Aug 13, 2010 by Krysta
I'll admit that I formed an opinion of Shanghai having absolutely no knowledge about the city. It wasn't that I didn't want to go, it was just that this was my last flight on the main fleet and I was hoping that I'd be jetting off to Rome, Tokyo, or somewhere that the A380 doesn't fly to.
I reluctantly got ready, still exhausted from a not so thrilling turnaround to Cairo a day before.
We arrived in the early evening and after checking into my room I was struggling to stay awake. I'd planned on venturing out, but instead I ordered room service, had a bubble bath, and headed to bed.
The next morning I headed to the lobby early to meet up with 2 other crew members and the first officer. As none of us had been to Shanghai before, we were excited for a day filled with sightseeing.We took the shuttle bus to the city and then caught a taxi to the Oriental Pearl Tower... a tall radio tower that promised a great view of the city from above. The line was moving fast, so we bought tickets and stood outside in the hot, humid air. Once we'd made it inside the building, we were annoyed to discover a line longer than that of the busiest ride at an amusement park in the height of summer. Hundreds of people stood waiting for their turn to go up the tower. Since we'd already paid, we waited... and waited. The flight attendants in us scanned the room, wondering how on earth we'd ever escape in the event of a fire. Being among very few Westerners in the crowd, all eyes were on us. A few giggly girls subtly snapped photos of us. After what felt like forever (but was probably closer to 45 minutes) we'd reached the elevator. We crammed like sardines inside as we rode to the top. Despite a thick layer of smog, the view was still pretty great. Huge buildings stretched out in every direction. Shanghai is such a massive city! We spent awhile on the viewing level, and I even (very briefly) stood on the terrifying glass floor and watched the traffic drive below. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the day was when I spotted a woman holding her young child over a garbage bin in the middle of the busy room. Pants down, the child urinated inside, clearly unable to wait for an available toilet. Deeply disturbed and no longer as hungry as we had been a few minutes earlier, we decided it was time to head back down.
I've traveled the world and sampled local cuisine, but today I wasn't feeling particularly adventurous when it came to food choices. Luckily, the rest of the crew were in agreement, and we happily headed to Starbucks. After we'd finished our delicious drinks we caught a taxi and pointed to an area of the map that we wanted to visit. We were at People's Square, a beautiful green park in the middle of the giant city. For some reason I hadn't expected to see much in terms of grass and trees, as I'd pictured Shanghai to be more of an industrial city. I was pleasantly surprised and snapped the mandatory photos. It had began to rain so we sought shelter inside of a shopping mall where we sat and ate pizza for lunch. It was delicious and our drinks were served with cool light up stir sticks!
The day was passing by quickly and we still hadn't seen all that we'd hoped to, so we quickly caught another taxi. All of the taxis here have big plastic barriers around the driver. I'm assuming it's for his safety, but I found it quite amusing that he was in his own little box. Our next stop was an old area of Shanghai converted into a massive shopping area. Classic Chinese architecture stood tall and beautiful as eager sales people rushed over to show us photos of "real" Rolex watches and Gucci handbags. We wandered the busy lanes lined with lanterns and food stalls selling all sorts of interesting items, including squid on a stick. As touristy and unadventurous as this makes me sound, I think I prefer westernized Chinese food as opposed to the authentic stuff. Spring rolls and chow mein were nowhere to be seen.
Across the street we discovered another park, with paths surrounded by endless bamboo trees. On the edge of the park was a stunning view of the highrises in the city. The sun had began to set and the buildings lit up like gold with the reflection. Sadly, it was time to return to the hotel to prepare for a long night of flying. We soon realized that getting back wouldn't be as easy as we'd anticipated. While attempting to hail taxis none would stop for us, and the 2 that did refused to drive us once we'd got inside. The language barrier left us confused, but I'm assuming that we were going to a different area of town than they wanted to drive to. We walked until we reached a busy main street and finally managed to catch a taxi. Our driver was awesome, honking the horn and shouting "Woo!" in excitement as we promised to tip well.
I was sleepy once I'd arrived back at the hotel, but there was no time for a nap. I got ready for the flight and headed to the airport for what would be a long 8 hours back to Dubai. With a little caffeine induced energy, I made it back and bid farewell to my beloved Boeing 777-300. We've had a great 7 months together, but it's time for me to move on to bigger and better things.
Training commences this week, so there will be no flights in store for me for a few weeks. Please cross your fingers that next month's roster blesses me with a trip to Toronto!