Tuesday, January 1, 2013

[PUDONG] New Year's Eve on the Wrong Side of the Huangpu

There really is not much to expect when it comes to New Year's eve celebrations in Shanghai. Come to think of it, they are Chinese in the first place and have their very own new year to celebrate come February. Still, I had to be somewhere during the night before 2013 begins, given how I chose to be away from family at this time of the year when I really should be with them. I did not think that Suzhou would have something grand prepared so I thought maybe Shanghai would be the better bet.

Coming back from Suzhou, I arrived in Shanghai rather late and had to look for my guesthouse first before exploring Pudong, something I was not able to do when I was in the city last year. Alighting the train at Shanghai Railway Station, what immediately came to sight once I surfaced were Pudong's many buildings that star in their very own nightly lights show seen from the Bund, except that I am on their side now and I can see them up close.

Arriving in the city very late two days prior, I experienced my first winter and immediately thought of it as unforgiving. Coming from Manila, I really did not wear many layers of clothing first in fear of bathing in my own sweat on the plane. I guess that is what airport restrooms are for. Do not go out in the open without preparing for it. I wish I could have given myself the same advice. That is what really comes to mind when you are at the middle of Pudong Avenue feeling like you are going to die of frostbite any minute while desperately flagging a taxi.

The first night was really just a stopover. I just did not want to sleep at the airport, which would have been a far better experience than braving those chilly winds trying to locate the guesthouse. I went to Suzhou the next day, which meant no free time in Shanghai until today, the day before New Year.

Weird as it might sound, wandering around Pudong in the evening was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was cold but all the walking sort of shook off the uncomfortable sensation present during the night of my arrival. After checking in at the guesthouse, I went out again and originally intended to head to the Bund but knowing that I would have to walk all the way back to Pudong or resort to getting into a rather expensive cab prevented me from doing so. Maybe the fireworks would just be as good from this side of the Huangpu. Or so I thought.

I had around an hour to take pictures and go near the river. I only got as far as that weird looking tower. There are only two weird looking skyscrapers in Pudong: the blue one that looks like Mazinger Z's sword; and the other one with the colorful globes. I am talking about the latter which is near the HSBC office. Before 12 its lights went off, only to be turned on again once the fireworks started.

I tried to phone home but it just would not connect. Perhaps it is forbidden when you are on prepaid roaming despite having more than enough credits. I just settled for an SMS which was replied to by my mother, who was with my father and brother at Ayala witnessing the countdown.

The fireworks were still visible from Pudong but of course its skyscrapers blocked most of the view. The best way to watch it is obviously from the Bund, where the complementary lights show of the tall buildings contributed to the spectacle. So yes, I would claim laziness over idiocy for this one. I knew what was going to happen. I just did not have the courage to brave this winter walking back to the hostel.

In fairness to the locals, there were also a lot of them who went to the exact same spot to witness the short celebration. All of us attacked the nearest McDonalds branch after that, lining up those counters like we were claiming relief goods. After a good cup of hot chocolate, I joined the exodus of people walking down Pudong Avenue headed to wherever it was they were going. I then went to bed as I had to catch my morning flight to Dalian the next day. Looking back, I think this New Year's Eve underwhelmed me, being used to the exaggerated attention we give to it back in Manila. I am glad to have walked down the streets of Pudong, though. I did not feel that homesick because it just felt as though I was still in Makati.

The next destination is Liaoning and the itinerary involves flying out of Shanghai to Dalian, which meant going back to Pudong Airport. One disadvantage of flying via Cebu Pacific is their midnight arrivals, which means not being able to take advantage of the rail system that usually shuts down before midnight. I have always wanted to try Shanghai's Maglev train which connects Pudong International to Longyang Avenue in just eight minutes. Shanghai's green metro line 2 also serves the said route but with around half a dozen stops in between and more or less 40 minutes of travel time.

Since I was already running late for my flight, I opted for the Maglev for convenience and experience. The 50 yuan fee for a one way ticket was steep. Add 5 yuan and you could book a ticket for a six hour train ride from Dalian to Shenyang. Deduct five and you could get on a 30 minute bullet train from Shanghai to Suzhou. The experience was fun, though. With the maximum speed reaching 300 km per hour, it felt like being on a plane running full speed for take off for eight minutes. Anyway, if you are in a rush and with some spare cash, do take the Maglev. Otherwise, there is always Line 2.

Happy New Year! May we all have a prosperous 2013.

[PUDONG] New Year's Eve on the Wrong Side of the Huangpu

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