This is rather lengthy. Hope it helps others concerning getting in and out of the city.
BOS to YYZ (Toronto) to PVG: Layover was 3 hrs - I could’ve chosen a flight with 1 hr layover but might as well build in extra time just in case. Border patrol took 2 min (no lines), then on to a long walk (mostly moving walkways) to the E Terminal. Took about 10 min to get to the gate.
On the long Air Canada Trans-Atlantic flight, I got seat 1 K (first seat on right side). Fairly low traffic since the snacks are in the back and the front bathroom is on the opposite side. The seating area can benefit from a good scrub down to get rid of all the dirt and stain, especially all the buildup in the crevices. Service and food were excellent.
After de-boarding, the line at China Border Patrol was about 10 min. Waited another 15 min for the luggage and walked out the customs area, which required people to get inline but there was no inspection at all at the end of that line. Got to the arrival lobby at about 4:20 pm.
Took the Meglev train which requires a rather long (~5 min) walk down to Terminal 1 (signage was good). There were moving walkways but it was easier to just keep walking with the luggage cart. Bought ticket at the window - Costs 40 RMB by showing the boarding pass. Had to put all the luggage into a scanner (which was a pain). After collecting them, I followed a tour group thru the gate that doesn’t have a turnstile. I couldn’t see where the entrance to the platform was, but as usual in China, just followed the crowd to take an escalator down. Train was set to depart in 5 min. Once it took off, the speed got up to 430 km/h in about 6 min. Very smooth and felt a slight tilt at times. At 9 min, the whole thing was over. There was not much of a view during the trip, plus it was really foggy and hazy anyway. After getting off the train, there’s an escalator down and another gate to pass thru which collects the ticket. This time, with luggage in tow, it was a pain so everyone pretty much squeezed into the gate with no turnstile. Once outside, went down another escalator right to a taxi stand.
Taxi took about 20 min with no traffic to city center. Driver got to Renmin Lu and followed the street #. However, he couldn’t find the hotel so had to make a call to find out we were 1 min away. Good advice from everyone to have hotel info all printed out. Cost: 40 RMB. I probably saved 40 RMB or so compared to taking the taxi all the way from the airport. But the Meglev definitely didn’t cut short the total time unless there was heavy traffic.
Hotel: SSAW Hotel @ 839 Renmin Lu. Executive Room $95 USD + 15% tax.
By the time I settled down and got ready to get out again, it was about 5:30 pm. On the way to Yu Garden area, I walked down a side street that turned out to be a rather long fresh food/veg market for locals. Prices were cheap: 2 RMB for a pound (Jin) of vegetables for example. Also passed by a lot of hole-in-the-wall restaurants that are literally a store with 2-3 tables, kitchen out in the front, dirt floors inside. 10 RMB for a bowl of noodles. I just figured out that people driving motorcycles like to cut right in front of pedestrians. I’d be walking and all of a sudden a bike would appear 2 ft from where my foot is.
The Shanghai Old Town was like a touristy area with buildings that look like old TV shows. Lots of shops were selling souvenir junks and Chinese style sweets. The shopping complex was lit up in lights which gave it a good backdrop of almost any pic along the street.
Dinner at Deng Tai Fung
After reading all the reviews, I wanted to see what the hype is all about. The restaurant was more than half empty. For some reason, they wanted my name at the front but is not like I was in line for a table. Very clean and spacious inside. Ordered a crab & meat dumpling (5 for 44 RMB), drunken chicken (58 RMB), and pea leaves veg (45 RMB). Total came out to 165 RMB, which is simiar to the price back in US Chinatown. Definitely pricey for a meal in China. Was it good….. hmmm, it was ok but not special. The dumpling had a really thin delicate skin but the taste was almost the same was what I can get in Boston’s Dumpling House. The drunken chicken was surprisingly like what I’ve made myself. The veg was ok… luckily not drowning in a pool of oil (I asked for low salt and oil). The restaurant is good for tourists, locals who want a more civilized environment, or business people who need a semi-quiet place to talk. Luckily I found a waitress who spoke Cantonese since I couldn’t figure out what the mandarin speaking waitress was asking me at the end…. She wanted to know if I need an offical receipt with company name on it or something.
