It was an unforgettable experience to be given the privilege to travel abroad for free, all expenses paid by the company. Although it was not purely a personal travel, because it was mainly a special project that I was assigned to do, and the thoughts of being sent to a foreign country to do a special task is challenging.
So it’s my first time to work outside the Philippines – and it’s in Shanghai, China. China is one of my dream countries to travel to, because it offers a variety of beautiful spots that are so inviting. One of which is the world-renown Great Wall of China. Great Wall was my childhood dream. I love History subject that much, but I didn’t pay attention to my teachers, more often I do my own research about history, because I felt textbooks are lacking contents to give me enough facts. I often spent my time in our community library, within our neighborhood. I often stay there alone because no one seemed to be interested to read World Almanac, magazines, encyclopedia etc. World geography is one of my favorite topics or subjects. That interest lead me to become who am I today, a wanderer who is thirsty to explore the world but with limited resources. I am not even half way there but I’m sure gonna be there. To cut the long story short – geography and history lead me to travel and get lost at certain times.
Going back to my Shanghai story – I was given only 6 days to live in Shanghai, yes! to live there. To live means to enjoy and not just stick in the hotel room counting sheeps, not-so-me! So I planned my days before landing on mainland China.
I arrived May 8th, 2017 around 7PM (it’s Monday) at Pudong International Airport (PVG) – it’s a new airport built for international flights. The old Hongquiao Airport serves local flights within the mainland PRC. I took a PAL flight for roughly 4 hours from NAIA Terminal 2. It was a small plane, unexpectedly, but the trip was good and safe, so still thankful.
My adventure begun right after I passed the immigration counter to get a passport stamp. I did not realize that PVG airport is too far from the Holiday Inn hotel that I booked which is in Zhabei District. Okay, the distance was not actually an issue, because I always have experienced several airports to be far from the city center, and this one is one of those. The problem arise was when I was about to pick a cab outside the airport. Someone approached me and offered me exclusive ride to the hotel but the price was really expensive – 300 CNY. So I said NO. I went to the taxi lane to get a metered taxi to get some cut, or to get the exact fare value. And there you go, I got inside the taxi and was about to give the address to the driver, but surprisingly he couldn’t read alphabet nor get the words that I was saying. It’s very frustrating to think that I can’t speak their language too, the Mandarin. So I was stuck and shocked, didn’t know what to do, so I had no choice but to get off the cab and find another one who could take me to the hotel. Fortunately, I saw someone who could slightly read the letters and was able to translate the address so the driver would know where to go. Thanks to that random guy translator. I was still lucky. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask for the receipt copy, the fare was 180 CNY. It was supposed to be reimbursable but without the receipt? nah!!! Sad life. Haha!
I arrived at the Holiday Inn Express Zhabei around 8PM, went to the counter to pay in cash, it costs 1500 CNY, that’s good for 5 nights stay. It’s pretty cheap for a Holiday Inn stay. The room is big and clean. Worth the pay, although it’s a company’s expense! LOL! I spent my first night preparing for the next busy day, the workday at client site. It was a fulfilling journey.
It’s Tuesday night when I decided to stroll around the city and find some food to eat. Part of my plan was to go to The Bund – a tourist spot at the center of Shanghai that will give you an overview of the city. I was curious on what or how it looks like in real life, I mean in person. It’s safe to walk around Zhabei because of its proximity to various establishments including railway stations and some other hotels. I encountered several people offering a massage service, they were persuasive and agressive to sell their service, but I did not buy the opportunity. I was afraid and it’s also not part of my itinerary. I stuck to my planned itinerary. One of the challenges I had while in Shanghai was the access to online tools like GoogleMaps, Facebook, Instagram and other social media. I had limited time with my social media, and that’s only accessible at the hotel where I was staying. The challenge was not about posting updates but more on how to ask some help from FB friends who know Shanghai and who know how to speak the language.
So it happened to me again, struggled to find a cab that will take me to The Bund. I tried to pick around 3 to 4 cabs all to no avail. They did not understand me even when I say the name of the place. Maybe I was stupid not to bring a printed copy of the Chinese address so they could read the place easily. I ended up walking the 8km distance just to see what The Bund looks like.
Here are some photos of the spots you’ll see at The Bund:
I only had limited time to spent in Shanghai because I was more excited to go to Beijing and see the Great Wall of China. But before that I will share some of the things you might need before you go to Shanghai for the first time.
- Mobile phone with a translator application or a Chinese dictionary – you might need this especially if you are not familiar with Mandarin or Chinese language.
- VPN application installed in your mobile phone – as I mentioned because major social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Google sites are not accessible in mainland China. Don’t know why, maybe for security purposes. But yea, glad that I was able to install a VPN app before heading to Shanghai. Most of the VPN apps available in apple store aren’t free. There are free apps but you can only use for a limited period of time. So make sure to download at least 3 apps.
- Bring a map with you, if you can bring a hard printed copy of the city map, much better.
- Do not exchange your currency at the airport – it is expensive and hassle. You might need to go to your bank and have your ATM card activated so you can be able to withdraw funds abroad. It’s cheaper that means the exchange rate is lower compared when you exchange in an outlet inside the airport or anywhere in the city. ATM withdrawal is more advisable. Just be sure to find a cirrus/maestro machines – there are many available machines around the city.
- There are several people you will encounter around who will offer you services, just ignore them. Even if the service may be beneficial to you like car rental service, massage service, cheap iPhones (I experienced this inside the airport).
- Be skeptic in everything. China is such a nice country, but like the Philippines there are modus that may not be familiar to you. Don’t fall into the trap.
There are so many things that you may experience for the first time, that is normal because you are in a different part of the world, with a different traits and culture. It always pay to read and understand to learn how to act and behave. Just be aware.
I might have missed many things in this post, but you can always comment your questions down below, I hope I could help. Thanks for reading and for checking.
Next post would be about my journey to Beijing…. 🙂