Do I have to like every place I visit? I hope not. Fortunately my original plan to take an airport bus to the town center and then a taxi to my hotel, the Jinjiang Inn, was derailed by an insistent taxi driver. Otherwise I never would have gotten there as there actually is no transport in Shanghai. No transport!
Let me be clear. Walking is an obstacle course as the whole city is a construction site. Yet more skyscrapers, desperately-needed metro stops, luxury hotels and new plumbing lines are under construction day and night. Buses have information exclusively in Chinese and are unusable for foreigners. The metro lines are nowhere near sufficient and are far from anything a tourist would want to see. For taxis the demand far outstrips the supply. Even if you manage to find one (good luck with that) they will not take you any distance less than 2km. Driving? Traffic is legendary here. Cars, motorcycles and fearless cyclists are entangled in a slow-moving knot on every street that thins out only slightly for the three daily hours between the interminable “rush hours”. And the noise! Drivers think nothing of driving an entire block leaning on the horn. They honk for any reason and no reason.
That this monster city could billow up to the skies with public transport now being added as an afterthought says a lot about the local mentality. It’s capitalism run amok.
There are some great sights in Shanghai—if you have the fortitude to reach them. Unfortunately the Bund was closed for renovation at the time. The Yuyuan gardens are a marvel of Chinese design.
The Shanghai Museum is vast and extremely well laid-out with the world’s finest collection of Chinese porcelain.
And then there’s the Shanghai skyline which is breathtaking. It makes New York look like some hick backwater. And that’s tough for me to admit. I took the nighttime river cruise and when it approached the massive, twinkling towers of Pudong the excitement ran like a current through the (mostly Chinese) tourists. We were all running from one side of the boat to the other with our mouths gaping at the astonishing light show. There really is nothing like it. And yes, it did make the entire exasperating, exhausting visit worthwhile.