Lost In Shanghai

A big surprise about China Tours is that they control your schedule from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. And they keep you busy, very busy. Finally, by Day 9 of our trip, they gave us a day off in Shanghai. Some people in our group decided just to stay in their hotel, because they were just tired. We decided to go shopping and see Shanghai with Özgür and Selin Tanriverdi our new friends from Dubai.

Based on the recommendation of our guide, we walked to Metro City to purchase a new camera for Solange. Her point and shoot camera was slowly breaking, and I decided to spring for a professional SLR type camera during this trip. Metro City is a very different shopping experience than American retail outlets. It is a huge building with four floors of all things electronics. It is like 20 Best Buys all rolled into one. The problem is that it is possible to buy the same camera from over 20 different merchants.

First off, we had no idea what we wanted as I have little experience with SLR cameras. Fortunately, Özgür is a camera enthusiast, and we finally settled on a Nikon 3000 with a 18mm – 200mm lens. It was no easy task to figure this out because there are so many selections by all the manufacturers. Then we wanted a good price but we had no idea. Finally, we found a place with a great deal, but when they realized we were tourists, the price went up. They wanted another $200 for a warranty. I felt like I had been slimed, like I could not trust these people. So we left and went to another shop where we found the same camera including warranty. Great! But now, they won’t accept my international credit card. In fact, they don’t accept credit cards at all. The price was about 9000 RMB or about US$1400. I had no idea on whether it was a good price but I was positive it was a better price than I could pay in Brazil.

But they didn’t accept international credit cards. In fact, they wanted cash. So they ordered a young man to take me out of the building and to get cash at an ATM. The problem is that the ATM had a ceiling of 2000 RMB per day. It was quite the experience but I was able to max out 3 ATM cards and get 6000 RMB, plus I had 1000 in my wallet. So I bring back 7000 RMB and count it out for them. Note: All the money would not fit in my wallet because they only come in 100 RMB notes. But I am still 2000 short. So they finally relent, and they allow me to put the final 2000 on my credit card. So it took us over 3 hours to buy the camera, but now it was time for sight seeing.

A friend of mine told me to visit the top of the Grand Hyatt which is over 100 stories tall. We were also told to avoid the Shanghai Metro by our guide, so we took a taxi. Problem was that the taxi did not know where it was. We left, and got another taxi and we got there. The elevator was amazing. I think it was going faster than 20 meters per second. We arrived on the 88th floor of the building in less than 30 seconds.

We took a bunch of photos, and we looked at the map. This was a map that Selin had from a guide book she had purchased in Dubai. Based on the map and our previous bad experience with Shanghai taxis, we decided to take the subway to People Square on of the ritziest areas of Shanghai. Contrary to what our guide told us, there was no problem navigating the Shanghai subway. In fact it was easy. Everything seemed like it was new and all the signs were both in English and Chinese. After a short while, we arrive in People Square.

After 9 days with China Tours, Selin, Özgür and Solange were all wanting to eat something other than Chinese food. So we went to the McDonald’s in People Square. I went out on the street and bought some of the street food which was totally delicious although it was embarrassing since I knew the name of the food in Chinese, but not how much to pay. I brought my food back to the McDonalds and it was a great meal for everyone.

Then we decided to go back to the hotel. We checked the map, and we figured we had to walk about 3-4 blocks. We walked and walked, and the hotel was not there! We gave the address of the hotel to more than 10 people and no one knew where our hotel was located. We hopped into two taxis, and neither one knew our hotel. I am sure that the language barrier was a problem but we were totally lost in Shanghai, a city of 33M people.

All we knew was that we could walk from Metro City to our hotel, but Metro City was not on the map. We knew where we were, but we had no idea where we were going. Finally, we decided to go in the subway and find Metro City via the subway. We hit the subway around 7 pm on a Tuesday evening – rush hour. The subway in Shanghai is huge. There are large rivers of people going in various directions. With the help of Özgür and good signs, we found the right train going in the right direction. We were about 8 stops away but we finally found our way back to the hotel. We had a beer and crashed for the night.