Another travel day, which is getting a bit old, but being this close to home seems to keep everyone in good spirits as we pack our bags yet again for another day long journey. This time we are heading for an unplanned stop in China. Every time we would tell people about our agenda we would typically get the question - Not China? We had read a bunch before booking the trip and most accounts we had of China went like this - "We are glad we went, but it was not great". So when we were planning the trip we decided we would skip it and maybe go back sometime in the future. Plus the visa process is a bit of a pain (like India) so it was just easier to leave it off the list. Fate being what it is, the earthquake in Nepal had now re-routed us to a necessary stop in China and we were all really excited about it.
The trip to the airport was the same slog we had taken in which included some walking plus two trains, but it went smoothly and we were checked in and ready to go with plenty of time. One nice surprise when we boarded the plane was that the flight was only 4:30 instead of the 6:30 I thought it was - so we were all a little relieved.
The flight to Shanghai was smooth and we were on the ground before we knew it and headed to immigration. We were leveraging a 72 hour transit visa for which there is no real process until you get to the passport control. I was a little worried about not having a visa in hand as we were landing in China, but everything I read said it was easy and it really was. The passport control officers were really nice and we were off on our way in about 15 minutes.
We gathered our bags and headed out to the madness of Shanghai. Stacie had done her research on getting into the city and so we headed off to find the train to take us in. It was really easy and we were in the city in no time flat. However, we did no know exactly how to get to the hotel. We received some help from the attendant in the subway station who told us what stop to get off at and we made it to the right place easily, but still needed to find the hotel. When we made it out of the subway station we were engulfed in a sea of people on a pedestrian shopping mall that looked like it could have been in any city in the USA. I tried asking a couple of people where the Wesin was and they had no idea. So we decided to get a taxi and that is where the real fun began. We could not get a single taxi to stop for us. Plenty were available, but they had no interest in giving us a ride - something we would later learn is a real problem in Shanghai.
We just started wandering around hoping we were moving in the right direction. We stopped at two hotels and I asked for directions and neither could really help although they pointed in a general direction. Then as we were walking Lea needed to stop for a slight bag adjustment and we happened to stop in front of a restaurant. The owner was sitting outside and thought we wanted to eat and started speaking to us in Chinese. I tried to tell him we did not want to eat and ask him if he knew where the Westin was, but there was no english to be had. However, after a couple seconds he called inside and his son came out and lo and behold he spoke perfect english AND he knew where the Westin was. He pointed us in the right direction and we were off. About 10 minutes later our sore backs were in the cool comfort of the Westin and then shortly after we were checked into our beautiful rooms.
We were all hungry, so we went to the concierge and asked for a good Chinese restaurant. She pointed us to a restaurant just behind the Westin and told us it was great. We went immediately and when we got there we knew we were in for something interesting. The atmosphere is difficult to describe, but if you could picture something between a shriners hall and a hotel ballroom that might do it justice. The real treat came when absolutely nobody in the restaurant spoke one word of english - like seriously - not one word. Maybe we should have been prepared for this, but after being in SE Asia for almost a month we had become accustom to almost everyone speaking english, so it took us by surprise. The good news is that they had an english menu.
The food was OK, but not great, other than the Dim Sum that Stacie ordered, it was fantastic. After dinner we were all beat and headed right back to the hotel to get some rest. Another long but successful travel day without any major issues. Only one more travel day left.