Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Shanghai Nights

Wednesday, November 21, 2007: We left Hong Kong this morning. We took an express bus to the airport but we arrived a little later than we had planned due to heavy traffic. Still, we managed to check in, cash in the remaining balance on our Octopus cards (Hong Kong public transit cards), and exchange our leftover Hong Kong dollars for Chinese Yuan before boarding our flight. We weren't able to grab breakfast, but since we're in a part of the world where airlines still believe in serving meals on two-hour flights, that wasn't too big of a problem. Our two-hour flight wound up taking about three and a half hours. We were handed a slip of paper after boarding informing us that flights to China may be delayed without notice due to unexpected and unknowable Chinese ATC directives. Our flight wound up sitting on the ground for about 45 minutes due to one of these delays. Once we reached Shanghai, we were put into a holding pattern for about half and hour, and
then we had to taxi for what felt like at least 15 minutes. We finally parked on the apron and climbed down a flight of airstairs before boarding a bus to the terminal. This is apparently not usual at Pudong; there were at least 20 other airplanes parked on the airfield away from gates.

The differences between Hong Kong and mainland China are immediately visible upon arriving in Shanghai. There is a general drabness that pervaded the entire airport in Shanghai. Of course, few airports can compare to Hong Kong's, so that might not be a fair comparison. Pudong does feel a bit like old Detroit Metro in places. The bilingual signage that pervades in Hong Kong is nearly absent in Shanghai. This is understandable, of course, but I have still been a bit surprised. I have read that Beijing is pushing to get more bilingual singage in place for the Olympics, so perhaps it will be more like Hong Kong in that respect. The second obvious difference, which became visible on the eight-minute maglev train ride from the airport to the metro, is that mainland China is a lot larger than Hong Kong. Instead of high-rises as far as the eye can see, it's full of fields, forests, and modest apartment blocks until you reach the edge of the city, where the
buildings begin to rise, but the heights and densities never approach the scale of Hong Kong.

After checking into our hotel, we started walking over to the French Concession. Shanghai and Hong Kong are both fairly young cities in terms of their history and development, but Shanghai is the younger of the two. With the exception of the transit system, Shanghai's infrastructure definitely looks newer than Hong Kong's. Everything else, however, looks and feels older. The roads are jammed with people on bicycles and mopeds. Shanghai has its French Concession and art deco architecture while Hong Kong has demolished most of its historical structures.

We dined on some delicious Shanghainese food at the Restaurant Art Salon, a restaurant where all of the decorations and furiture are available for purchase. We were the only patrons in the restaurant, but the food was very good. We then headed over to the Blue Frog, a western-style chain of pub/club bars that caters to out-of-towners and ex-pats, I assume. After a couple pints of Tiger, we decided to call it a night and head back home.

No comments: