Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Shanghaied in Tuscany!

First experiences of Pudong

(Link to flight log in side panel)

Passage through the huge Shanghai Pudong airport proved to be remarkably easy and, with very little effort on my part, I was soon heading in the direction of a new travel experience: the unique, high-speed Maglev train that would speed me to the heart of Pudong, 19 miles away, in a breathtaking 7 minutes. I followed the signs to arrive at the ticket booths, spent the equivalent of GBP5 on a one-way ticket - excellent value compared to the Heathrow Express! - and boarded the sleek, ultra-modern train waiting at the platform. The on-board accommodation was definitely nothing special, but I didn't really care for a seven-minute ride. In case anyone doesn't realise, Maglev is a contraction of 'magnetic levitation'. The train is raised off the track and propelled forwards by magnetic forces, and this contactless, virtually friction-free system allows the train to reach a maximum speed of 431kph (268mph). The line was built as a demonstration of what could be achieved using this type of technology and it remains unique. It is also the world's most expensive mass transit system.

Anyway, back on the train, the fun started as we eased out of the airport station, alongside a major highway. Within seconds, the free-moving road traffic appeared to be crawling along at snail's pace as we relentlessly gathered speed. We were powering along at well past the speed at which a commercial airliner takes off when there was a momentary shudder as the train travelling in the opposite direction flashed past. We achieved the dizzying maximum speed of 431kph after 4 minutes and almost immediately started to decelerate, until we eventually glided into Longyang Road station. Overall, it was an amazing experience - just a shame about the uncomfortable seats and what struck me as sub-standard air-conditioning. Sadly, I have no photos. My advice to anyone who is interested in the Maglev as a transport experience, rather than just a means of getting into town, would be this: go back and sample it again once you've ditched your luggage and changed into clothing that matches local conditions.

I easily transferred to a local taxi for the remainder of my journey to the InterContinental and quickly formed the opinion that, in complete contrast to what had happened in Buenos Aires a few months previously, this city was much more spread out in reality than it looked on a map. On arrival at the hotel, I was given a very nice Ambassador gift of a boxed set of chopsticks, together with some beautifully packaged Chinese mooncake to celebrate the on-going mid-Autumn Festival. Sadly, my upgrade was to an Executive Room rather than a suite but, that said, it was a particularly nice and well designed room and, as I would soon find out, the Executive Lounge turned out to be the best ever, bar none.

After taking some time to get settled in, have a shower and change my clothes, I was ready to set out for a first look at the main area of Pudong that is of interest to tourists. (In general, the Pudong side of the river is largely business-orientated, in some ways comparable to London's Docklands.) I decided to walk up Century Avenue in the direction of the Jin Mao Tower and quickly learned a vitally important lesson: when crossing roads, assume absolutely nothing if you value your life. It wasn't just cars making a turn that were curiously reluctant to give way to crossing pedestrians. Many drivers were routinely running red lights, often at speed. It is unnerving in the extreme to be crossing a street with the 'green man' lit up and to have a car that has just blatantly run a red light bear down on you at speed, with no intention of stopping. With my objective of the Jin Mao Tower - until recently China's tallest building - within reach, I took a small detour to the adjacent Shanghai World Financial Centre, the building that knocked Jin Mao off its perch. I had a light lunch in a coffee shop and took the opportunity to contact frequent-flyer friend Martin, who was currently based in the city but, unfortunately, was on a trip to Australia at the time of my visit.

After lunch I crossed the road to the Jin Mao tower and paid a visit to its indoor observation deck on the 88th floor. The views were spectacular and it wasn't particularly busy, which made for a most enjoyable visit.

After that, I walked around the waterfront area and Pearl Tower area, just soaking up the atmosphere on this introductory stroll.

When I'd had enough, and realising that time was getting on, I returned to the InterContinental using the modern and efficient metro system. The next item on the agenda was the arrival of my friend Bruce, hardly a stranger in these pages, who had made the welcome decision to join me in Shanghai some time after I'd booked my trip. As a huge fan of Asia, he arranged a dual-city holiday based on Seoul and Shanghai to coincide with my own trip. For both of us, it was our first visit to the Chinese city. He duly appeared at about 5:45 and, after a brief interlude to allow for settling in, we made our way up to Happy Hour in the Executive Lounge in order to catch up on each other's news.

Although we'd had tentative plans to go and see the major Pudong buildings lit up by night, in the event we decided not to bother. After all the travelling, the prospect of a nice room service dinner seemed rather more attractive. It had been an eventful day following on from a short night and a time change, and I was soon ready for a solid night's sleep.