Cookie and the haphazard Backpacker
I will be dedicating all my posts about my trip to China to the people I met on the road, people who helped me along the way, strangers who transformed my lonesome trip to a very meaningful journey.
I never tried doing lone backpacking before. It was three days before our flight to Shanghai when I found out that Monette ran short of time for her visa and I will definitely be flying out alone, I thought of canceling the trip.
Few hours before my scheduled flight, I was still contemplating of scrapping the whole China trip, my tummy is flipping upside down and I never had this situation where I had to decide after a time bomb. I lost my credit card few days before and traveling with limited cash at hand can be very dangerous. Should I take this serious risk?
But then an idiopathic surge of adrenalin jolted me to start packing my bag, flag a cab to the airport and jumped off the cliff, head first! Like a Russian roulette–BAHALA NA! (What will be, will be!)
As the aircraft took off, the thought of an empty seat beside me is making me wish I got pills to pop for my nerves. At 3000 m I realized that nearest passenger is a Filipina, a teacher from Bicol. Cookie is going back to work in Wuxi after her summer vacation in her hometown in Albay. We were the only Pinoys in that flight and her presence gave me a certain degree of comfort. She asked me if I was traveling with someone; if I speak mandarin; if I know anyone in Shanghai; if I had a booked train ticket to Beijing… I answered with a worried grin.
We touched down Pudong International Airport half past midnight. She told me that there’s a shuttle in the airport specially for Filipino OFW’s arriving in Shanghai from a red eye flight, a cheaper alternative to RMB200 cab ride to the city. But it wasn’t there that night. I told Cookie that I don’t mind sleeping at the airport and I did not book a Hotel so I might as well save the cab fare and bed rent and take the first bus to the city center in the morning. That was an instant RMB300 savings.
She decided to accompany me at the airport that night, she even offered to show me the train station to Beijing the following morning. Perfect! Whew! I was safe, at least for day 1 in China.
After two hours of sleep, a mix of anxiety and excitement made me want to start moving. I walked inside the airport to look for a tourist center, and try to grab a map or some useful brochures. Well, guess what. The Tourism desk personnel can barely comprehend English. DAMN! Not a good sign, I walked away empty handed. I decided to walk outside to light a stick, doors slid open and a freezing wave of breeze knocked me like an invisible hard wall, I froze to the bone. I underestimated the weather. I’ve never been to any country 31 deg N up in terms of GPS. I was wearing a thin shirt, warmer and a jacket. Not enough. Even though it’s the start of spring, at 3AM, Shanghai’s temperature can drop to 4 degrees centigrade. I quickly went back inside like a cat who pulled himself out of a freezing water.
Morning came, Cookie and I ran to catch the first bus to the South Railway Station. We took bus #5, paid RMB22 and arrived at the station after about an hour.
I originally planned an over night stay in Shanghai before taking the train to Beijing. But the crowded train station was an indication that I might just have to pull a plan B off my a**. Cookie told me that it is better to reserve a week ahead of time if you want a good seat. True enough, all sleeper trains were fully booked. I just got lucky to book the last seat (not a bed) of a train that was leaving in… err… two hours! WTF!
Cookie had to leave to catch her train to Wuxi. She gave me her contact details in case of emergency. I gave her a hug and bid her farewell.
But I still don’t have a return ticket! My flight back to Manila will be departing from Shanghai, and if I don’t get a return ticket, I will be stuck in Beijing for god knows how long. Again I don’t have my credit cards with me. I don’t have enough cash at hand to book a new flight and I definitely don’t want to miss Beijing. I was morbidly worried and almost froth in the mouth.
I lost the phrasebook I printed back home, but I still tried asking people and policemen as to where I can get a return ticket or at least a tourist information center. But no one can even utter a single english word. I kept on trying for an hour and I ended up sitting hopeless on a corner. Then I saw the red phone booth. A light bulb moment! Maybe I can call the Philippine Consulate Office! I ran towards it, lifted the hand set then I realized I didn’t have loose coins. Out of frustration I slammed the phone as the world around me seemed to melt slowly… Well guess what? RMB4 coins magically came out of the change slot. I swear my knees went wobbly and I wanted to kneel down the ground, look up the sky and scream “thank you po!”
… to be continued
Pudong Airport to Shanghai City Center
There are ten airport bus lines handle transfers from Pudong International Airport to the city center. Take Bus #5 From Pudong International Airport to Shanghai Railway Station, Operating Hours 7:20~23:00.
Shanghai Maglev Train (Magnetic Levitation Train, fastest in the world) operates between Pudong International Airport and Longyang Rd. There is a train depart from Pudong Airport Subway Station every day from 6:45 to 21:40 at intervals of 15 to 20 minutes. The whole journey takes only eight minutes. The charge is CNY 50 for an ordinary single trip and CNY 100 for VIP, CNY 80 for an ordinary round trip and CNY 160 for VIP. You can buy an ordinary single ticket at a preferential price of CNY 40 if you have an intraday air ticket. When you get off at Longyang Rd. Station, you can transfer to Subway Line 2 running westward and passing many of Shanghai’ s prosperous areas such as Century Park, Lujiazui, East Nanjing Road and People’s Square.
By Subway Line 2
Shanghai Subway Line 2 is a long and busy line connecting Pudong and Puxi. After extentions, now, it has stretched to Pudong Airport, led to Hongqiao Airport. Passengers have to get off the 4-car metro train at Guanglan Road Station (between Longyang Road Station and Pudong Airport) and then change another 8-car metro train. Vice versa, passengers get off at the same subway station from a 8-car train and get on a 4-car train to enter Pudong Airport. It costs CNY9 for the whole trip and CNY8 from Pudong to Hongqiao airport. It needs more than one hour between the two airports.
A taxi costs approximately CNY 150-200 from Pudong International Airport to People’s Square, the center of Shanghai, and it takes about 50 minutes.