11.10.09

China Travelogue-2: By taxi, bus, plane, bus and taxi.

Posted in Travel at 13:38 by RjZ

Flight from Denver to Shanghai: $868. Pretty great deal!
Denver RTD airport bus: $22

Cheap flights are great, but this one had two plane changes and in spite of regular checking, the airlines constantly change the flights from what you’ve carefully and sensibly booked to something that might barely work. Take the ample two hours to get from domestic arrivals in Los Angeles to International departures. The plane was only 30 minutes late and, lost, queried airport officials mutter something about Tom Bradley Terminal, like that means anything to me. The inter-airport transport bus takes its very sweet time getting to the terminal and, boarding tickets already in hand, but time rapidly slipping away, a mad dash to the Asiana desk is the only chance to make the connection. A desperate and out of breath plea convinces a helpful Asiana employee to escort us through security and on to the plane bound for Seoul. Last to board, but happy not to have to spend an extra night in LA. LAX isn’t exactly located in the best part of town….

It’s x-number of hours since Denver. I never keep track, because it just doesn’t matter. This little game we play: “it’s 5 am back home…” doesn’t amount to much as you’ve hardly had irregular sleep during the cramped flight and one or two sunrises later, you’re sort of on your way to being synch’d up by the time you arrive, except not really. I do know that the chance of bleary-eyed confusion certainly increases after crossing some ten time zones, so I’ve already got a hotel booked in Shanghai. Now it’s just a matter of getting there.

Shanghai is China’s largest city with a metropolitan area encompassing over 20 million people. It’s a pretty big place to throw a dart at and sleep there later. I hate having to pick a hotel over the internet. You’re guessing about the location; hoping that the picture online actually shows a room that is something like you’ll sleep in upon arrival; and you’ve already paid for it, so you’ve got to somehow find this thing, regardless of how tired you are or how little you speak the language. If you can get passed all that, you are, at least, assured you can put your head down somewhere at 12 in the morning in a far away place.

Hotel Shang Hai Kai En Ben Guan in Huangpu district booked over the internet: $21

It’s too late for the Maglev train into town, but the trusty Lonely Planet says there’s a city bus. The Maglev is an experimental train that carries passengers 30 km from the airport to the city in just over 7 minutes. The bus takes a little longer and, while you’re on it, it’s not exactly clear where it’s going to stop.

Bus to downtown: 22 RMB (at around 0.15 of the USD, busses are considerably cheaper in China than the U.S.)

Now in downtown, the subway might be open, or it might not, and it’s late (or early, not really sure anymore) so, fine, grab a cab. Except that I don’t have Chinese characters for the hotel and my rendition of the name isn’t ringing any bells for the drivers. A couple of them wave me on (that’ll come up again…) and finally one is bold enough to take the fare. I keep repeating the hotel name and pointing to a map. He repeats the name in what sounds a perfectly reasonable echo of what I just said. Much nodding ensues and we’re off…about 30 meters or so…where he stops again and consults the map I keep showing him. He’s pointing at his cellphone and the plackard on the seat offering tourist information. He wants me to call, but I’ve got no phone. (That’s a lie, I brought my iPhone and it works in China, but it costs a fortune.) Eventually he calls the number and hands me the phone.
An English speaker politely asks me what my trouble is and I explain the name of the hotel which she somehow interprets and explains to the cab driver. Impressive Shanghai, I hope I can call that number when I am lost in a village somewhere. We’re on our way; he’s repeating the name now with much satisfaction, even if, from my point of view, it seems to sound exactly as it did before.

Taxi about 3-4 km to the hotel: 26 RMB

The hotel and it looks just like the picture, but smells quite a bit more like sewage than I had imagined back in Colorado. Open the window to air it out, and get to sleep! Who knows what time it is!

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