Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hong Kong to Shanghai.

SK and Bro.  Lots to chat about as  we walk along the Bund.  It's been a very long time since they've seen each other!

The best part of today was reuniting with SK!  After a lot of back and forth with her and Anna, our Airbnb host, Anna kindly let SK into the apartment 2 hours before official check in time.  The cleaning woman was still in the apartment, getting it ready for our arrival, but SK didn't care.  The poor thing arrived into Pudong International Airport early in the morning.

Following my instructions, she took the Maglev to the Longyang Road metro station where she took a bit of a break and had her first breakfast in China - a bowl of noodles that she thoroughly enjoyed.  She then took the metro and continued the ride to East Nanjing Road metro station which is the one closest to our apartment.  To kill some time and to use WiFi, she then headed to the Starbucks on Heinan Middle Road.  Yesterday,  I had put her in touch with Anna as I knew by time she arrived into Shanghai, we would be on our way leaving Hong Kong.  So, as soon as she could, she reached out to Anna via Wechat.  Thanks to Anna, SK did not have to wait long at Starbucks before being able to make her way to the apartment which is only about a 10 minute walk away.


For Bro and I, our day started bright and early as well.  First order of the day was to get breakfast and as we had done yesterday, we had to walk around to find a place to eat.  We somehow managed to find yesterday's small restaurant but they were not yet open for business so we had to wander around and around and finally found a small place, literally down an alley, that was open and serving up piping hot bowls of congee. 


Our last bowls of congee and yau ja gwai.  Yes, you can get this breakfast in other places in China but call me biased, they never taste quite the same as what you get in Hong Kong.  Only the Cantonese can make congee this soul satisfying.  Yes, I am biased but what would you expect from someone who is Cantonese?




Our flight to Shanghai was scheduled to depart at 1:15p but we decided to give ourselves a lot of time not only to get to the airport but also to turn in our Octopus card and exchange our HK dollars into Chinese yuan.  We decided to take the same Nr A22 bus back to the airport so we looked for the stop on the opposite side of Jordan Road than where we had gotten dropped off.  Luck was on our side.  We literally saw the bus coming towards us as we crossed the road.  We had to pick up our pace as we didn't want to miss this bus though even if we had, another one would arrive a few minutes later.  That's how often the buses run here.

It wasn't hard to spot the bus stand as we just headed for the small group of people standing with their hands on their suitcase handles.  The downstairs seating was already full so Bro and I placed our suitcases on the storage racks and headed up to the upper level.


Nothing like sitting up high to catch nice views of the city as the bus took us along Jordan Road towards the airport.


In the airport, we checked in.  Then, it was a bit of a challenge to find the place to turn in our Octopus cards.....too bad they don't work anywhere else.  We didn't have much of a balance left on the card but we got our remaining balance back.  Then, we had to find the currency exchange counters to exchange our HK dollars to Chinese yuan and to use the ATM machine to pull more yuan.  Might as well get all the money business over with while we had time.  This way, when we arrive into Shanghai, we can just head to the Maglev and get going.

Our flight left on time and apparently, there is a law in China that stipulates something along the lines that 20 minutes after the plane reaches cruising altitude, food service begins.  Our flight was just around 2.5 hours in duration.  In the US, even if you flight from the east coast to the west coast - flight time around 5-6 hours, you don't get served any food!!  But not so in China.  We got a meal.  Most certainly nothing fancy as we're flying in economy but hey, you at least get something to eat!


Our flight landed in Shanghai on time and even though Hong Kong is China, we still had to clear through immigration.  Here, it took quite some time to go through immigration so much so that by the time we though not as quickly as the efficiency at which our baggage had been unloaded from the plane.  By the time we got to baggage claim, the belt had already stopped moving and our suitcases had been removed from the belt and placed on the floor!  At least they hadn't been lost in transit 😁

Once we left the arrival hall, we had to find the where to catch the Maglev.  Just follow the signs which will also lead you to the metro should you decide to take the metro instead.  Relatively speaking, riding the Maglev is not cheap....compared to the subway but for the experience, the 50 (about $8 USD) yuan for a single ticket is worth it, in my humble opinion.  I had to explain this Bro so he would go along with me.

The Shanghai metro is as efficient as the MTR in Hong Kong so trains run every few minutes.  Not the case with the Maglev which runs every 15-20 minutes over the course of the day.  Still, that's not a bad wait between trains.  Come to DC and ride our subway and you could easily wait 15 minutes between trains on the weekend.  Very sad.

I had hoped to ride the Maglev when I came to Shanghai in 2009 but unfortunately, because of flight delays, I landed after the train had already stopped running.  I was so disappointed so when this opportunity came up, I was not about to miss it.

Maglev (derived from magnetic levitation) is a system of train transportation that uses two sets of magnets, one set to repel and push the train up off the track as in levitation (hence Maglev, Magnetic-levitation), then another set to move the 'floating train' ahead at great speed taking advantage of the lack of friction. 

With Maglev technology, there are no moving parts and therefore, Maglev trains are quieter and smoother than conventional trains, and have the potential for much higher speeds.

The Shanghai Maglev went into operation in 2004 and is still the fastest commercial train currently in operation.  The 30 kilometer Maglev track connects Pudong International Airport with the Longyang Road Metro.  You can see its very impressive Shanghai Maglev statistics in the image below.

Image from Travel China Guide.

We arrived in time to catch the 6p train and even though there was quite a group of people also taking the same train, it was not a crowded ride.  I found spot in front of the speed display so I could record the train's speed as it progressed towards Longyang Road.


I was taking the video with my smartphone and unfortunately (so very disappointed I did this), I thought I had it set to record from the moment the train left the station but apparently not.  I did catch the last few seconds as it approached a speed of around 300 kilometers per hour.


