Apart from my woes with accommodation Shanghai boasts some amazing museums. The Urban Planning Exhibition Center (US spelling as per its leaflet) in People’s Square is incredible and the somewhat low key effort dedicated to the Maglev (Magnetic Levitation Train) is great yet hard to find with no signage – a problem in China all round. The museum is informative if dimly lit, free to enter and a good teaser for a trip on the mighty Maglev itself, awaiting on the platforms above. I had a combined ticket at 75rmb. How could I pass up the opportunity to travel 20 miles in 8 minutes!
I am no stranger to China’s mega transport hubs: Shenzhen North, Shenzhen Futian, Guangzhou South, Beijing West, Xiamen North among others yet Hongqiao’s ginormous plane/train complex is a bigger version of everything Cardiff Central could have been had the station square not been hijacked by the BBC and murdered by whoever inked the deal.
The airport is mainly domestic though there are city to city flights to regional centres such as Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo Haneda, Seoul’s Gimpo and Taipei’s wonderful Songshan but it’s still busy boasting two terminals and an almost full capacity 39 million passengers per year. This is linked to the train station, not just vast by Chinese standards but the biggest in Asia!! It is Hongqiao that I would have arrived at had I taken the train from Guangzhou (but it cost more than the plane and takes around eight hours. It’s also where I would have taken trains to Hangzhou and Suzhou but neither came to be. For it’s status – biggest in Asia – it doesn’t seem any bigger than some of the hubs I mention above.
This may not have been conceivable in the early days however as this humble tram shows. It’s certainly a far cry from the cities ageing metro which by comparison to Guangzhou and Shenzhen’s gleaming modernity are more like New York (or how I envisage it to be). The stations feel run down and the signage is abysmal. I constantly had to alight to check my location (the name signs have the same sized type to that of the next and previous stations *slow handclap).
It is the Maglev however that provided the most memorable component to my visit to Shanghai. Until recently Pudong was the only airport in the world that you could see the ‘Maglev’ on airport to city signage, however Incheon in South Korea launched a service earlier this year and Changsha airport in Hunan provence is set to follow. As you get older you see how quickly the future comes to pass and how slow the UK is to grasp it.