August 11, 2012

Surprise! We’re In Shanghai!

Thought we were headed to Australia? Yeah, so did we.

Typhoon Haikui made landfall a day before our layover in Shanghai, and we “missed” our connection. By missed, I mean that our airplane to Melbourne was still on the ground when we landed, and the airline wouldn’t even let us attempt to make the connection. They just stonewalled us and told us it was impossible. “Impossible” to rebook on another airline; “Impossible” to take a flight the following morning; “Impossible” to talk to someone legitimate at a ticket counter who actually has a computer in front of them. We don’t know if the problem was the airline, the culture, or the typhoon, but we were so frustrated. We had places to be and people to see in Melbourne.

On the bright side, it meant that we got 24 hours in the most developed of China’s mainland cities. It obviously wasn’t enough time to do Shanghai justice, but we did get to hit the highlights, like…

The smog…which made me feel confused. It looked overcast outside, but we could still see our shadows.

A maglev train, which levitates off the tracks and is accelerated up to 300 km/hour solely by magnets.

Authentic Chinese food – flat fried beef noodles and shrimp dumplings.

We got censored by the Chinese government…no Facebook, and Google only worked half the time.

We got pushed (and did a little pushing ourselves) in the subway.

We also got two neat passport stamps without all the hassles of having to get a Chinese visa.

Shanghai is a sprawling – and I mean huge – city with a juxtaposed nucleus. A river cuts the downtown into two halves. On one side is the old town (Puxi) with a neighborhood of pagodas and a riverfront promenade lined with Western architecture.

On the other side is the new town (Pudong) in all of its skyscraper glory.

All-in-all a good detour to see a culture unlike anywhere else we’ve been.

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