Thursday, April 20, 2017

Day One in Shanghai

The lights of the Shanghai skyline from The Bund only are lit from 6:00-10:00 nightly.

Our Hainan Airlines flight from Seattle to Shanghai landed at Pudong Airport on Monday, March 27 at about 3:00 in the afternoon.  We deplaned on the tarmac, were bused to the terminal, and made our way to immigration with all our required paperwork.  We had read ahead of time that we would need to have proof that we'd only be in Shanghai for 144 hours, so I was prepared with gobs of email printouts all clipped together in neat little stacks that made me appear to be an organized person.

We knew we would need copies of our hotel reservations with all four of our names on the reservation to prove that all four of us were, in fact, staying in the hotel and not skipping off to the Chinese countryside to do who knows what.  Since hotel reservations are usually just in one name - the name of the person holding the credit card - we had to make a special Skype call to Shanghai the week before we left to ask the Toy Story Hotel to change the reservation and email the new one to us.

I also had copies of our tickets from Shanghai to Hong Kong with seat assignments. For some reason, just having the tickets isn't enough; you have to show the seat assignments.  Finally, I had gotten a Chinese student at Purdue to type out the address of the Toy Story Hotel in Mandarin for us so that we could show a non-English-speaking taxi driver where to take us.

We followed the signs to immigration and easily found the line for people planning to use the 24 or 144 hour visa exemption option.  The line for this option was fairly short - maybe only eight people were in front of us - while the regular line for visitors to China wound through rows and rows of what we like to call cattle gates.  I was initially excited about this since it seemed that we would have to spend far less time in line.

Boy, was I wrong.  We ended up waiting in that line for an hour and twenty minutes!  To pass the time, we chatted with some lovely Aussies who were about to board the Queen Mary 2 for a cruise. We commiserated about the slow-moving line, the immigration officers who apparently took a break every 10 minutes or so, and the people in front of us in line who didn't have their paperwork in order.  When it was our turn, every paper we had was inspected by two different officers ad then scanned into a computer.  Our photos were taken, and we were finally allowed to enter China!

On our initial itinerary, before the great all-nighter, we were to arrive in Shanghai on Monday at about 10:45 pm.  It is such a good thing that we changed plans.  I can't imagine having to stand there until well after midnight.

Once we were through, we collected our bags and changed money.  A taxi driver approached us, and while my plan was to go to the official metered taxi stand upon arrival, apparently I hadn't communicated this to Josh.  So when the guy approached him and offered a price of 500 Yuan to take us to Disneyland instead of the "usual rate" of 650, Josh started negotiating.  He ended up paying 450, or about $63.  That was more than I had read it was supposed to cost, and taxi drivers who don't use the meter annoy me, so I was maybe a little bit cranky as we followed the guy to the waiting minivan.   But it turned out that the minivan was the right size for all of our luggage (we travel often but we don't travel light), and the driver - who ended up being a completely different guy from the one who approached us in the airport - seemed to know where he was going once I showed him the piece of paper I'd brought with the hotel name and address in Mandarin.

About thirty minutes later, we could see the beautiful castle rising in the distance!  We had arrived!
The sign at the entrance to the resort

We pulled into the Toy Story Hotel (we had to show our reservations to the guard at the end of the hotel driveway), and oohed and aahed over the theming of the hotel.  The front entrance resembled an overturned toy box, and the uniforms on the staff were really cute versions of Woody's costume.

We love the way that Disney picks a theme and goes all out!
We made our way to the front desk which had giant blown-glass marbles encased in it.  They were all different and reminded me of Venetian glass.

Josh checks in at the Toy Story Hotel.  Notice the cool giant marbles!
Each marble was unique and highlights the attention to detail that is typical of Disney's theming.
Interesting tidbit: In Chinese, the word for the number 4 sounds almost exactly like the word for death.  Therefore, 4 is an unlucky number and most hotels don't have a fourth floor.
After checking in, we headed to our room on the 6th floor.  The wallpaper was the same cloud pattern that you see in Andy's room in the movie, and the nightstand was a giant Rubik's cube.  
I loved the Rubik's cube nightstand!
We spent some time unpacking and then headed out to catch the bus to Disneytown, the shopping and dining area just outside the park.  We only had tickets to the park for two days (they actually don't sell packages with more than two days' worth of tickets), and we didn't want to waste a ticket just for the evening.

At Disneytown, we explored the ENORMOUS World of Disney store where Kinley decided to have a custom phone case made for her new-to-her phone.  
It took about 20 minutes to have a phone case made, and it cost 115 Yuan or about US$ 15.

