Going ashore in Shanghai

Going ashore in Shanghai

Going ashore in the big port of Shanghai is a great challenge for passengers and seafarers alike – from the point of view of expenses and time required – but nevertheless a risk worth taking. With cargo operations taking place at high speed and after 4-5 hours maneuver up the Huangpu River it is very difficult for seamen working on port container vessels to find a little time to go out and visit Shanghai.

Most of the time, the stay in the port is no longer than 12-15 hours and, as departure maneuver requires the same amount of working hours (this time downstream Huangpu  River), seamen would rather spend their free time taking a rest than wasting their energy in going into the city.

Things are very different for the passengers travelling on cargo vessels as their program is very flexible and they can fully take advantage of the time the vessel stays alongside.

The port of Shanghai is not only China’s biggest port, but since 2011 the most crowded port in the world, too. The port is so big that it actually includes many terminals situated very far away from the city are closer to a different town, called Waigaoqiao. Going out in Waigaoqiao is a very easy job, as the ride from the gate to the centre takes only 5 minutes (5$).

Going to Shanghai is a completely different thing. The ride with a taxi (or hired car) to the centre of Shanghai can take 45 minutes (depending on the traffic) and costs 30-40$. It is better to arrange the pick up car prior to your arrival or at least before arriving at the gate in order to get a good deal for the transfer. Most of the time, private cars (not taxis) are waiting clients in front of the gate and can ask 40-50$ to get them into town. If more people are travelling, the fare is not too high, as it can be split and it is also negotiable. It is better to arrange the return trip with the same driver and even to fix a total price for going and coming back. Make sure that you always have the exact address of the place you want to visit and the terminal where you have to come back, better have them written down in Chinese letters, too, as few taxi drivers speak English.

As soon as the vessel gets alongside, a business man always comes on board, bringing telephone cards and other useful things. He is a trustful person and he can always arrange these types of transfers to and from the city. He can intermediate a pick up service at your disposal and even do the talking with the non – English speaking driver. Taking into account the short time available for the journey, it is better to have a car ready to serve you than wasting your precious minutes searching for a taxi/private driver. If you already set the pick up time, the car will wait for you outside the gate. To arrive there, you can ask a lift from the business man (he will take you to the gate if he has time), wait for the shuttle bus (which has an unknown schedule, but a 30 minute frequency) or walk the whole way. Walking inside the terminal is permitted (still), following the designated route and can take you 15-20 minutes (depending on your vessel’s position).

There is also another possibly to travel to Shanghai and that includes the train (metro). In this case, you will need to get to the nearest station which is ~ 10 minute drive by car in the town of Waigaoqiao, from where you have to take the Metro Shanghai Line 6. This solution is very cheap, but it can be very complicated, time consuming and stressful and you need a lot of courage to venture yourself in such an adventure. With time ticking away, you would rather travel ‘in style’ and let the others worry about traffic and directions.

Shanghai is China’s biggest and most populated city and you can not visit it in a few hours, but you can always make an idea and plans for a future and hopefully longer visit. With only few hours to spend in town, the best place to start your visit is Pudong Park, on the right side of the river.

The most famous landmark of the city and one of the most visited tourist attraction is Oriental Pearl Tv Tower, situated in Pudong Park, in the heart of Financial District.

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The Oriental Tower is 468 meters high and it offers an excellent view towards the city from the observation levels situated on upper and lower sphere and a fine restaurant in the middle one. There are different types of tickets to climb up the tower, offering different alternatives of combined attractions. The cheapest ticket is 160 yuan (~ 26$) and includes rides to the upper and lower sphere and also allows a visit to the Shanghai History Museum (located in the tower’s pedestal). Other tickets can offer combination of river cruisers and buffet in the restaurant with visits at the History Museum and the spheres (for panoramic view over the city). The most expensive ticket (including a buffet lunch/dinner, visit of both upper and lower spheres and entrance to the History Museum) costs ~60$/person.

The Pearl Tower is surrounded by sky scrapers of different shapes and heights and some of these buildings host huge commercial centres, some of the biggest you have ever seen. The biggest of them is Super Brand Mall which gathers under its roof the most famous brands in the world. You have to know that you will not find the bargain prices you surely expect for China. On the contrary, the prices are rather big and you can find some good deals only when big discounts are available. Anyhow, wandering around the 10 story building is an interesting experience for shopping lovers. Inside the Mall, you can also find very fine restaurants and some of the world’s most famous fast food chains – like Mc. Donald’s, KFC, Subway and others.

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If you are tired of shopping and need to change the scenery, you can follow Lujiazui Ring Road down to the river and admire one of China’s most famous and photographed skylines. You can have a stroll along Huangpu River and mingle with hundreds of locals who usually have their walks here during afternoon and evening.

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On the other side of the river you can notice the beautiful skyline of the old town. All these buildings used to belong to foreign embassies, hotels and banks and most of them were built at the end of XIXth century and the beginning of the XXth century when many foreigners were living in the city. After 1950, all of these buildings were converted to host the offices of Chinese Government.

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The skyline of the old city is more spectacular at sunset and even more remarkable a little after the sun disappears beneath the horizon as each and every building is putting on colorful clothes and creates an amazing picture.

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The sky scrapers from the Financial District – situated on the right side of the river – are also very photogenic during night time, dressed up in beautiful and continuously changing colours.

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Now that you’ve made an idea about the city, you will be able to push your limits a bit more and next time venture yourself and visit other areas and see the city from different perspectives.

My visit in Shanghai lasted for four hours and took place on the first day of the New Chinese Year. It was the first time I could get out of the port and visit the city (as other two vessels brought me to Shanghai a few years ago, but they didn’t allow me to go out) and I was very happy to do it, especially on such an important day. I spent four hours surrounded by thousands of locals who were celebrating their free day doing the things they liked – walking along the river, visiting the city’s landmarks, doing shopping and dining out. For this reason, the only thing I could do while in town was walking … walking shoulder to shoulder with them and taking photos.

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I couldn’t climb the Oriental Pearl Tower (because the waiting time in line was ~ 3 hours). I couldn’t have a snack either, because all the restaurants (or cafes) were practically filled with people and the waiting area in front was even more crowded. Anyhow, I loved the animated streets and I would like to see them more often like this. I know this is not possible. People in Shanghai work a lot during daytime and mass gatherings like the one I witnessed on this day do not happen very often. I was so lucky to take part in such an event and I hope I’ll get some other opportunities to visit Shanghai and climb the Oriental Pearl Tower for a panoramic view over the city or cross the River and visit the old town.

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