We spent 23 hours traveling on Sunday, from the time we left our hotel for the airport in Hong Kong, until we got home in Charlotte. We flew over the Pacific Ocean most of the way, but it was dark for most of that time. I lifted the window shade once and looked down upon the Canadian Rockies when we were over land again. They were still capped with snow.
When we flew from here over to China, it was never night. Again, it took about 22 hours, but because we were flying counter to the Earth's rotation it was always bright and sunny outside. I did not expect that! We flew over Alaska, skirted the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia, then over the islands of Japan, before landing Shanghai. These were like bonuses I wasn't even expecting! I could barely sleep because I just wanted to look out the window the whole time.
That brings me to another thought about our seats on the plane going over. We originally had three side seats together near the back of the plane, but about a week before we left Steve noticed that the plane wasn't full and there were some empty seats at the very back of the plane. He then looked at seatguru and saw that the last three rows only had two seats on each side section because of the curve of the fuselage. However that resulted in a little extra room between the seat and the side of the plane, which many people thought was an advantage. We changed our seat assignment to the two seats in the very last row and the window seat in the second to last row, figuring it was unlikely that anyone booking would pick an aisle seat that far back in the plane. We were right and ended up with, I think, the best seats on the plane. Extra room on the side, no one behind us, an extra empty seat to spill over into, and a good view out the window. You can see on the seating chart below:
Coming back we were in three side seats toward the back and it felt like torture to me for that long of a time. It was a smaller plane and felt like a smaller sitting space as well. You don't fully appreciate just how heavy your head is until you can never put it down! I barely slept at all coming home because I couldn't find anywhere comfortable to put my head other than in it's upright position.
After landing in Shanghai we went through immigration and then through customs and passed around a corner leading to a large walkway roped off to maybe hundreds of waiting family, friends, and drivers, many of which held signs with the name of the person they were waiting for. We spotted our friend Daniel holding this awesome sign he made for us in both English and Chinese! What a wonderful way to be welcomed to China!