We left Mumbai precisely at 1:30 in the morning, local time. I fell asleep immediately and woke up groggy in 6 hours, just before our plane landed in Chengdu. The ticket gave us a single flight number, but China Airlines made us go through immigration and made us wait a couple of hours till we got on to a domestic flight to Shanghai. Strangely, in Pudong airport we were herded together into the international terminal again, where we collected our bags and went through customs. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, local time.
Shanghai Pudong airport is a busy international airport with a maze of corridors. As soon as we got out of the customs, we started looking for an ATM. There was a bunch of four right outside the exit. One of them was occupied by a young harassed-looking tourist whose card had been eaten up by the machine. We tried the next machine, and it would only allow transfer of funds to another card. The same thing happened with another machine in the row. The Family went to look for information on other ATMs while I stood there with the luggage cart. As I watched, another Indian went to the fourth machine, the one which we had not tried yet, and extracted cash from it! The Family was back looking dejected by now, but she perked up at this sight. We finally got our cash, and were set to venture into town.
How? A bus to the hotel was quickly ruled out. We could take the metro all the way from the airport to the hotel, but that could take almost two hours. So we decided to take the maglev (cost 50 RMB) and then switch to the metro. For only 5 RMB more, you can add on a ticket which gives you a 24 hour pass on the metro. This is a good deal, because it takes 3 RMB for a single journey on the metro. We rushed on to the train. The maglev accelerated smoothly to its top speed of 300 kms/hour, and in 7 minutes took us to the other end of its journey. We took an escalator down to the metro station.
In the Shanghai metro you have to put your bags through a scanner when you enter. We’d just done that, when a very helpful local told me in English, ” If your bags are heavy, come with me. There’s an elevator to the platform”. How nice and helpful! We walked across the station to the elevator, where he murmured a complaint about bad design. He was going the same way, so he helped us on and told us to listen for the announcements, which come in both Chinese and English.
All through our stay in Shanghai we kept meeting people who would realize that we needed help, and come forward to help us without being asked. Not too many people spoke English, but those who did (and many who didn’t) were very helpful. What a delightfully friendly city we had discovered!