After dinner, walked around the Yu Garden shops (not the garden itself). Saw the famous Nanxiang Dumpling House with people waiting in line at the takeout station. Some reviews said that this place is no long the best for dumpling and DTF is even better. In that area, there are lots of street food vendors (little storefronts that sell food to eat while walking). On the way back to the Hotel on Renmin Lu, saw a group of locals dancing to loud music in pitch darkness – the area was completely unlit but they all seem to be having a good time. This must be how locals entertain themselves when they need something to do at night (free and fun). Interesting. It was too cold to keep walking – temp in the 40s with bone-chilling winds. Plus, the fog was rather heavy so there isn’t a lot of picture taking opportunity anyway. Returned to the hotel at around 8:30 pm.
DAY 2 Saturday
Started the day with a Subway ride to Shanxxi Station, then walked to Fuxing Park, which is a beautiful green space with lots of flowers and manicured grounds. Quite interesting to see how the locals (mostly older generation) entertain themselves by dancing to music, singing, badminton, etc. Loudspeakers were blasting music in different spots and some groups were doing synchronized dancing while others groups seem to be a free for all where anyone can just join in. Some people even rigged up their own loudspeakers to broadcast their personal songs. A few singing groups looked really serious (one had a conductor) and another group was like a primitive karoke. Shanganese people seem to like being the performer rather than watching other people perform in their past time.
After leaving Fuxing Park, I passed by Sun Yat Sun’s museum along the way but didn’t go in. I roamed around the local streets in this neighborhood, bought a snack from a local food stall that sells marinated duck and tofu products, then took the subway to People’s Square. From the subway, walked to HuangPu St to JiaJia Dumpling. It was just before noon and the line was only 10 people or so, but the wait was ~1 hr. The way it works is you enter the door and immediately order from the counter. Unfortunately most dumplings on the menu were sold out already before noon, but the one I wanted was still available – crab and pork. You just sit where-ever, sharing a table with others. The order found it’s way to me and I got the most delicious, delicate dumpling I’ve had in my life. The crab favor was dominate and fresh, unlike any other I’ve had. The only regret was getting only 1 order. It was too late since I didn’t think re-ordering was possible without getting in line again.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Shanghai Museum. The collection is incredibly rich. Each pavilion was richly filled, especially the bronze, ceramics, and jade museum. If my feet were not burning in pain, I could stay there longer. After leaving the museum, I went back to the hotel and had a short rest. At about 5 pm, I walked towards the Bund just in time for the sunset. The view was just awesome. Luckily it was a clear day and the view was completely unobstructed. I walked from the middle of the Bund to the northern end, then headed to famous Nanjing East Rd. It’s like a mini-Hong Kong here with the neon store signs. There were tons of shops, including a jam packed Apple Store.
For dinner, I took the subway to Xintindi. It’s kind of unique to renovate old stone houses into a commercial shopping/restaurant area. Very touristy (too much for me). Had dinner in New Jesse that served Shanghainese food. To be honest, I was not impressed. Prices are not any cheaper than US (US $30 for 1 person, no drinks) and quality and quantity so so. I wanted to get into Ye Shanghai but it was full. Perhaps that would’ve been better. It was too dark to see anything in X, so I took the subway back to hotel.
DAY 3 Sunday
Started the day with an awesome hotel buffet breakfast, then walked to Yu Garden (10 min tops). It was packed with tourists, and the Nanxing Dumpling take out already had a long queue. I didn’t feel like buying or eating anything, so I walked around until it was time to get ready to go to the airport. From the hotel to the Hongquao airport was 40 min, around 120 rmb. Taxi driver was super nice and made sure to take me to the correct terminal. Unfortunately, I didn’t know the Chinese name of ‘Air China’, so he had to make calls and ask if I need to Terminal 1 or 2 – apparently one is for domestic and other for int'l flights??
The airport seemed really new and not crowded. There are quite a few eateries and the bathrooms are super clean (I was surprised!). Food was served on the flight eventhough it was only 2 hrs (apparently Chinese airlines hadn’t cut back food service). Beef & Rice entree, Yogurt, bread, dessert of some sort. Not bad.
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This is rather lengthy. Hope it helps others concerning getting in and out of the city.