The trip began with more complication than planned. I was supposed to fly from Jakarta and meet Mina in Singapore, then take a straight flight together to Los Angeles, and finally take a connecting flight to Chicago. We were supposed to arrive in Chicago around midnight local time.
However my Singapore Airline flight from Jakarta to Singapore got a 3-1/2 hour delay due to technical problems and we missed the Singapore-Los Angeles flight. After a lot of calls and tense conversations with the airline officials, we finally secured another Singapore-Los Angeles flight via Taipei on the same day. However, the original delay and the Taipei stopover made the Chicago arrival time to be delayed by 6 hours. Instead of arriving around midnight in Chicago, we arrrived around 6 AM and missed the opportunity to get an overnight sleep at the hotel.
The change of flight also caused us to give up our business class seats. The airline officials compensated us with US$150 inflight shopping vouchers and an empty seat between our seats (three seats for the two of us), but they are just not the same as the comfort of flying cross-Pacific on business class.
Arriving in the US
Here is a note for foreigners flying to the United States. When I received my US visa, I was identified as somebody that needed to go through a special registration procedure every time I enter and exit the United States. In short, this procedure is called NSEERS. You know you have been chosen for NSSERS if you have a FIN number hand-written next to your US visa in your passport. I once asked an US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer why I was identified for NSEERS and I was told it was random. I believe they were trained to say that, but I'm sure they didn't invest billions of dollars for their border protection system to simulate the logic of a dice.
The handling of NSEERS procedure differs from port to port. On this day, the Los Angeles CBP officers were very helpful in facilitating our travel. Knowing that we had a connecting flight to Chicago, our officer guided me through the whole procedure in about 10 minutes. In my previous experiences entering the United States, the same procedure could last between 30 minutes and 1-1/2 hours.
The rest of the trip on this day went as planned. We arrived in O'Hare early in the morning and took a taxi to our hotel. We chose Club Quarters Hotel as we always do in our travels. Like in other Club Quarters hotels, this one had smallish room, but great location (a 5-minute walk from the Magnificent Mile), and reasonable price (about $120 with internet access included).
Since we arrived at the hotel around 6:30 AM, there was slight confusion with the room booking. We were ready to come back later during normal check-in time, but fortunately the hotel had room availability and was willing to let us check-in early and have the room immediately.