Day One - The Flight
Only two words can describe coach travel to Shanghai from the United States - Pain Full! Northwest has now become my number one nemesis. Seriously, on a 12 and a half hour flight, we received beverage service once! To make things worse, we were in direct view of Business Class so I had to sneer at the people receive mimosas as they boarded. Why cant we be a society without classes! (Oh who am I kidding, I love it)
Arrival in Tokyo
Suprisingly, the flight into Tokyo is quick underwhelming. Apparently, the airportr is nowhere near the ciy because you fly right over open fields -no city in sight. I could not have been a happier pereson when we got off the flight, however. After nearly 13 hours in the air, I was ready to stretch my little legs. Now, I must admit that I am very ashamed about what I am going to tell you, but apparently the culure shock of being half way around the world got to me. As we exited the plane, I was quite famished and needed some nurishment to keep up my strength (both mental and physical) to get onto the next leg of our journey. So where do I go for my first experience of true Japanese food? Yep....I run to the magical Golden Arches. Okay, okay, now I know that I should have been more adventureous, bu really I was curious to know if the cheeseburgers really are the same. Maybe they douse them in wasabi oil or something....alas, no. McDonalds cheeseburgers are the same bland patties in Japan as they are in middle America. Brian did branch out, however, and ordered a white grape soda with a typical Japanese animated character. Apparently the Japanese are quite fond of dancing characters that resemble nothing that walks the Earth. I guess it sells products. Why cant we be that clever in America?
Of real interest in the Japanese airport is how quiet it was. We are so used to loudspeakers and the constant bombardment of announcments. Japan is so wewll organized and structure. No announcments, no loud crowds, very surreal.
Travel Tip #1: Most vendors in the Tokyo airport took American Dollars so there is no need to get Japanese Yen to buy anything in the airport.
Arrival in Shanghai
The Shanghai airport is truly something to be seen. It consists of 28 runways! I have never heard of such a huge airport (in comparison, Chicago O'Hare has 4 active runways!) The terminals are dramtically long buildings. We arrived in the middle of the building and couldnt see he end in either direction - amazing!
Baggage handling and grabbing a taxi proved to be quite simple. Everything seemed to run very efficiently and we were on our way to our hotel within 15 minutes of de-planing.
It became quickly evident, however, that English is not as ubiquitous as I had assumed. The cab driver did not know "Westin" and needed help with directions. This would become a common issue during our stay.
Travel Tip #2: Have the Chinese name of everything written to hand to a cab driver. Even the English street names will not be familiar with a taxi driver. Also, do not assume they know the major areas or hotels. All of our taxi drivers did not know "Westin" or even "The Bund" which is the center of the city.
The drive from the airport (PVG) takes about 30 minutes by taxi. The drive is rather un remarkable until you start to hit the core of the city when building start rising quickly all around you. Huge apartment complexes turn into larger and larger skyscrapers which then turn into massive hotels and office buldings. What is really incredible is how expansive the city appears as you drive through it. Unlike New York City which is extremely dense and views are best from New Jersey, in Shanghai you get these amazing views because the city is more spread out. The modern architecture is simply amazing and you don't really get the full impact until you hit The Bund. The downtown area is really unlike any other city I have ever seen. Huge neon signs scatter the view but are realtively attractive. Many buildings have gigantic television screens with advertising. Bridges and building are uplit with some of the most amazing lighting that gives the whole city a verey modern glow.
Unfortunately, the weather has been very overcast, so our views are limited by the heavy cloudiness that hangs over the city. Despite that, however, the views that we can see are spectacular!
The hotel is very attractive and the rooms are large. We received a corner room on the 18th floor with nice views of the Bund river area. The hotel lobby is very modern but bordering on garish. A huge chrome staircase with neon lighting dominates the lobby along with multiple fake palm trees which seem oddly out of place. However, the hotel is quite modern and comfortable.
The rooms are unusually high-tech with automatic lighting systems, a killer shower and tub with a window looking onto the city.