I have finally arrived in Shanghai. The road up to this point (especially the last month) has been tremendously stressful, however I am now sitting in my apartment in Puxi looking at my glorious smoggy view of Shanghai:
- Smoggy view from my hotel room in PuXi
The preparation for the trip was very chaotic. A lot of things went wrong (and right), however I am now in a good position in Shanghai- it is all over for the most part. I’ll write another post about the “prep” work that I did in Dallas, but I wanted to just write a post to document my journey thus far.
I was staying at a hotel in Dallas for my last couple of days as my apartment was completely empty and I had already turned in the keys. I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express near my work. It was a nice hotel, albeit in a very sketchy area of town. They even updated me to a suite since I supposedly stay in hotels quite a bit. Anyways, the morning of departure I woke up at around 6:30am. After a quick breakfast with a friend and a tear-jerking goodbye I was off the DFW Airport.
After dropping off my rental car, I started to realize how difficult it is to transport all the luggage that you pack for living in a foreign country for one year. For me, I had two massive pieces of luggage for checked bags, one very heavy carry-on, and a laptop bag stuffed to the bring of explosion. Here is a picture of it all that I took from my hotel this morning (less a few items I have been using):
- My heavy luggage for living in Shanghai
Most of what I packed are just shoes/clothes/suits/etc. I have the luxury of having a self storage back in Dallas (so I could stash stuff there), but when moving to another country for a year you are surprised on how many clothes you pack. It’s worth noting that I was actually over the 50lbs limit on BOTH of my checked bags. In the back of my mind I kind of expected this. The fee for each of the bags was $60- so I didn’t really care too much. It beats shipping them. A few notable items I packed:
- Playstation 4 – I did manage to pack this so that I would still be able to game and watch movies in my new apartment
- Asus Router w/ VPN setup – For my new apartment and to allow me to get to Facebook.
- Packs of hand sanitizer / tissue – In China, these things are necessities for traveling
- 220v to 100v Voltage Transformer – For use with the PS4. This was actually in my carry-on (as it is very heavy) and the security people called it out when it went through the x-ray machine because it looked suspicious.
Anyway, after commandoing my four massive bags to the airport, checking in,. and getting through security I was at the gate. American Airlines recently started direct service from Dallas to Shanghai so I was lucky in the sense that I did not have to do any transfers. The airplane that I flew in was an ancient Boeing 777.
My seat was really nice actually. For anyone who flies in the old 777s, I definitely recommend row 41 in economy class. It’s the section where the five rows in the middle turn into four rows, and in the middle section you get a ton of extra arm and leg room. After getting settled into AA127, the plane set off for its 14.5 hour journey to Shanghai. This is my eighth time to Asia, however this trip never gets easier. It doesn’t help that I am 6’5″ (196cm) and have no chance of sleeping either. The best best is to watch movies/TV shows. I watched the following:
- Snowpiercer (on my tablet) – Very good sci-fi movie, but very very dark and violent. There was a little kid sitting next to me so a few of the scenes made me feel a bit awkward
- Captain America The Winter Soldier (rewatch) – They can make these Marvel movies all day and I will watch them
- It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – I love this show
- Thor The Dark World (rewatch) – Again, I can watch these sort of movies all day. This one actually jammed up on American’s entertainment system so I could not finish it.
- Bad Words – This was actually a bit of a surprise that I found very funny. About a 40 year old that finds a loophole to get into the national spelling bee. Very funny and raunchy comedy.
After a mind numbing 15 hours, I was off the plane. After scrambling to find a pen and filling out my customs form, I went through customs without a hitch and actually pretty quickly- the hardest part was finding a pen. Note to future self, always pack a pen.
After customs, I stopped by an ATM and withdrew 2000RMB (about $320). When I was still an inexperienced traveler, I used to buy money in the USA or even bring USD and convert it at the airport. This is a bit of a scam as when you do this they always rip you off on the exchange rate. Citibank (and Wells Fargo when I had them) are really good in the sense that if you put a travel alert on your account beforehand, you can just go to any ATM overseas and withdraw money. This is the way to go.
Next I picked up all of my bags from the baggage claim and piled them onto a cart and walked towards the Taxi line. This is where the first major scam of Shanghai happens that many foreigners fall victim to. As you walk to the taxi lines, other “unofficial” taxi services will try to solicit you and try to make you take their fancy cab. Don’t do this- it is a scam. Their taxi is literally double the price. Last time I came to Shanghai, my coworkers did this (and I took the regular taxi). We went to the same hotel, however my cab fare was 200rmb ($32ish) and their cab fare was 500rm ($80ish).
I showed the address of the hotel (in Chinese) to the cab driver (Marriott Shanghai City Centre) and he was off. I was a bit jet lagged at this point, however I distinctly remembered that the air quality around the airport sucked. It’s not that great in downtown Shanghai, however there is a noticeable chemical smell near the airport (maybe it was the cab that I was in). After about 30 minutes (waiting through traffic in some points) and 250RMB, I arrived at the hotel.
The hotel is nice. I think they gave me a “long term” room as I am staying here for 13 nights (while I hunt for an apartment). The view of my room on the 30th floor gives me a pretty decent (if not a little smoggy) view of Shanghai (see the picture at the top). After taking a shower, calling the parents, etc. I passed out. It was about 5pm when I went to sleep so I woke up around 2am. This proved to be pretty convenient as it provided an ideal time for me to call/talk with all of my friends/family in The States. After taking an Ambien, I passed out again and woke up around 5:30am. After running over to Family Mart to get a cheap breakfast, I came back to the hotel and started to write this.
After seeing the plane on the gate, the gravity of the situation set in. I thought, “I am actually doing this. I have nothing right now- no apartment, no car- this is my only option.” Granted that I have done this before
, this time it seems different and has a bit more gravity. I am no longer a student and this trip will have long lasting personal and professional effects on my life. When I went to Japan, I had a bit better understanding of the Japanese language while here I am still on the upstroke of learning Chinese. I’d lie if I said I wasn’t a little bit afraid. Definitely sad that I am not going to see my friends in Dallas/USA for a while, but I am very excited for this new challenge. I will keep this blog up-to-date with my latest adventures and thoughts on this journey!