Long Solo Layover in Shanghai

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

They say there are many types of traveller -- the hopper, the slow traveller, the rejuvenator (what HAHA!) etc. Well, I have never really defined one type for myself. All I know is that whenever I find opportunity to visit a new place I would grab it with no hesitation. So when I found an itinerary to JFK that came with 10+ hours of layover in Shanghai, that, for me was the best deal!! I understand that for some, this is too hassle and inconvenient. This only works for those who would love to hit two birds with one stone, those who are up for an adventuure. Anyway, even a 2 or 3-hour layover still kills me. Why don't you just go out since you are already there! Hihi😃 

That cover photo was taken during the first time I visited Shanghai with my friends. I didn't mind going there twice as Shanghai is a charming city, with plenty of interesting places to visit and things to see. It is a suited destination for solo travellers as Shanghai boasts of a vast and convenient train system. It is safe mainly because it is a multicultural city (though communicating in English is still a challenge), a commercial center frequented by expats, businessmen,  international students and tourists. 

I intended to just visit one neighbourhood, the French concession area. I wanted to just walk around, visit cafes and eaaaat. Xioa Long Baos! And that's it. However, when I finally got in the train, I looked at the MRT map,  spontaneity kicked in. The Force dragged me out to another train station. Haha! Next thing I know, I was already terror-stricken, frozen as I stood on top of glass floor, 265 meters above sea level (?). The Oriental Pearl Tower! Trust me - I've always had fear of heights. Brain, you are just being tricked. There is a thick sheet of glass and you'll be totally fine. I conquered them, and it felt so fulfilling. You must also be very patient with fellow tourists and visitors. I had to put tremendous amount of effort to take a photo without anyone photobombing me. There was a queue, but it was organised and efficient.

I loved the view of the skyline. Though smog hovered over the city, standing from such vantage point would still impress you. I spent around 3 to 4 hours there. Later, I proceeded to my original plan. Slow-walking, capturing things along the streets, tracing one block to another, and just enjoying the little things. Finally, I had my serving of Xiao Long Bao, one whole plate all to myself. And it only cost me CNY 8. It seemed authentic. It was just a humble shop teeming mostly with locals. There was never an empty table. After, I stumbled upon a small museum, and... a library. Everything was in Mandarin, and it was almost useless, but I enjoyed the quietness of the place. ðŸ˜ƒ  Nothing touristy.

I must have gotten too tired of walking that I fell asleep on my way back to the airport. The moment I woke up, I realised that the train was already on its return trip to downtown... I couldn't help but panic. Thankfully I managed to find my way back to the airport on time. I didn't have to wait too long for the next leg of my trip. 😃  A supposed long and boring layover passed by just like that, and every bit of it thrilled me. ðŸ˜ƒ 

Next time, intentionally book for long layovers because getting out for a day trip somewhere isn't as scary or intimidating as it seems. With careful planning and vigilance, you won't get left by your next flight, get lost in any city like Shanghai. It's always worth trying! :)

  • I applied for a Transit Visa (G) to be very sure. This was also confirmed when I called the Chinese Embassy. 😐  But it turned out, that any stay less than 24 hours doesn't require any visa for Philippine passport holders. However, the Immigration officer asked me whether I want to use my visa anyway, as it is only valid for Transit. 
  • Visit the website for the application form and requirements. It cost me P 1,200 and had it processed through a friend's travel agency. 😀
  • MONEY CHANGER. This should be your first stop. I had at least P2,000 exchanged to Chinese yuan (P7.2 as of writing), considering my itinerary, and my... appetite. Hahaha. (I don't normally shop.) 
  • INFORMATION BOOTH. Even if you have done your research prior to your trip, you must drop by the information counter where you can find mini-guides and other materials. Get an MRT map, even if you already have the app. Ask for clear directions and confirm which way exactly to go, and ask what modes of transportation are available and how much it would cost.
  • BAGGAGE COUNTER. You might have brought a carry-on luggage. and there is no way you're going to bring that with you around the city. The best thing to do is to find baggage counters where you can leave them. A very minimal hourly rate normally applies. During my trip, I just had one small bag with me, so I didn't need this one.
  • MRT - Using the MRT is as easy as 123. You start off at the Pudong International Airporta at Line 2. I chose to just get the pay per ride kind of ticket, since I planned to "slow-travel" and just "walk around". The machines have English options, of course. You can download Apps to help you calculate the route and transfers easily.
  • Places you can visit for a short layover: The Oriental Pearl Tower - The Bund - Shanghai French Concession (there's nothing much to see here, and this is a matter of preference. HAHA so, optional!)
  • Bring a good camera with you. (This could be your phone! )
  • Keep your passport safe at all times. Keep a copy of the bio page on your email or phone.
  • Download a temporary city-guide offline app that you may use. Look up for emergency numbers and inform someone of your whereabouts. :) You may opt to buy a local sim (not necessary/practical for me though).
  • Use Google Map where you can save and mark the places that you want to visit for offline use.

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