....and unfortunately (so very disappointed about this as well), the train speed seemed to cap at around 300 kilometers per hour.  We never reached top speed!!  What??  Why not?  Could it be that after 6p, speed goes down for ??  In China, regular high speed trains travel at speeds above 300 km per hour so I felt like I got ripped off.  Again.  Not the Maglev experience of my dreams. 

I also shot a snippet of video as the train decelerated.  Incredible just how smooth it slows down.


All in all, it took us about 11 minutes to get from the airport to Longyang Metro.  Okay, you can't complain about that but it should've only taken 8 minutes.  Those 3 minutes in Maglev terms is a long time.

When we were boarding, we were so focused on getting on the train that I didn't take a photo of the platform. I had to do so when we arrived into the Longyang Road station just so I could get an image of the very modern looking train.....that is now 14 years old.  And....look at that platform.  It's so clean, it's gleaming!  Come to our Metro station and you'll see a stark difference in cleanliness.


At Longyang Road station, it took us a while to find the metro station though there were posted signs pointing the way.  Basically, you have to walk out of the gleaming Maglev station and plunge yourself into the sea of people heading for the older looking metro station.  We easily got our tickets and boarded the train for the very short ride to East Nanjing Road metro station.  I don't know how many times we'll be riding the metro in Shanghai but already, I am missing the convenience of the Octopus card as I think we will have to buy tickets each and every time we ride the subway.

Up at street level, I fired up Google Maps and used it to navigate us to Fu Zhou Lu which is the street our Airbnb apartment is located on.  It's just about a 10-15 minute walk from the station to the apartment.

It wasn't hard finding the place but at first glance, it looked a bit sketchy - especially the lobby which was filled with parked bicycles.  Anna had sent us a check in manual and included lots of photos to guide us to the apartment but it really wasn't necessary.  Walk past the bicycles and there are the elevators.  We just took them up the correct floor and when we stepped out of the elevator, the place looked even more sketchy.

Although SK had said she would leave the key in the lockbox for us to let ourselves in, I decided to try knocking on the door first.

A few seconds later, the door opened and a very happy face greeted me!  I flashed a huge smile back at SK and we hugged each other.  It was good to finally hear her voice again.  I forgotten how much of a giggler she is as well.  Love her laugh!!

Even though we had pretty much been in contact with each other the entire day, it was good to finally see each other - the whole drama about getting her in before the official 3p check out time was behind us and we have a wonderful trip ahead of us to look forward to. She not only had a chance to take a shower but also catch a short nap.  If she was tired, she most certainly showed no sign of it.  She's a real trooper!

In an earlier text message, SK had indicated that she wanted to take it easy after arriving in Shanghai, leaving Bro and I to go out for dinner and a night stroll along the Bund.  Maybe her short nap was enough or maybe it was just the excitement of seeing us but SK was more than ready to join us for dinner and the walk.

We checked out the apartment (love it!) and settled in but didn't wait long before heading out in search of a place to eat and there are plenty of places near our apartment.  One foot on the sidewalk and we quickly realized that Shanghai is as crowded as Hong Kong.  You cannot walk down a single block of street and not feel like you are swimming in a sea of humans.

We wandered around a bit and checked out some menus.  We finally settled on a restaurant serving up Shanghainese cuisine and it was surprisingly empty.  Either we were late for dinner or early.  I thought the former.  Anyway, I was so happy to see SK and we had so much to catch up on that I completely forgot to take any photos about the place or the food we ate.  So I have nothing to post up about our meal which was okay.  SK has informed us that she does not like savory dishes that are on the sweet side which is a challenge because Shanghainese cuisine tends to be on the sweet side, especially their meat dishes.  SK seems to know what dishes she will or will not like e.g., if it has a brown sauce, it's likely to be sweet.  So, we have to be a bit more careful ordering food.  I personally don't like much sweet in my savory dishes either so I am happy to eat whatever she orders.

Our Airbnb apartment is literally about 2 blocks from the Bund so it was just about that distance that we walked to get to it from the restaurant.  Both SK and I have been to Shanghai before but this is Bro's first visit not only to Shanghai but to mainland China.  Up until now, his views of China have all be formed through US media.  Now he gets to see and experience the country with his own eyes.  I was certain that the night skyline of Shanghai would surprise him.  China is not a backward, developing country.  This place is as modern as any city in the west and albeit, the skyline is not a big one, it's impressive in its own way.  Of course, on the Bund, you also stroll in the shadow of elegant European style buildings that date back at least 100 years.

All day, I've been lazy and taking photos with my smartphone and not my Nikon dSLR so the photos are not so great but with the Bund, I figure I have a couple more nights to come out and take photos if I want.  Tonight, it was more fun to just hang out with Bro and SK.  We didn't wander too far along the Bund; SK was getting tired and Bro and I were okay with calling it an early night.


It was a short walk around the Bund and then back to the apartment. 


Incredibly, the last photo I took today was one that I took from the stairwell in our apartment building.  Yes, you get an amazing view of the Bund from the stairwell window!  Unfortunately, the window was too high up for me to stand underneath it and reach up to open the window.  I was hoping to get a photo without the handles. 😒


SK is indeed battling jet lag so just as we were ready for bed, she was still wide awake.  She was happy to just be plopped in front of the TV and watch Chinese shows. So, we let her be.  She and I are sharing a room and Bro has his massive room to himself.  Such a change from our sardine can sized apartment in Hong Kong.  I'll do a video of our apartment tomorrow but for now, it's time to just relax and get ready for a full day of sightseeing.  I will be the tour guide tomorrow!

Goodnight from Shanghai!