来石     –>    排云亭 (sunset)    –>    排云楼 (hotel)

Day 3  排云楼    –>    丹霞峰(sunrise) –>    排云楼    –>    狮林大酒店(hotel checkin)  –>     排云亭     –>     西海大峡谷    –>   cable car to 天海 station    –>    光明顶    –>    狮林大酒店
–>     狮子峰 (猴子观海, sunset)     –>     狮林大酒店

Day 4  狮林大酒店     –>      始信峰 (sunrise)     –>     云谷寺     –>   Tangkou (汤口)     –>     Hangzhou

* Day 2 was tough.  Probably better to have stayed at 白云宾馆 or 光明顶.

* Tiandu Peak was closed due to weather.  Lotus Peak was closed till 2019.

* In my opinion, it’s worth to spend a day in West Sea Canyon, if the loop is fully accessible.  West Sea Canyon is like a fairyland, and is very quiet.  Tour groups do not go there, because they do not have much time.  We really enjoyed the peaceful hiking there.

 

Transportation

Bus from Hangzhou: Buses depart from Hangzhou West Bus Station.  Attention! The destination should be Tangkou (汤口), from where one can take shuttles to Yellow Mountain.  Private cars are not allowed to drive to Yellow Mountain.

Shuttles from Tangkou (汤口) to Yellow Mountain: There are two shuttle stations inTangkou (汤口): East (东岭) and West (寨西).  When you buy tickets there, you need to specify whether you are going to the front (慈光阁) or back (云谷寺) side of Yellow Mountain.  One-way ticket costs about $3, and the ride takes about 25 minutes.  Shuttles run every 20 minutes.  We used the East Shuttle Station (东岭) to go to the front side (慈光阁) of Yellow Mountain.  The station is quite small.  In comparison, the West (寨西) Shuttle Station is huge, and it’s close to Tangkou (汤口) Bus Station, which harbors inter-city buses.

Here is our itinerary:
Hangzhou West Bus Station –>
Tangkou Bus Station — >
picked up by hotel staff to go to hotel –>
walk to East Shuttle Station –>
front side (慈光阁) of Yellow Mountain –>
Yellow Mountain –>
back side (云谷寺) of Yellow Mountain –>
shuttle bus to West Shuttle Station –>
walk to Tangkou Bus Station –>
Hangzhou West Bus Station

 

Hotels and Restaurants

[Day 1] In Tangkou (汤口): 黄山自游人客栈, close to the East Shuttle Station. ~ $20 per night.  Basic and clean.  They have a very nice and popular restaurant.  We had dinner there: spicy pepper fish (泡椒鱼) and mountain veggie, both are delicious.  Actually we intended to order some local specialties, but were warned that we probably wouldn’t like. We also had breakfast the next day: noodle soup, and it’s really good.  We then ordered a fried rice to take to Yellow Mountain (as our lunch). The hotel offers free pick-up from Tangkou Bus Station, so just give them a call when you arrive.  It’s a very short ride.  The owner of the hotel is nice.  He sat down with us after dinner to discuss about our plan!  They also have wooden hiking pole free to borrow.

[Day 2] In Hunagshan:  Paiyunlou (排云楼), three star hotel.  $125 per night.  It is located on one end of West Sea Canyon (西海大峡谷). It is very close to Danxia Peak (丹霞峰) and Paiyun Pavilion (排云亭), two good locations for sunrise and sunset.  Seems like many tour groups like to stay there, probably due to the good location.  The room is good size, but quite wet, very wet.  Interestingly ,winter coats are available for use.  Breakfast is provided, but better to get there early to have good selections.

[Day 3] In Huangshan: Shilin Hotel (狮林大酒店), four star hotel.  $140 per night.  Photographers’ pick.  It is very close to Lion Peak (狮子峰) and Qingliangtai (清凉台), great for sunrise.  In the lobby, there are a lot of photographs on the show.  The hotel is newer, thus the room is clean, bright and dry.  The restaurant is good as well.  We had great dinner and breakfast there.

 

Tickets

Tickets to Yellow Mountain can be purchased from hotels, to skip the lines.   Or, you can get tickets at the gate.

 

Preparation

You should definitely buy a disposable raincoat (no more than 5 Chinese yuan a piece)!  It rains a lot in Yellow Mountain.  Umbrellas just won’t do.

Hiking poles are very helpful, but not necessary.

Water and snacks.  In the mountain, there are not that many places selling stuffs.

Only take necessary things – travel light!

 

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