Landed right on time in Shanghai around 10am, and my first mission was to get into the country. See, while booking these things, my mind told me “just get your flights booked, the rest is easy.”
My mind also told me: “China? No problem. Visa on arrival for 72-96 hours as long as you’re in transit and headed to a third country.”
The problem? I hadn’t yet figured out how to get from Shanghai to Tokyo…and I had landed…and my phone was having trouble grabbing internet. Shit.
Fortunately, I got a connection after five to ten minutes, and quickly got a flight booked on JAL to Tokyo…whew…sorted. To the immigration area, where I easily found the line for transit visa on arrival, but unfortunately there was only one officer…and many Japanese tourists in front of me who spoke neither English or Chinese.
The agent seemed to get frustrated after a few, and waved me up from like 10 deep in the queue to be next. Piece of cake, Show my passport, onward ticket, stamp in the passport, welcome to China. Whew. Easier than expected.
Since there’s no Uber in China, next thing to figure out was how to get to my hotel. Taxi drivers speak zero English and pretty much take cash only, so off to find an ATM…which wasn’t bad. It even had the Statue of Liberty on the screen….which was kinda funny in China.
After a long 10-15 minute pantomime, finally got my taxi driver to realize where the hotel I wanted to go was, and off we went. It was torrential pouring rain and traffic was a complete clusterfu*k, but eventually almost an hour later we arrived.
Checked in a bit before noon…and….crashed hard for a nap for like four hours or so. This followed my plan of sleeping when I was tired and just enjoying the trip when I wasn’t.
What does one do when it’s 5pm in China and your body thinks it’s morning time? Head to the world’s biggest Starbucks, of course, and get a delicious syphon brew coffee and some tiramisu…at an outrageous price of over $20. But they were doing some kind of demonstration brew, so it was worth it for the entertainment value of watching all the rural tourists snapping pictures in awe.
Oh, and the coffee was awesome as well…it had better be: I literally came halfway around the world for this coffee!
Back to my hotel and the top floor executive lounge for a more substantial snack. You can’t beat sunset views like this!
Snacks in the lounge? Dumprings, sushi, cheese, and Tsingtao. When in China…
I walked around for like 30 minutes after snacks, but was kinda out of it due to the combination of jetlag, drinking a bit much in flight, and the general disorientation of which side of the planet I was on. Decided a bit of a metro ride was in order since I’m a transit geek, and then, I just walked and followed the life on the streets.
Coincidentally, of all things, I came upon Stone Brewing’s Shanghai location. I mean come on, how can I not stop in for a few craft beers? It was destiny!
“Few” craft beers indeed…and I decided I really should head back to the hotel and see about a nap. On the way…I found Jesus. He was in Shanghai all this time. Opiate of the masses indeed.
You really have to love riding the subway in Shanghai. The advertisements are just epic…and hey, “great” belongs to me! How can you not love that!
I totally admit it….I knew there was a little local craft beer place near my hotel, so I stopped by for one…and a bottle of water, because I’d already drunk the ones in my room, and wanted more. I loved this little phone charging machine. Apparently everyone in Shanghai has the same phone?
The stop was both one of the best and worst choices I made on the trip. I’d had just enough to drink I was feeling social and chatty, and just enough that my guard was down a little.
I mean, they were two nice ladies who were “students” despite being early 20s who wanted to practice their English, so it would be rude to not stay at least 20-30 minutes and chat a little…and 30 minutes was about right…because that’s when I realized they were “working” students….yes…do the maths. Yikes…out of there pronto.
Managed only about six hours of sleep (thanks jetlag, you suck) and it was still too early for breakfast, so I went for an hour walk…getting back in time for one of the better hotel breakfast buffets in the world. Fresh OJ, fantastic tea, dim sum, and bacon! Life is amazing!
After breakfast, I went for a walk in the Peoples’ Park. Came across a cute little pond that had amazingly abundant vegetation growing in it.
Then, umbrellas everywhere. Lots of pictures of young people. I couldn’t quite figure it out. My first guess was maybe something to do with Hong Kong because of the umbrellas? But surely they wouldn’t allow anything protest-related in Shanghai.
Oh, I know, lots of young people…it’s a missing persons event. Very sad, all these young people that have gone missing and their families have come to the big city looking for them. One older lady even grabbed my arm, pointed to her daughter’s pic, and was practically begging me for help. Really sad.
…except later I found out I had wandered upon the “Shanghai Weekend Marriage Market.” That’s twice in less than 12 hours that I’d almost ended up with a Chinese lady. This place is the most dangerous place, ever!
Got back to my room with about an hour before I had to head to the airport to grab my flight out…and then just realized that my friend Laurent Perrier had left the Lufthansa flight with me and didn’t have documentation to leave China. Shit. Well, when in China… (yeah, view from my room most certainly did not suck…)
Soon enough, my time in Shanghai was over, and it was time to head to the airport. I was feeling brave and adventurous on my second ever visa to Shanghai, so had the hotel call a taxi to take me to the subway/maglev station. View while waiting on my cab:
Arriving at the Maglev station. I could have taken the subway, but Shanghai subways are not made for rolling bags, and I didn’t want to get sweaty, so for less than $10 it was worth taking a cab. Plus, amazing post-Soviet art!
Buying the ticket for the airport maglev was a piece of cake, and the station was super sleek and modern in that very Chinese way:
Standing at the edge of the station, looking out on the maglev tracks:
So, the Shanghai airport maglev has “VIP Class” which costs double the regular class…for what is like barely a 10 minute ride. But come on, how could I say no! It was less than $10 extra, so I had to try it. 301 kph (it’s capable of nearly 400 kph but for some reason is speed-limited on weekends) and I had the entire VIP car to myself!
Views of VIP class. Very disappointed in the lack of champagne.
With that, my time in Shanghai was sadly over. 57 hours down, 29 hours to go! Next stop: TOKYO!