Why One Night?
The good news is that we booked very affordable plane reservations to get to Australia. The potential bad news is we have a one night layover in Shanghai, China followed by a stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. But in true Vacation mode, we, like Clark W. Griswold believe that “Getting there is half the fun.” Our stopover in Shanghai was a blast and made us really appreciate the kind Chinese people. We look forward to a proper visit in the future.
Pudong International Airport
Shanghai Pudong airport, the ninth busiest in the world, is located 19 miles east of the city center. Shanghai itself is the most populous city in the world with 24 million people. Our brief visit was all in Pudong, an outlying suburb. On visits to foreign airports with new languages and varying cell reception, preparation is key.
WiFi is available (see above), but difficult to connect to without a connected cell phone. Many web sites (Google browser, Google Maps, Gmail) are filtered/inactive in China. The airport is not well laid out for an overnight stay. It would be a long (15 hour) flight from LA. While we got much more comfort, on board entertainment, and amenities than you would expect for a $460 round trip ticket, we were still happy that we had arranged a comfortable budget lodging option.
Home For the Night
On site hotels are either quite expensive ($240+) or poorly rated for $135 temporary quarters. Our advance research found a hotel 5 miles away that provided their own shuttle service to and from the airport terminal. This was important as reviews of the area were rife with stories of taxi cab rides gone wrong (+2 hours/+$80) or the inability to communicate.
We made reservations with the Home Inn Hotel in Pudong. For $26 we had a clean, modern room and the aforementioned shuttles. We also had the benefit of a 2:00 PM checkout to avoid a long day at the terminal. Our location was in a nice residential neighborhood with plenty of restaurants, grocery stores, and interesting street food. Not many people spoke much English, but with our Google Translate app, we had no major difficulties communicating (other than we looked for a meeting place in Parking Lot 168 instead of the similar sounding 16A). We arrived at our modern hotel around 8 PM.
Checking in was facilitated by Google Translate and the knowledge that we needed Chinese currency (Yuan) to pay our way. Despite the Booking.Com info, credit cards do you no good. We felt very safe wandering into the street looking for a quick meal. Happily we found a friendly place on the same block featuring noodle soup. Thankfully armed with friendly smiles, enthusiastic pointing to what other people were enjoying (the menu was all Chinese), and that ever helpful Google Translate, we soon had two small in name but large in size bowls of wonton soup for a total price of less than $4. Delicious! Great service and several people tried out their basic English to give us greetings. Our two word Chinese vocabulary served us well (“Hello” and “Thank you”).
We wandered the street for a couple blocks but the excitement of visiting a “forbidden” new land was beginning to be overridden with weariness as our comfortable room beckoned. The only danger we felt was from the popular electric scooters that silently but quickly overtook you on the sidewalk. We learned to walk in a paranoid fashion, looking back regularly for the ninja like approach of a smiling rider. I think they need bells!
A quiet night’s sleep is a blessing, and if you can wake up well rested in a fun dynamic neighborhood with affordable street food then a traveler’s day is off to a proper start! Looking out the window we saw commuters heading to work, students to school, and varied food options beyond the restaurants. There were dumplings and juicy buns (tasty, $1).
A vendor was making a crunchy crepe wrap (wonderful, $1) and the interesting process was almost as good as the result We were greeted with smiles and patience as we tried to order or indicate that “I will have what that guy just ordered.” We found pretty good coffee at a convenience store. With breakfast satisfied, we enjoyed walking around the neighborhood.
The grocery stores were well stocked, affordable, and inviting. Fresh fruit displayed did not disappoint. We stocked up on a few items for our ongoing flight to Malaysia, including some interesting potato chips. A shy “Nee-how” (hello) to three female street sweepers resulted in their interested questions to us and desire to see our pictures on the phone. It seemed to take some convincing that the hello was our complete vocabulary. Lovely ladies that brightened our day with their smiles.
When it was lunch time, we followed the safe policy of locating a simple place full of locals. As usual, this was successful once we negotiated the intimidating menu. While we ate we were approached by three teenage school girls. These young ladies greeted us and gave us freshly roasted chestnuts. They politely showed us how to open and peel the still warm treats and were pleased that we enjoyed the rich flavor. A small gesture that meant a great deal to us.
A quick nap in our room and it was time for our 2:00 PM shuttle to the airport. The terminal is modern with an interesting quirk. We could find no cold water fountains, but many with very hot (near boiling) so people could make tea or the ever popular instant ramen noodles.
Soon we were at our gate, anticipating our week stay in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Our visit to China was over all too quickly. Our initial interactions make us want to go back to see the classic sights and meet more people. Now when we hear of China in the news we have a revised impression of at least this little corner of a vast land.
Do you have the same experiences as we did in China? Do you think you will go back? Please share with us you experiences. Thanks for reading!