Shanghai Stories and Tips

A touch of futurism in Pudong

Pudong Airport Photo, Shanghai, China

Having never travelled before to Shanghai I didn’t really have an image of Pudong International Airport in my head and no idea what the facilities were like. Taking into account the size of Shanghai and the land space I had an inkling that the airport would be on a grand scale and modern. Indeed it was grand and very futuristic. The roof alone is very impressive; it looks like a giant blue metal pin cushion with white steel pins coming forth from the top holding the large expanse together.

On arrival I was very pleased that the temperature was 28 degrees centigrade but I hadn't really prepared myself for the humidity level. Warsaw is very humid in the summer but Shanghai is a different story. Pudong airport officials were slick and professional when it came to processing 450 passengers from Amsterdam and by the time we had passed through immigration and picked up our bags I was soaked with perspiration. Not the best way to greet two business colleagues who had invited us to their city and were going to be our hosts for the next few days. I very nearly missed Mr Wang and Diva Vu because I was too busy helping an Indian lady and gentleman with their toddler. The man was struggling to wheel the wayward pram with one hand while the other hand was steering the largest and lumpiest suitcase I have ever seen. Poor child wasn't sure where she was going to end up and my pram steering wasn't the safest turning corners at a rapid speed nearly throwing the child out of her safety belt and pram.

The airport is quite away from downtown Shanghai, at least 30 kilometres east of the city. The grey China Sea is right behind the airport and on a misty day the sea blends in with the steel covered terminals and on the day we were there the boats seemed to drift away into oblivion.

Pudong has two terminals and is very easy to navigate. If you are dropped off at the wrong terminal by accident you will have a long way to walk to the correct one. Departures are on the top level and arrivals on the bottom level. Drivers dropping passengers off have to follow in an orderly fashion and be quick about exchanging farewells as police are stood in a line moving people on. So don’t hesitate while removing your luggage from the boot of the car. There are parking lots located at Lot 1 F1 Exit.

If you are familiar with other forms of transport and want to travel by public transport there are several options; shuttle buses connect to both terminals as do long distance buses. A new funky way of travelling is on the Maglev train but this doesn’t actually take you straight into the centre of Pudong only to Longyang Road Metro Station. I didn’t travel on the Maglev but would have liked to. I hear it is basic inside, travels very quickly but smooth only bumpy on turns. Another cheap form of travel is taxi. Shanghai taxis are available all hours. Prices vary due to time of day and how many kilometres you travel. I am told Shanghai drivers are friendly and won’t rip you off so that’s good to hear. On this trip we were driven everywhere so we didn’t have to worry too much about getting to and from the airport. Next time I will make sure we travel on public transport just for the experience.

Our experience of the airport was connected more with our departure than arrival as on arrival we were soon whisked off to the delights of Shanghai and our hotel so we didn’t spend much time in this area.

Lifts will take you to check-in areas, these are easy to operate and very spacious. Terminal 1 has International Check-in marked with the letters E-L. Domestic check-in is marked A-D. You find Terminal 1 on 3F Departure Level. There are 9 Ladies and Gents toilet points situated along the International and domestic concourse. I know as I counted every one. The sign for toilet depicts a figure of a man with a line separating the figure of a female. I am pleased to inform you that all toilet facilities are spotlessly clean, with low level sinks, plenty of white toilet tissue, automatic taps and hand towels from a machine on the wall that automatically perforates. There are disabled toilets and facilities for Mother and Baby. I had a peep in one of the Mother and Baby rooms and was surprised at how jolly the room was all decorated in pink with pictures of Hello Kitty dotted on the wall. My Granddaughter would have loved to have seen this.

Escalators are in use as well as some travelators for some parts of the concourse. Information desks can be found by looking for a sign with a question mark. You will find that most airport staff can speak English so don’t think you have to quickly brush up on your Chinese.

In each check-in section there is the opportunity to check in online by using a machine. You can only do this 3 hours before flying. Usually for international flights there is a separate customer care desk outside so if there are any problems you can deal with them here. Seats are available for each area and there are priority seats for disabled, elderly and children. We sat in the appropriate check out area for a long time seeing that we had another long wait due to a mistake I made when booking the flight. That’s another story for another time. I can vouch for the relaxation quality of the chairs although I didn’t lie down on them. There are spacious aisles so I was able to stretch my legs out. I enjoyed my time in this area as there was always something going on whether it be police officers whizzing around on bikes or walking around with sniffer dogs or a group of twenty employees from Spring Airlines marching into a circle to take part in a morning’s training course. They didn’t practice any Tai chi but they did sing at the end of the course.

Like in any airport there is a vast selection of shops and restaurants selling mainly Chinese goods. Not a great selection of restaurants and all serving Chinese food. You could buy a sandwich and ice cream with an International touch but mostly food was strictly Chinese. On one of my walkabout trips I noticed several Chinese people holding giant size pots of noodles. I was intrigued by this, I assumed they were eating the food dry until I saw a machine dispersing sterilised drinking water and then it clicked; this is where they filled their pots up with warm water.

A couple of times we moved to different boarding gates; the first gate we sat and waited at was very peaceful except the smell of aviation fuel was too powerful for me and made me feel nauseous. I was pleased we moved to Gate 17 where there was a TV lounge and an area with 4 computers and internet connections. I was amazed that this area wasn’t packed out as the Internet was free. This area also had some very stylish shops selling hand made goods from south China, designer shoes and handbags. I am glad I bought those designer chop sticks as I have got the hang of using them now and can’t wait to tuck into my bowl of rice every day.

Gate numbers seemed to change frequently and I couldn’t find any information boards in the departure area so you really have to listen to the sing song announcements which are spoken in Chinese with a delay and then English. The Chinese language is very soothing at an airport and it can sometimes send you to sleep so try not to nod off or you will miss your flight.

Two large international airports in the space of 6 days. Which one do I prefer? I think I like Pudong more than Schiphol as it is so spacious, easy to relax in, not as many announcements and not as many shops and activities which means you can save some money. I loved the minimalist design especially in Terminal 2 where you can walk for miles and the only decoration is a row of single monuments representing different races of people. The roof is wonderfully wacky too.

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