Friday, April 22, 2011

Two days in Shanghai

Shanghai is most populous city in China. It is also important destination for Chinese domestic tourism. There are also many foreign tourists and workers from overseas visible through the city. Shanghai has big regional airport where can fly from many cities in Asia (Beijing airport has more international connections). Other airports with easy access to Shanghai are Nanjing and Hangzhou.

City is extremely huge. Most densely populated area is circled by line 4. Other areas are being built up and still waiting for people to settle from inside China to Shanghai.

Major attractions in city are The Bund, Yuyuan garden, Shanghai Zoo (panda lives there), city's parks (try out iBoats in Centry park - highly recommended) and you (if you enjoy attention)! As far as I know tourist offices are located in Shanghai South railway station, Nanjing road, under Bund etc. There can get free English map in South railway station tourist office, which is pretty good.

Love in many languages, Shanghai airport floor
Photo: When entering Shanghai International Airport, visitors are greeted with words LOVE in many languages. It very sweet!

Immigration to China is straight forward, because access is only with visas. Right side of immigration card need to be retained for departure. There was be many people offering taxis, when I came out. It somehow entertaining, but I just firmly walked past them.

In airport can buy prepaid SIM card for mobile phone. It costs 150 Chinese monies. Two companies operate in China - China Mobile and China Unicom. With China Mobile can send and receive SMS from abroad, but with China Unicom can call abroad. Both cards can receive calls from abroad. SIM card (from China Mobile)is also useful when getting access to internet in Starbucks (your phone should not be locked on your home operator).

Shanghai waterfront area
Photo: Shanghai street view, this is Suzhou Creek

Almost all ATM machines can serve VISA or Mastercards, but need to check first if ATM displays logo of VISA or Mastercard. Popular currencies can be changed in banks with ease. Need to show passport and there might be limitation of currency amount (need to keep receipts so can change money back to foreign currency before leaving China). There is also lunch break in banks for about 1 to 2.5 hours, so going that time will result in long wait. 100 and 50 banknote have metallic stripe inside, so it easy to tell if it’s real or not. It looks that virtually any bank can handle Visa card. Some peopel prefer Bank of China, I prefer ICBC.

Shanghai Bund view waterfront
Photo: Look over Huangpu River, which divides Shanghai into two parts - Puxi and Pudong (pronounced as Pushi and Pudon). This is Pudong side looking towards Puxi

Metro line 2 connects airport to downtown. There is also magnetic levitation line - Maglev for 50 one way. Maglev will cut out boring ride on subway and will connect again with line 2. For ease of use of public transportation, can buy Shanghai metro card for 130 moneys (20-30 is deposit and rest can use). It can be returned before departure from China. Buying single tickets is very slow process. Metro is also fastest way to move around and one ride can be 2-7 RMB. Its also nice to use ferry to cross the river, which you can see in video. Again, you can use this Shanghai metro card to pay for ferry or for taxis, or for Maglev from airport.

There are plenty of budget hotels to choose from, price range from 150 to 300. They provide shower and internet, too. Motel 168 (Motel 268) is one of the best. Need to leave 100-300 deposit, too. I suggest paying with cash for hotel, than credit card and deposit can only be paid in cash. Shanghai is very big city, so hotels in good spots get booked out quickly. They are clean inside.

Nobody comes to China for food, but where to eat anyway ? I think supermarket is best and safiest option. Best and cheapest is Carrefour, followed by Century Mart and Wal-Mart. In other areas, you can find plenty of McDonalds and KFCs, which are extremely popular with locals. Not to forget Burger King, Pizza Hut! For restaurants look at all length of Nanjing road, area around Xujiahui station (Line 1), stores around Lujiazui station (Line 2) etc. Foreigners hang around Xintiandi area, which is area with many bars and restaurants. For drink, can suggest area around Hengshan road station (Line 1), sit outside and watch people pass by on street.

Shanghai street scene
Image: where Shanghai eats

There are several places in underground metro stations, where to buy cheaper products. Usually need to bargain. I managed to bargain 5times off for clothing item. I did not like it, but since I pushed price that much low I bought it. Most of items made from synthetic fibers, which is not what I like. What I can recommend it getting haircut, because it costs about 15 RMB (1.5 EUR) for men. Styling women’s hair is also reasonably priced.

With laptop free internet is available in Starbucks, but need to receive access code on mobile phone. Internet is very slow, almost impossible to use. Postal services are very slow and sometimes unreliable. Sending postcard between China and Japan can take about 3 weeks!

Safety can be some concern, when walking on the street. Cars are allowed to make right turn, when facing red traffic light signal. Pedestrians have to watch out for cars. Its better constantly look around all directions when walking somewhere. Accidents happen seldom as traffic is pretty slow. In China, there is no “pedal till the metal” culture and I never saw drivers getting angry etc.

There might be no or limited emergency medical services (ambulance). Need to call or flag down taxi to go to hospital in emergencies. Prepayment is required in any medical institution.

Other locations to explore outside Shanghai could be Suzhou and Nanjing. Nanjing has more feel of "real" China. Hangzhou is easy to reach too and very popular for domestic tourists, but might not be so interesting for foreigners.

Video: Shanghai view from The Bund, waterfront area. Many people from China take photos with those tall buildings in background.

Shanghai street scene
Picture: Street view Shanghai

Shanghai street scene
Picture: Street corner vendor

Some words you might need:
Zhe shi shenme ? (Che she shenma) – what is this ?
Duo shao qian? (Duo shao chien) – how much ?
Laowai - that’s you – foreigner!
Mei you qian (mei you chien) – I have no money
Mei yisi (mei isi) – its boring/I am bored
Xie xie (shieshie) – thank you

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