(From the events of March 22-23, 2008)
Arriving in Shanghai didn't turn out to be too bad. As I left my seat the back of the airplane and proceeded though to the baggage claim, I was glad to be standing erect. Jet lag has always been hard on me and I was looking forward to getting to the hotel and trying to get some rest.
Upon collecting our bags some of our classmates started to partner up and look for cabs. Josh and I had discussed taking the Maglev train into Shanghai previous and deviated from the rest of the group. The Maglev is a train that runs at exceptional speeds (300 mph) using electromagnetic force. Although we knew we would have to grab cab after reaching the destination station we had to experience the Maglev for ourselves. The fare was 50 yuan or about 8 dollars and was a pretty awesome experience. The video below shows the Shanghai landscape fading away and cars that can't keep up with our pace.
At 50 yuan, only the richer expats and tourists can afford the Maglev. It was the first of many experiences in Shanghai that demonstrated the disparity between economic classes. In talking with a friend after my China trip I discovered that the length of the track was based on the minimum length needed to for the train to hit its top speed -- and it was built as "demonstration" of the trains capabilities in other markets (read: they didn't really need it but they thought it would be cool to have one in Shanghai).
After lugging our bags off of the Maglev and waiting in a short cue for a cab we made our way to the hotel. We arrived literally as our classmates who had taken cabs directly from the airport. Although they spent less (split cab fare among 5 per cab) we had already taken one item off our 'Shanghai to-do' list. Plus we got into the hotel first which meant that they had to wait behind us to check in. :)
The hotel was pretty nice at first view. Although it was pretty far from everything else, the check-in area and rooms were pretty decent. After dropping our bags and taking a short break the more adventurous segment of the group were off to the French Concession to find some dinner. We ended up at a Peking Duck restaurant and our experience was underway.
Ordering when no one speaks especially good Chinese can be quite frustrating. I was the only Mandarin speaker of the group and did my best to both collect orders and communicate them to the wait staff. (Mind you, restaurants are often over staffed with people who avoid making eye contact as they know they will have to provide customer service if they acknowledge your presence).
The food turned out to be good -- but I think most of the group got filled on Heineken. Better to stay with something reliable than to try something new right? (Note to self, only order beer after you've confirmed that it is a brand that they refrigerate) Dinner turned out to quite cheap with all of the beers that we had finished.
After we finished dinner we went for a walk and a search for some nightlife. We found a couple of bars that catered to an expatriate crowd, Sasha's and Zapata's. Because it was a Sunday night both places were pretty quiet.
We engaged some women from the UK at Sasha's that was entertaining for a short while but when they started to blame us U.S. foreign policy they began to wear out their welcome. After about an hour at Sasha's (which had some entree items that were over $60 US) we moved to Zapata's which had a vibrant dance floor. My classmates remarked that all of the Chinese women were dancing with 'non-Chinese' men. I wasn't particularly surprised as this was a club that targeted a non-Chinese crowd.
After a short stay we found our way back to the hotel. Although the best way to fight jet lag is to immediately sleep at the "normal" time for the destination time zone I had a hard time keeping my eyes open during dinner. I fell immediately to sleep when my head hit the pillow. The first night of our trip was over.