With any journey, we have to expect the unexpected. Something will always happen, we just don’t know what it will be until it’s over and done with.
The 12 hr flight to Shanghai from San Francisco went relatively smoothly. I managed to sleep a little but really do wish I was wealthy enough to fly more comfortably. My 65 year old body rebels rather vehemently to being so cramped. The seats are so close together and the flights are always packed. The young woman next to me in her middle seat, slept with her head on the tray in front of her and her ponytail kept slithering over onto my tray making it hard to get my water bottle without pulling hair out of her scalp (Which I ended up doing once and waking her up. Oops.)
Flying into Shanghai
By the time the plane landed (And I am very thankful it did land after hearing the recent horrific news of the plane from Spain to Germany being purposely flown into the Swiss Alps obliterating everyone on board.) and I got through customs uneventfully, 2 hours had passed. The Shanghai airport is new, large, and well signed. I used the ATM for some yuan and bought the ticket for the Maglev high speed train.
The train went as high as 300 kilometers per hour (186 mph) making the 40 mile trip take only 8 minutes. As instructed by guidebook sources, I departed the train at Longhu ? station and started seeking the taxi stand. There were’t signs so it wasn’t an obvious situation, and I was tired. Coming down an escalator I spotted young men giving out flyers which most people brushed off. A man came up to me and asked, “You want taxi?” Boy, did I ever!
I had read about scammers so I was cautiously optimistic about getting a cheap ride to my hotel. He was taking me along the back corridors as we exited the station so I stopped and asked what was up and where were we going. Was this a real taxi? “Yes, yes! ‘Normal’ taxi!! Normal taxi!! ” he exclaimed. Damn, damn, I was being scammed. But there was no turning back at that point I had to ride it though, so to speak.
I saw he was talking on the phone which escalated my thinking about being “shanghaied” in Shanghai. The irony, right?
A regular looking taxi pulled up and they load my case and carryon into the trunk and I ease into the back seat. The “taxi pimp” is talking rapid fire to the old man driver and then he turns to me and says ¥280 to my hotel. I knew that was too high. Still lower than a shuttle, but too high for a taxi. I started bartering and he actually held up his opened wallet to show me it was empty so I was supposed to fill it up for him, apparently. Um, no. I went to get out of the car and told him to open the trunk, so then he came down to ¥250, ¥230, and with one foot almost out of the door we agreed to ¥200, and by that point I figured $35 to the hotel was just going to have to be my final price. I was too exhausted by the 18 hr travel day to haggle any further. It was after 7:00 p.m.
The taxi-pimp took my money, gave some to the driver, and jumped out of the car. That was the last I saw of him. It was a quiet, and longer than I anticipated, drive into the city of Shanghai. The meter wasn’t running. The lights of the high rises were filtered by a light fog. The familiar “Pearl Building” stood out in colorful splendor.
We pull up to a flurry of activity in front of the Astor House. People are clamoring to use my taxi. The driver looked at me to get out and I pointed to the trunk where my possessions lay abandoned, and he gives a look as if to say, “Oh yeah, I forgot about that.” Criminey.
I whipped around to the trunk, grabbed my things out, and felt a bit irritated with myself for falling for a scam as I tried squeezing between the people who want my taxi so I can check into the hotel. A porter grabs my bag and carries it to the front desk. I worry about not having any more ¥ (yuan) to tip him. He doesn’t seem to notice, or care.
As I am checking in at the desk, it appears my bank card won’t work after the young woman runs it through several times. We tried another. Doesn’t work. Plus, they are charging me more than what the Booking.com contract quoted me. Luckily I had that printout available showing the young clerk who is a bit timid and is getting flustered. I feel bad for her that she has to encounter me. I am rarely rude or abrasive, but I was tired, thirsty, and needed to go to sleep. The funds were there, just not accessible for some reason.
Finally a manager gets involved who suggests I pay in cash for one night in order to give me time to contact my bank. With the 16 hr time difference, they weren’t opened yet, but he would give me until 2pm the next day to work it all out. Gee, thanks…then what?
The bell hop, a young Chinese man who was very sweet, took my luggage up to my 4th floor room leading the way. He also didn’t seem phased that I had no tip.
I finally had a bed, bottled water (I was very dehydrated), peace and quiet. But first, I took a marvelously cleansing-the travel-off-me-shower, and then emailed my bank to be sure they had my vacation notification on file to get this situation worked out.Finally I was in the notoriously hard Chinese bed and falling , hard, into a long sleep. At 6 a.m. I awoke to a new day in China.