Shanghai (I) Closing the Loop

The loop is closed: I am back in Shanghai, sitting in a Starbucks Café and drinking one Cappucchino after the other. It is a good feeling…not because the Cappucchino is good (it is OK, but can by no means compete with a real Vietnamese coffee), but because it is so clean and relaxing an atmosphere: Just sitting without being bothered by any hawkers at all. Especially after fleeing Ho Chi Minh City. In fact, this 20-million-people city of Shanghai gave me an odd feeling of emptyness: Just walk on the clean and broad pavement in the direction wanted. Cross the streets with a surprising sense of safety at traffic lights. An odd statement after all my complaining about the mad Chinese traffic between the lines of many earlier articles. Forget it, in comparison China is a kindergarten’s traffic education site. It is a good feeling of safe, clean, straight-forward, and fast transportation when leaving Shanghai Pudong Int’l Airport with the first MagLev of the day at 300km/h (in early morning and late evening the trains run with reduced speed for noise reduction), switch to a surprisingly empty subway, which brings you into the heart of the city in a time you probably just managed to leave a Vietnamese Int’l airport. If, that is, your immigration runs as smooth as in China. These two contries are still worlds apart.

For reasons of fairness let me add the following:

If you ever wanted to explore a brand-new super-modern airport just on your own without all the hassle and noise of millions of passengers, then try Shanghai Airlines flight FM838 from Ho Chi Minh City to Shanghai, leaving HCMC at 01:30. Yes, AM. As a well-educated person (who started to get drunk on all the beers he put into himself one after the other while waiting away the time in a HCMC bar) I arrived 2 hours ahead of time for check-in, i.e. at 23:30. The security guards at the door to the departure hall asked me “Where do you go?”, me hearing an undertone like “What do you want here at this time? We’re about to close.” My answer was probably a bit harsh, “I have a flight”, turning to my bag to produce the flight ticket, but all they wanted to know was “Shanghai?” – “Ah, yes, right, Shanghai”. And they motioned me in. Obviously, there was only one late-night flight, and that one was my flight to Shanghai.

I entered a completely empty departure hall. I mean: Bright light, but two rows of check-in terminals clean like a hospital, not a single person around. Stepping a bit further in I found a few people at a check-in row further down the huge hall. Very obviously, this was not the terminal building I had arrived in just the day before. It was huge, it was modern, it was brand-new, it was in some small details (like the numbering of the gates) not even finished. And it was, not sure if I made it clear, mostly empty.

The one manned check-in counter did indeed check me in. Immigration only needed some time because these few Chinese in front of me couldn’t get their decouments right. Once it was my turn I was out of Vietnam in a matter of a minute. After security-check, which probably due to increasing boredom did a manual safety-check on me although it hadn’t beeped, you walk alone down a long passage, need to peek down into the waiting areas to figure out the gate number as the signs right in the corridor aren’t yet finished. And sit there and wait for one hour. At a gate without a plane. That’s always a bit irritating.

But there was an intention behind it: So far you have only seen one side of the terminal. In order to appreciate also the other side your gate will be changed! What a joke in a vastly empty airport! But we were indeed asked to change gate from 19 to 9. At least everybody was awake again. And there was indeed a plane docked to the gate…hurray. The flight itself was uneventful in a brand-new Boing. I didn’t sleep too much as you can imagine. And a few hours later we touched down in Shanghai at the crack of dawn at 06:20 local time (one hour ahead of Vietnam).

With aforementioned MagLev / subway combination I was at People’s Square at 7:45, just to figure out that Starbucks there opens only at 8. Darn…I had looked very much forward to a first coffee before trying my hotel. So I was forced to walk to the hotel without coffee. I had chosen the YMCA Hotel, located right at People’s Square with fair prices, but hadn’t gotten a written reservation confirmation in time. But when I presented myself at the reception my reservation was actually known and I got my very good (though a bit old) single room for the internet rate.

Then, finally, I ventured down Huai Hai Lu, thinking that all traffic is a bit low, but all sights familiar. It was a bit like coming home. Really. I knew how things worked, spoke a bit of the local lingu, and everything was smooth and simple. At 9:30 I finally had my first Starbucks coffee after about 6 weeks. (Last one was in ChengDu, hm, let me check, 07-JUL.)

I found a comparably cheap flight back home (to Frankfurt) in only 3 days time, i.e. on Monday, 27-AUG (arriving in Frankfurt in the early morning of 28-AUG local time), met a friend here to have lunch and another coffee, bought that flight ticket, and now it is about dinner time. And that calls for food and a beer. You know what we came up with, though noone recalls the exact decision-path? Paulaner! ;))

We’ll do…just to get me prepared for coming home. And we had an excellent and very local Chinese lunch already,which I very much loved. The Chinese food is a lot different from Vietnamese in that it offers very diverse dishes to combine. And so we did, just picking from a pictured menu as there was no English menu available.

Future Plans: I will be a tourist for three days in Shanghai. I am still missing a lot of museums here! Shanghai Museum, Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, Technology Museum (I lived next to it for two years, great architecture…but I don’t know what’s inside), and as a special gimmick there happens to be an temporary exhibition on Gaudi’s architecture in the Museum of Contemporary Art. I will check out the status of LuJiaZui, where the World Financial Center is being built to top good old Jin Mao in terms of height. And otherwise…just enjoy a modern city with all is amenities.

Eh, in case you don’t know what Shanghai looks like check out the following: Shanghai Farewell Pictures, Sightseeing I, II, and III.

Today’s Lesson: Try flight FM838.

Categories: Asia, Shanghai

Originally Created: 08/24/2007 11:44:36 AM
Last Edited: 08/24/2007

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