Monday, April 21, 2008

Lee - The long awaited follow up post - PVG

21APR2008 - In Shanghai, People's Republic of China

by: Lee

Well after enough "encouragement" (as Kerwin would call it) and "harassment" (as I might refer to it...), I finally have set aside some time to add to the blog. :-)

Once I arrived to PVG, we were held up by paperwork for about 10 minutes before they would allow us to deplane. Tim, the Lead FA, was waiting for approval from the station manager and it took forever for them to check off that everything was good. Once we deplaned, I was happy to see all signs in the airport had English on them as well. This would make for an easy trip. I went through immigration without problems or delays as I was one of the first off being in the business cabin. I saw an ATM after immigration but it was out of order - no big deal I thought. I went down to the baggage claim and the priority tagged items were already coming off of the belt because of the delay in deplaning. I looked for a DL employee but none were to be found. I did not have any checked baggage but wanted to find out if they had an arrival lounge or facility as I desperately needed a shower after 16 hours on the plane and the 430am alarm time out of DCA to get to my connecting flight. After spending about 5 minutes, I decided to leave and officially enter China. I also passed a full service currency exchange stand set up inside of the baggage claim area before customs. I never use these stands as they tend to have horrible exchange rates - a decision I would end up regretting shortly.

Once I cleared customs, I immediately looked for 2 things: 1 - an ATM and 2 - the DL check in counter to follow up on the arrivals question. On the bottom floor of the airport, the exchange facility was closed and the ATM was out of order. I then went to the 3rd floor where check in was and found a DL employee at the ticketing line in the check in area. I knew to look for the employee wearing the full DL uniform with a DL name badge verses the contract employees used in this station. I explained to the station manager I had just arrived on DL 19 in J and would like to find out if they have an arrival facility. To my amazement, the only lounge they had was for departures only and they had no other agreements for arrival facilities. If I had paid upwards of 10,000 US for a J ticket on a 16 hour flight, I would have been very upset at the lack of a simple arrivals facility to shower in.

Now that half of my list was completed, I started looking for an ATM. It seems that every ATM was out of order in the airport. I finally after 20 minutes of searching went to a full service window and after another 10 minute wait found they only exchange cash. They directed to the last assessable ATM before security and thankfully this one was working. I pulled out 700 Yuan ($100 US) for my 26 hour layover.

My next stop was the Mag-lev train; the only commercially operated mag-lev train in the world. The train would top out at 300 KM/Hr on the journey and cut the 45 minute drive to under 20 minute total commute towards the city. The mag-lev train has an attached metro line 2 stop and it just so happened that my hotel was 1 stop away at the end of the line 2. This made for an extremely easy transfer to the hotel.

Buying a ticket on the metro was another story - Chinese people all cutting lines and mobbing the automated machines. An American on the mag-lev train warned me of this - and now I see why. Once I finally fought my way to the front of the line, I was very happy to see that English was also an option for the machine. I quickly found my station and found that a one way ticket was only 3 Yuan (about $.50 US).

I get to my hotel, the Parkyard, which is part of the Preferred Hotel Group. They have an arrangement with my domestic hotel points program (Choice Hotels) that allowed me to get a free 4 star hotel for only 30,000 points. I check into this very nice upscale hotel without issues and immediately hit the shower. I also find free Internet access which allows me to check my email and plan some of the trip.

I get ready to hit the town at about 5pm local time. I have a travel book which is usually in the "top 10" group or foders group - it is now a tradition for me to buy one for each international trip and they end up on my bookcase afterwards. I want to go to get a picture of the Tower that is famous part of the Shanghai skyline. I finally make my way to the main shopping district that has a pedestrian only walk way - (nang street, I think). I start looking around and find out I am an immediate target for the street vendors selling "real" Rolex's and other items... and they do not understand I don't want anything to do with them. After about the 30th time, I start messing with them back by speaking Spanish to try to throw them off. This works for a while but they are still persistent. I finally figured that a very loud, rude "NO!" would get them to stop quickly - too bad this had to happen for what seemed like 100's of times.

It started raining during the first part of the shopping walk and only got worse when I finally made it to the shoreline for the memory photo. I then took an underwater tram over to the other side to find out how long the line was to go up the tower. I got over there and found a mall - I decided to look for a traditional souvenir gift shop that would have those little stupid things Americans love: shot glasses, spoons, etc. as I promised several people I would get them something and I couldn't find anything on the main shopping drag. The mall was huge - 10+ stories of shops and I went through them all and had no luck finding even 1 shot glass. I was quite disappointed and by this time getting a little tired. I headed out to find the metro station. On my way it started raining even harder and I hit my first construction road block trying to find the station. I finally detoured around on foot but had no luck finding the nearest station. It took me over an hour of walking in the driving rain to finally get to the metro station. I felt like I was starting to get sick and if I had known how to tell the cab driver where to take me I would have just given up and taken a cab but I had no clue where the hotel was on a street map.

I finally get back to the hotel and change out of my now soaking wet clothes. I change and hit the bed around 930pm local. I sleep until 6am local and get up and am one of the first in the breakfast buffet line that is included in the free room. I wanted to get up early as I still had a lot to see before having to leave for the airport at noon local. I get on the train and head towards the tower again - this time I am going to the top. On the train, I realised the US and Europe politeness in subways is non existent in China. But being the tallest person in the country does have some advantages - I had to run over some people to get off the train at the correct stop as everyone immediately tries to jump on the train when the doors open, even before those trying to get off have the chance. 6'4" gives you the advantage of mass. :-)

I go up the tower and see some great sites and take some great pics around the city. These pics are currently listed on my myspace page at - if you are interested, send me a friend request and I will gladly add you - just mention the blog so I know you are not spam :-). Once getting to the top of the tower, I quickly realised my hour ordeal in the drenching rain was a waste - had I gone left instead of right out of the mall, I would have found a metro station in less than 100 meters. I was not happy as I still did not feel 100%.

Still wanting to find some traditional gifts, I decide to head down to the other major shopping district off of line 1. I get off and walk another 40 minutes and passed 100's of shops. There were no shops with these traditional gifts anywhere to be found. Very discouraged, I decided to head back to the hotel to get ready to leave for the airport. In the morning, there were 5 seats available for upgrades with miles on my flight and I wanted to see if I could swindle my way back into J again knowing it was a long shot at best.

I checked out and headed to the mag-lev train. I had extra Yuan and decided to spring for first class as it was not much more expensive. I found the only difference was 2x2 seating and more leg room. There were only 8 people in the coach and we did have a great view out the front but it was kinda a waste of money - oh well. I get to the check in counter and the lines were horribly long, even for J check in. After waiting in the ticket line for 30 minutes with only the person at the counter in front of me, I decided to check on my phone to see if I could get to as they have a mobile site as well. It worked and I logged in and found the upgrade fare class now showing zero seats so I knew I had no chance of getting up front. I went back into the J line to check in and that took another 45 minutes. I asked at check in if I could get a row of 3 seats to myself and the agent offered row 50 seat D and she would block E and F which I jumped on. Even though I would have liked to be closer to the front or the window, the idea of being able to lay down to sleep on the long ride back was much more appealing.