Sunday, July 15, 2012

I Get Around

One of the biggest shocks of living in Shanghai is the amount of effort it takes to get around this town.  Mind you, I am coming from a country where I could easily get where I needed to be by jumping in my car, firing up the air conditioning and taking off.  Can’t do that here.  At this point, I have three options:

  1. Walk
  2. Taxi
  3. Subway (The Metro)

Option One: Walking

I hope that by the end of this three-year stint that I have calves of steel!  Shanghai is fairly walker friendly, but with the triple digit heat indices and the oppressive humidity, a simple jaunt is an extended sauna trip.  I quickly realized I needed to explore other options.

108 degree heat indices do not make for pleasant walks.

Option Two: Taxis

One of the best things about living in the world’s most populous city is the abundance of cabs.  For me, cab transport is pretty easy most of the time.  All I have to do is type in my destination in my Smart Shangahi app, hail a cab (there are tons of them), show the driver the cab directions, and rest in comfort while the driver weaves through the Shanghai traffic.      

Chris hails a cab near the Sinan Mansions.

Green light on = the ride is available!

This is an example of the taxi screen ala Smart Shanghai.
Initially, this was my sole mode of transportation.  Then I realized that not all of the Smart Shanghai taxi instructions were correct.  I also realized some of these trips were starting to eat up my cash, especially when the driver knew he could take the scenic route without having me question where we were headed.  (That will change soon…Chinese lessons resume Monday!)  In the meantime, I needed to explore even more options.

Option Three:  The Metro

Ever since I watched one too many 80’s movies with creepy subway scenes, I have had a slight phobia of the subway.  (For example, click here to see the terrifying El scene in Adventures in Babysitting.  Please pardon the language.)  The prospect of having to deal with a dangerous situation in a foreign country initially made me turn my nose up at the Metro. Chris finally convinced me to try it, and I am happy to report that I am glad I did.

The Shanghai Metro is one of the cleanest, well marked, cheap, and cool methods of transport.  All of the stations I have visited have been extremely well lit, and all of the direction signs are in both Chinese and English!  For about $.50-$1.09 depending on the length of your ride, one can cruise the traffic free Shanghai underground in comfort.

Before taking my first ride, I downloaded the Metro Shanghai App for $.99.  This is by far and away one of the best apps to buy if you are traveling to Shanghai.  Metro Shanghai provides Metro Riders a map of the subway lines, maps for the area around each station and a station locater tool that leads the user to any station within 2km (1.25 mi) of their current location.  The best feature of this app, however, is the trip-planning tool that computes your 5 fastest routes, fares, and transfers after you enter your beginning and destination stations!

 If you don’t feel like purchasing the app, go on the Shanghai Metro website; they have a handy guide to riding the subway.  I love the “Take the Metro” link that task analyzes how to ride the subway…in 8 pages. 

My first Shanghai subway ride was nowhere near as scary as the Adventures in Babysitting clip.  After making my way through the endless underground hallways and taking a handful of elevators, I finally made it to the train.  After I boarded, I had a chance to gather some observations.

There is no such thing as a line in China.  Everyone kind of pushes their way off and on the trains and up and down escalators.
So many people...Where do they come from?

Get ready to shove through the lineless masses!!!

Subway seats are hot real estate.  If you want one, be prepared to shove to claim your property.

You can examine people's body language to see who may be giving up their seat at the next stop.

    There are no doors between the subway cars.  You can pretty much run up and down the train without getting hurt. 

Feel free to run from train to train.

     The subway is a great place to people watch, and get watched.  It is funny to see many young childrens’ reaction to seeing a large, American woman.  Many little ones stop and stare at me like I am the feature attraction at the zoo.

     Few people make any eye contact with you. 
Chris loves making eye contact.  He must always be the exception to the rule. 

      It is best to bring your iDevice or book to read so you have something to occupy your time on the train.

Perhaps in a few months, I will graduate to a bike.  Or even better I may purchase one of those little motor scooters that folks ride like Evil Kenevil.  In the meantime, the subway is the ride for me!