On my way home from Europe, I had a 13 hour stopover in Shanghai. I figured that could be fun, a chance to explore somewhere new and very different from the cities I'd been to.
Because my stopover was so long, the airline had offered me a hotel room. However, when I asked about getting into the city from the hotel, I realised it wasn't an airport hotel. They were going to ship me off to a hotel in the middle of nowhere and I'd have to catch a cab if I wanted to go anywhere.
Anyway, I was pretty pumped about catching the Maglev train which is supposed to be the fastest train in the world.
I figured I'd just go off and explore the city instead. I mean, 13 hours in a ratshit hotel is no fun. On reflection, I wished I'd taken the hotel.
I'd had trouble at Shanghai airport on my way over, with staff not knowing their arse from a hole in the ground. It's not a language problem, it's a not giving a fuck problem. I'd pay good money to not fly through Shanghai ever again. All I wanted to do was check my luggage somewhere. That ended up being a major deal, with one counter not accepting it after a heap of mucking around from memory, because their card machine wasn't working). The second counter was fine except I needed to pay cash and none of the ATMs would take my card. One of the staff that wander around, trying to help people approached me and I told her my problem. Her solution - pay by card. I almost screamed.
Finally got that sorted and headed for the Maglev train.
It might be the fastest train in the world but that's only to counteract the huge amount of pissfarting around you go through to catch the thing. After you buy your ticket, you have to go through a metal detector which was really reassuring! Then wait for the platform to open. The train then takes you to some station in the middle of nowhere and you have to transfer to the subway.
I have to confess, I headed to the McDonalds there. I just wanted to sit down and sort myself out.
Now, on my travels, there were a few cities I didn't love, like Florence with its masses of tourists, but there is always a good side to most cities. Not Shanghai. Ok, there might be a good side but I sure as hell didn't see it.
When I got off the train, it was raining. A constant drizzle. I figured I could deal with that. But it just kept raining and raining. Shanghai, like Tokyo, has NO drainage on the streets so you just get soaked.
I got out of the subway and was totally disoriented so wandered around a bit. Within about 2 minutes, my shoes were soaked and my feet squelched around in my shoes so much my muscles ached from trying to keep me stable and upright.
I figured I'd head to The Bund since a few friends said it was worth exploring. On the way there, I have to be open about this -- I got SCAMMED.
It's really embarrassing to get scammed. You like to think you're street smart and not susceptible to that kind of thing but what can I say? I was overtired from my flight and my bad night's sleep in Milan the night before. I was cold and wet and miserable.
I thought it was strange when two girls approached me and asked me to take a photo of them. I mean who wants a photo in the middle of the street in the rain? But I took their photo then then got talking to me. At that stage, I'd planned to get the tourist bus around the city, figuring it would be dry on the bus. They told me I wouldn't see anything in the rain. They said they were from the countryside visiting Shanghai and they were going to a tea fair. Did I want to join them?
Oh yeah, I stupidly agreed. In my defence, at that stage, from what they'd said, I pictured a market selling tea and thought it might be quite interesting.
We went to a little tea house not far away.
All kinds of alarm bells went off in my head. We went into a little room with a built in bench seat and they sat each side of me so I couldn't leave. I could've taken them on, they were little Chinese girls but the guy at the tea house was one of those big Chinese guys.
I took some photos of the place and he told me not to because of the tiny Buddha statue!
By this stage, I was really worried. Like, what if they drugged my tea and robbed me - they kept telling me I had to drink it down in one gulp. So I made sure I didn't taste any of the teas without one of the girls trying it first. It'd all been poured out of the same tea pot.
Then they wanted me to buy one of the teas, telling me they were very special tea (they tasted like stuff you'd get at the supermarket and were about $70 a tin) and that they were picked by hill tribes who needed support.. blah, blah, blah so I told them I wasn't allowed to import tea to Australia.
Anyway, I was presented with a bill for the tasting, a very expensive bill! Actually it wasn't as expensive as I thought at the time because I was very confused about the exchange rate. Maybe it was around $20 which was still obscene for a few tiny cups of tea.
I didn't have enough money on me to pay them because I'd only got a small amount of money from the ATM. That's okay, they said. There was an ATM nearby. So they all accompanied me to the ATM and one of the girls even went into the little ATM room with me.
Then they told me to tip the tea guy! he didn't have change to give me so I should just give him the whole note I had. OMG, I'd been kind of transfixed and letting myself get fleeced up to that point but, when they said that, I broke out of it quicksticks. Maybe because I was in the middle of a shopping centre with lots of people all around, I felt more comfortable sticking up for myself.
After that, I found The Bund but it was too wet to see anything but grey drizzle. So I figured I'd do the sightseeing tunnel under the river. Again based on it being dry. I thought it'd be like a transparent tunnel under the river and you'd see fish and stuff. But NO. The sights you see in the sightseeing tunnel are some dayglow paintings on the wall while you zoom by in a little train thing. Apparently it's one of the top 5 tourist spots in Shanghai, which proves how crap Shanghai is!
At least I'd managed to try myself with my chamois towel but my shoes were still soaked and almost impossible to walk in.
I got to the other side and there was a few market stalls in the complex. It was there I reached the lowest point of my life: I considered buying some Crocs!
I slapped some sense into myself and headed for the outdoors where it'd got even wetter and, within seconds, all my drying efforts had been undone.
I'd only got a one way ticket for the sightseeing tunnel. The only thing on the other side of the river is the tower. Now, I am not paying to go up in a tower when it's wet and there is zero visibility so I found somewhere to have lunch.
All I wanted to do was go somewhere dry and maybe sleep. I hated Shanghai with all the hate I have in me. Then I remembered on the way over, I'd been to a massage place at the airport that let you use the room for as long as you liked after the massage. I headed to the subway and went back to the airport.
So, this is my travel advice for Shanghai - do NOT go there. It is an awful, awful city. Maybe, if the weather had been nice, I'd have enjoyed it but I'm not risking it again. If you do go, don't talk to anyone or they might try to scam you.
By the way, I was going to add some filters to my photos to pretty them up but then you'd not get the full effect of how wet and miserable Shanghai is.