Chill Out China

*No photos because my camera was full and I couldn’t connect to wifi to clear it on the cloud 😦 .*

            22 hours. That’s all the time we had in China on our way to India.  Leaving from Japan, I was off with my friend, Rifka, on the next grand adventure to see her home in New Delhi, India.  Naturally, I was delighted to see that the cheapest tickets from Tokyo included a 22-hour layover in Shanghai, China.  After doing a little research I discovered China’s 2016 decision to issue 144-hour, on-arrival, transit visas as a boost to tourism. With the opportunity to add another cool stamp and adventure to our trip, we were sold.

              The 144-hour transit visa can be a bit tricky, but 1000% worth the time and effort.  There are technically two visa options depending on what country you are from, 24-hours for some nationalities and up to 144 (5 days) for others.  Americans are granted the 144-hour, while Rifka, with an Indian passport could only stay for 24 hours.  We only had 22 hours between landing and taking off the next day, so it worked rather perfectly.

              Upon we landing we were quickly off to immigration and to find the “yellow slip”.  While checking in at Tokyo, a fellow traveler overheard me mention that we were trying for the transit visa in Shanghai, he walked us through the process.  I love the traveling community!  His first big tip, make sure you fill out your landing card, seems common sense but many people forget and after waiting in line are sent to the back in order to complete it.  After waiting about an hour in the slowest line of my life, I presented my passport, boarding pass, flight confirmation for leaving the next day, my hotel confirmation, visa for India and yellow landing card, and ten or so minutes later was admitted to China.

              Before I continue onto how our few hours in the city were actually spent, lets explain something about the People’s Republic of China.  Its one of the highest stress places I have ever been to.  However, this made it one of the most secure travels of all of my adventures.  There are security guards everywhere you look, and x-ray screening security checkpoints when you enter major buildings or even the metro stations.  Not to mention, you must walk through a quarantine check on arriving in the country.

There was an announcement about this quarantine check before we got off the airplane. I figured this was going to be like walking through the “Nothing to Declare” part of customs, just keep walking. Laughing about something as we walked through, I was suddenly flagged down because I was caught on their camera as being “too hot”.  Immediately they asked to take my temperature, and apparently I was a bit too high because they asked for my hotel information and to sign something before I was allowed onto immigration.  Chill out China, I’m naturally hot.

When we finally left the airport, the next challenge (as always) was to get to the hotel.  The first leg was the easiest, from the airport terminal we were able to take the MagLev into the city.  This magnetic elevated train, tops out at speeds around 350 kilometers per hour.  It feels faster than the speed of light, until suddenly you’ve reached the city.  After departing that train, we followed the crowd to the metro and after running around to find an ATM for the cash only ticket machines, we stuffed ourselves onto the packed subway.

About 8 stops later, we got off the train and decided that rather than trying to navigate the rest of the way to our hotel we would take a cab.  Fun fact about China, there is virtually no free wifi for foreigners (they have a firewall against foreigners, again we say, chill out China) and even if you can get online, basically nothing on your phone will work.  Facebook, Google (including translate, and maps), Instagram, WhatsApp, everything is blocked.  The metro was only a 15 minute walk from our hotel, but between no maps, all street names in only Chinese characters, and the cover of darkness, the taxi made the most sense.  Much to our delight, taxis are also dirt cheap in Shanghai.  Less than 4 euros to get the kilometer and a half, and 20 minutes to our hotel.

We collapsed onto beds for the first time in ten days and spent the first half hour just enjoying the comfort.  We pulled ourselves away long enough to get ready to meet a friend of Rifka’s for drinks.  We spent the night enjoying the company of other foreigners visiting China and experiencing the Shanghai Halloween nightlife. (Tip for Halloween on the road, wear all black, goth makeup and braids, instant Wednesday Adams.  She’s my go-to.)   After a fun night, we returned home to our comfy beds and much needed good night sleep.

The next morning, we enjoyed sleeping in and breakfast at the hotel.  My favorite breakfast buffet to date.  It catered to everything, east and west, European to America.  I ate eggs, bacon and hashbrowns and drank a glass of milk.  After ten days of fish, seaweed and rice for breakfast, it was the perfect reprieve.

After packing up, it was time to hit the road for India.  We decided to avoid the hassle and take the world’s cheapest hour cab ride to the airport.  No kidding, the sweetest Chinese driver who took us to see the recognizable skyline with the Oriental Pearle, and then swinging back past the castle visible of Disneyland Shanghai, we ended at the terminal a little over an hour and 50 kilometers later, only 22 Euros poorer.

Heading back through three security checks and two immigration passes, we told China to chill one more time and grabbing lunch, set off into the sunset on a 7 hour flight bound for New Delhi. It was a whirlwind, but definitely somewhere I need to return for more time.  Amazing how different it could be from Japan just a short two-hour flight away.  There was so much that was exactly what I expected and even more that was completely different.  The most high-stressed country I’ve been to, but as the stewardess got upset with me for using my phone on the flight and threatened to take it away, I sighed, chuckled and thought what great 22 hour adventure.

-The Very Hungry Traveler

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