An Englishman’s Trip to Shanghai By Chris R. Pownall
Following my retirement from work in 2008, I decided to take my wife Pat to Shanghai, to show her the sights of this modern vibrant city. During my many business trips to China, I had always stayed at the ‘Holiday Inn’ in Pudong, whilst I was in Shanghai, so I thought it would be nice if we booked in to this palatial hotel during our short stay.
I had saved a lot of air miles with KLM and managed to redeem them for two business class return tickets, from Humberside Airport to Shanghai, via Schiphol.
I also had a lot of ‘Priority Club’ points, which I used at the ‘Holiday Inn’ for our nine night stay.
Pat appreciated the business class flight, including champagne before take-off and five star treatment all the way.
It was May 2009, and this is a good month to visit Shanghai, before the weather gets too hot and the notorious typhoon season begins.
Before leaving home, I emailed the hotel manager and informed him about our forthcoming trip, explaining that we were celebrating my retirement, plus our 40th wedding anniversary. In view of my previous business, I thought they might provide something for the occasion.
When we arrived at the hotel, I was offered a deal for breakfast, which was quite expensive, but it provided a modest discount off the main restaurant menu prices.
We had no sooner arrived at out room, when the telephone rang and it was the assistant manager. She apologised and said they had made a mistake and that we would receive a complimentary breakfast, with the courtesy of the hotel. Naturally I was delighted, and I expressed our appreciation of this kind gesture. Two minutes later, and the telephone rang again. This time it was the manager himself. He too apologised and said there had been a mistake. He said we should now take the complimentary breakfast in the executive suite on the 18th floor instead of the ground floor main restaurant. He then asked me whether we were pleased with our room. I told him we were delighted, but he offered us a free upgrade to an executive room. I thanked him for the generous offer, but we were very satisfied with our existing room, which included a walk-in shower area and a giant square shaped bath, that I could almost swim around in.
He insisted that we took complimentary drinks in the executive suite, each evening between 5 & 7pm. This was unbelievable and I thought all my Christmas’ were arriving at once!! We didn’t abuse this offer, limiting ourselves to a couple of drinks, (large g & t ) on those days when we were in the hotel.
For those who haven’t been to Shanghai before, it is a must and providing you take care regarding a couple of matters, you can have a spectacular DIY holiday at a reasonable cost.
The first thing to be aware of is that there are genuine as well as some rogue taxis, so you have to be careful. When leaving the airport, always go to the official taxi rank, which is clearly indicated amongst the overhead signs. Inform the taxi rank attendant where you wish to go and he will inform the driver. Very few taxi drivers speak English so you have to be sure that they clearly understand where you wish to be dropped off. From the airport to the ‘Holiday Inn’ it is about 35km and the journey takes approximately 3o minutes. A typical fare would be circa £30 plus a tip of say 10%.
When you leave the hotel, always use one of the taxis parked outside and tell the bell boy where you wish to go. If you ask the concierge he with give you some little cards that you use when you are returning to the hotel, as they carry an instruction in Chinese for your return to the ‘Holiday Inn’ Pudong. They will also recommend a couple of taxi companies, which are properly registered and therefore safe.
The only other matter to be aware of is how to cross the busy roads in safety. Following all my trips to China, I’ve never really worked out the rules regarding traffic stopping at pedestrian crossings. It appears that at certain junctions, the traffic must stop at a red light, but don’t take it for granted, as I very nearly got wiped out by a bus during one of my earlier trips. The best advice is to cross with a group of local Chinese pedestrians and that way you will be fine.
The metro is a much cheaper way of getting around, once you get your bearings. It’s a bit like the London Underground, with numerous lines operating at different levels. At any Metro station you can pick up a colour coded map, which is easy to follow. The simplest way is to purchase a rover ticket, which will get you around all week for about £5.
Sightseeing and shopping are fantastic in Shanghai, but if you have time there are other cities reasonably close, which are really interesting places. A Chinese friend of mine kindly agreed to drive us to Hangzou, which is well worth a visit. There is a famous place at Hangzou known as ‘West Lake’, which is very scenic. You can take a boat ride to an island, or explore a nearby Buddhist centre; there is lots to do in Hangzou.
On another day we travelled to the city of Wuxi in Jiangsu Province. We were accompanied by another Chinese friend, but it is very easy so you would have no difficulty travelling alone. You take the Metro from the station just a few hundred yards from the ‘Holiday Inn’, and get off at the main Shanghai Railway Station. This is more like an airport than a railway station as we would know it. You book your ticket and take a seat in a huge waiting area until your train is ready to board. You are called through to the platform, and until then, you don’t have sight of any trains. We travelled on the French TGV bullet train and the 200kn journey took less than one hour. The price was the equivalent of £2 which is remarkably cheap travelling.
Author Chris R. Pownall, who now resides in Nottinghamshire England, was born in 1943 in the rural Cheshire village of Bosley. Click here for his website.