Strolling the Streets of Shanghai
Never thought I would end up here!
After backpacking in India and Nepal, I stopped over in Shanghai, China. I landed early on Christmas morning at Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG). Because I was there on a layover, my first order of business was to get a 72-hour permit. China offers a 72-hour Visa-Free Transit. It’s pretty strict, so if your layover is longer then 72 hours, consider the 144-Hour Visa-Free Transit. There is a special counter/lane for the 72 hour free transit at immigration, so I went directly there to get a temporary entry permit stamped on my passport.
[P.S.: When booking plane tickets, look for long layovers so you can check out other countries on the way to your destination!]
Things To Do In Shanghai
Once that was taken care of, I headed to the currency exchange (USD -> Yuan), then to the Metro/Maglev Train station in the airport (although you can take a bus, taxi, or long distance coach too). But the great thing about the metro/Maglev is that the station is connected to the airport. The main things to check out in Shanghai are (the highlights that I visited are in yellow):
- The Yu Garden
- The Bund
- The Oriental Pearl Tower
- Nanjing Road
- Shanghai Disney Resort
My layover was 8 hours long, but subtract the time it takes for immigration & travel time, and given you have to be at the airport 2 hours before an international flight, I didn’t have long to explore (next time I will opt for a longer layover).
I chose to visit The Bund, which is a water front area in central Shanghai. It is a mile long walkway full of shops and modern buildings, opposite which you can see the Oriental Pearl Tower.
I talked to the help desk and learned the Line 2 subway/metro would take me to East
Nanjing Road in about an hour. The Bund is a 10 min walk from there, on a section of Zhongshan Road. The metro costs about $2-$3, but man is it an experience! (Good or bad? You decide). When I boarded, it was empty and calm, maybe 15 people max. The ride was smooth, but as soon as it reached its first stop, people flooded the compartment like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Every seat was instantly gone. This wasn’t as startling as what happened at the next stop. The first person in “line” (in the mob, I should say) to board was pushed so hard he slammed against the other end of the car. People flooded in like a tidal wave. Every stop more and more people got on and I couldn’t understand how they were able to fit. We were already packed like sardines. I wanted to take a picture, but I couldn’t move my hand up from my side – that’s how packed it was! I was definitely feeling packed and pressured, and it became harder to breathe. At one point, the subway doors wouldn’t close. I heard a girl crying…
A little over half way through the journey, I reached Guanglan Road, where everybody exited and a few people got on;I could breathe again. I took a seat, but a couple exiting were telling me to get off. I was about to, but then I remembered I had to get off at East Nanjing Road, and we weren’t there yet, so I sat back down. Then the couple came back into the subway to tell me to get off. Through some language barriers, they kindly got the point across that this was the last stop and I had to switch subways. I’m so thankful for kind people who go out of their way to help travelers! If they hadn’t come back for me, I would have ended up back at the airport…
The ride was intense, to say the least. Can’t imagine doing that every day in transit to work! But all in all, it was a new and unique experience, and I got a story out of it, so it all worked out!
East Nanjing Road
Once I got off at East Nanjing Road, and fed my ticket to exit the terminal, the first thing I noticed was how clean the air was. Now, I can’t tell you how clean, but it felt crisp compared to India, which is where I was traveling from.
Downtown Shanghai was cold, pristine, and empty, which made sense given it was 8 AM on Christmas morning. To combat the cold, the motorcyclists and people traveling on scooters had interesting covers/blankets to keep them warm. This website sells them and has a better image than I could capture.
I walked down East Nanjing Road, passing through the Hongyi shopping plaza, and towards Chenyi Square where I got a great view of The Bund, the Oriental Pearl Tower, and the Swatch Art Peace Hotel.
The Meglev Train
On the way back, I took the Shanghai Maglev Train, which is a magnetic levitation (i,.e. Mag. Lev.) train and can travel up to 267 mi/hr (439km/hr)! The economy class ticket cost $6. This train was not crowded at all! It was a quick 20 minutes back to the airport.
For Next Time…
Unless you really want to experience the crowds on the metro, I would take theMeglev to travel around. It saves a lot of time and is a lot more comfortable than the subway.
Also, if you want to check out more than one attraction, consider a layover longer than 12 hours…or simply travel to Shanghai as your main destination!
I found this site called Rome2Rio (it’s also an app) that condense maps, travel guides, transportation options, and accommodation all into one! (this is not a paid promotion, I just found this to be useful). I love how it shows you the Maglev, subway, bus, and taxi routes, the time it’ll take to travel those routes, and how much it’ll cost you; you can even pre-plan, view previous searches offline and save your trips. I just came across it and haven’t used it as yet, so if you have, leave me a comment below and tell me about your experience!
Cover Photo via Good Free Photos
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