We previewed the other merch, and then made a loop around the rest of Disneytown, including a cute little sweet shop called Spoonful of Sugar, a reference to the song from Mary Poppins. 
                                      Displaying IMG_5321.JPG
We ended our tour at the Lego store.  Knox is a huge fan, and we all enjoyed seeing the Disney-themed giant Lego creations.  Since Disney now owns Star Wars and Marvel, it wasn't all dwarfs and princesses.
The Marvel characters made of Lego bricks and suspended from the ceiling were cool.
Naturally, there was a large Mulan display since she's the only Chinese Disney heroine.
Lego Snow White is surrounded by Lego Thumper and other forest friends.
From there, we walked to the Metro station to go into downtown.  The skyline at night is supposed to be beautifully lit, and this was the only night we'd be able to see it.  It took us a while to figure out the ticket machines since we didn't have small bills, but we eventually figured it out were on our way.  We had to wind our way through a station that was under construction and change trains once, but the station where we ended up was right beside the Hard Rock Cafe Shanghai.
The ride into Shanghai took a good 40 minutes.
Josh is a big Hard Rock fan and tries to visit every one he can.  I think he's been to forty-something of them, so we decided to pop in for dinner before heading to view the skyline.  The great thing about HRCs is that the menu is dependable and the servers' level of English is usually pretty good no matter where you are in the world.  Plus they have free refills which isn't the norm in the rest of the world.

Obligatory family picture under the Hard Rock Shanghai sign
Knox ordered what he almost always orders at a Hard Rock - the hot dog and chocolate milk.  The server looked confused, so we asked if they had chocolate milk.  He said he would check, and disappeared for a few minutes.  Upon return, he announced that indeed there was chocolate milk listed in their computer system and that he would ask the kitchen to make it.  (Evidently, no one ever actually orders it, but it's part of the standardized HRC menu.)  He came out a few minutes later with a mug of hot, white milk for Knox.  Poor Knox looked helplessly at us and then took the mug with  a weak smile.  How could he not when the server looked so proud of himself? In the past we've encountered several places in the world where chocolate milk is unheard of, so, bless his heart, Knox drank it all like a champ.
Displaying IMG_5323.JPG
Knox with his hot dog and warm, white milk

Feeling refreshed and full, we headed out to walk to The Bund, a riverfront walkway with a beautiful view of the city's lights.  It was about 9:35, and unfortunately for us, the lights only stay on from 6:00-10:00 nightly in order to conserve energy.  We hoofed it from the Hard Rock dragging poor Knox by the arm, darting between bicyclists, and dodging other tourists who apparently were unaware of and unfazed by our race against the clock.  We anxiously waited at crosswalks and even took to walking in the relatively-empty street to try to get to our destination before the witching hour.

At 9:55, we could see the lights of Shanghai ahead of us.  I considered stopping to snap a quick picture and decided I'd gamble on getting closer before the stroke of 10:00.  At 9:58, we realized that a major thoroughfare lay between us and the riverside walkway.  And, of course, the walk sign was red.  We weren't going to make it.   So I took out my phone and snapped the picture below as we waited for the walk sign to give us the green light to cross.

The light changed, and as we were halfway across the street, the chime of a clock ominously struck 10:00.  One by one, the lights of the Oriental Pearl (the tower below with the three glowing orbs) began to flicker and fade.  By the time we reached the other side, they were gone.
Displaying IMG_5325.JPG
The Bund, the Oriental Pearl, and the light that kept us from making it across by 10:00

  We walked along the walk anyway, enjoying the lights that remained aglow and taking pictures just like hordes of other tourists.  The Citi building was still lit, so we got a picture of its famous "I Heart S H" before deciding to head back to the hotel.

We retraced our steps to the  Metro station and hopped on the train.  We had to change trains to get back to Disney, so we found ourselves hoofing it again (this time I was the pokey one) to try to make the last train of the night.  We hurried through the corridors of the station and finally descended the escalator to the platform as we saw the doors close and the last train of the night begin to pull away.   We were still 40 kilometers from our hotel.

We took a moment to moan about our situation and then rode the escalator back up to street level.  We exited the station hoping to find a bank of taxis waiting for poor unfortunate souls just like us.  No such luck.  So we walked to the curb to try to hail the next passing cab.  As one approached, we gestured wildly while wondering, "How does one even hail a cab in China?  Should I bow politely?  Is arm-waving considered rude here?  Who knows?"   And then I remembered that I hadn't brought the piece of paper with the hotel address and name in Mandarin.  What were the odds that this random cab driver in Shanghai at 11:00 at night would speak English??

The cab slowed down and pulled over, looking at us and our blonde children curiously.  But his curiosity evidently wasn't enough to make him decide to drive us because as soon as we started jabbering excitedly in English, he waved his hand in annoyance and drove off.

You'd think that a city the size of Shanghai would have gobs of cabs circling the train stations at night, waiting to pick up commuters who missed the last train.  But you'd be wrong.  We stood there for what was probably just 10 more minutes but seemed like forever until another cabby pulled over and agreed to take us.  And, saints be praised, he even turned on the meter.  Bless him.  Though by this point I was willing to pay whatever he wanted to get back to Disney,

In the end, the 40 kilometer drive only cost us about US$45, a steal considering our desperation.  We made it back to our hotel safely, and collapsed into bed, anxious to get some sleep before our first day in the park.

In my next post, I'll tell you ten things to love about Shanghai Disney!                        

No comments:

Post a Comment