Quite literally, this time. For every previous overseas trip I’ve always done a fair degree of reading in advance, so I could hit the ground running and have a pretty good idea of what I wanted to see and do. But this time, with all the distractions of the last few weeks and months I’ve done bugger all apart from booking a hotel (which was a friend’s recommendation, not from research). I didn’t even know exactly how to get from the airport to the city!
Apparently the quickest way is by rocket, also known as a Shanghai taxi. Arriving well after dark with the temperature dropping rapidly, a taxi was the obvious choice and I knew it would cost about Y140 (A$31). My young driver treated the road like a mobile chicane, weaving through late model cars and 1960s-era military trucks at up to 130kmh (the speed limit is 100) and passing sickeningly close to most of them. And there weren’t any seatbelts.
It was safer than it sounds as the road was wide and flat as a runway, there was very little traffic and the guy knew how to drive. And after a pleasant but long flight getting into town quickly was just what I wanted. Still, there were quite a few white-knuckle moments!
Big ups to Qantas for getting everything right for a change, too. This is the first long-distance flight I can remember where every part of the trip went smoothly: noone next to me therefore heaps of room, an entertainment system that worked perfectly and had a huge range of things to watch, quiet passengers nearby and friendly service. Even the food was decent.
Did I use my time to cram in the mandarin practice I’ve missed in recent weeks? Well…. eventually. After watching X-Files: I Want To Believe (dull) and In Bruges (excellent) I did break out the books for a while. Then a nap, more food, some Simpsons and Top Gear, then the first half of Batman Begins… unfinished because the system was shut down for landing. Finally time for some more study!
But deliberately no reading about Shanghai. I decided to embrace ignorance and set out into the city with only a map and the address of the hotel (written in mandarin) if I needed a taxi back there. A blank slate. I wonder what “The Whore of the Orient” has to offer?