Mary and I sipped our Mojito as we feasted our eyes on the mega buildings before us on one side, 19th century buildings on the other, and the rest of the Huangpu river in the horizon, as the blue hour faded into the night.
Flying to Shanghai was conceived in December 2017 when Cebu Pacific announced a Piso Fare sale. I had no idea what to see in Shanghai but because we thoroughly enjoyed our 4-day trip to Beijing in 2016, we took the opportunity and booked a 48-hour stay in Shanghai for only less than 3,500 pesos for two, round trip – that’s around 65 USD!
We decided to make the trip short because traditionally, big trips happen on February and August, our anniversary and Mary’s birthday. With a short trip, we won’t need much money, and asking for a 1-day vacation leave after rest days is fairly easy (after a 6-day leave in August), plus Piso Fares were mostly red-eye flights.
If you are a first time traveler to China, you will need to prepare more documents than when you’re coming back, like us. For the complete visa guide, click here.
If you’re more interested to visit Beijing first, you can see the places we visited here, and the expenses for a private tour for two here. Although if you have more time and money, you can go to Beijing and Shanghai in one go. Just one visa fee, one international travel tax, one filing of leave from work. I’d have done that if that option were available before.
Shanghai is a good mix of economic high, well-preserved 19th century culture from Britain and France, and has a fair amount of international and domestic immigrants. People are friendlier and more fluent in English than those in the capital, and the police force / military, more relaxed. In Beijing, I remember being warned never to take photos of their military nor look them in the eye to avoid drawing attention. The move to get a private tour for two at the time proved to be the best decision ever.
In Shanghai, we walked freely, held hands, took photos of anything we wanted, ate whatever interested us, bumped into older Caucasians, got exhausted of walking, marveled at their maglev, cheered at its transportation’s affordability and sighed at the cost of food.
Here’s how our 48 hours in Shanghai looked like in photos and itinerary:
Hour 1: Arrive at Pudong International Airport and clear immigration. Look for pre-booked Klook driver to take us to our hotel. Since this is a Piso Fare flight, we arrived at 12:05 in the morning. Trains and buses were not viabl options and we didn’t like the idea of a metered taxi due to possibilities of language barrier, getting lost (I didn’t have our hotel’s name in the local language), or getting an unexpected bill.
Tip: If you’re solo or a couple and have time to waste, book the Klook “shared” service, like GrabShare as these are cheaper. Or at the airport, there are shuttle services for around 50CNY. If you’re three or more in the group, it’s best to hire a private car.
Hour 2-6: Sleep, there’s nothing to see at 1am, so what better way but to regain a few winks for the days’ activities.
Tip: Book your hotel for the night and have a late check-in. That way, you can check in right after arriving. We arrived in Beijing at around the same time before, and early check-in started at 6am. So we had to wait, exhausted, at the lobby for a good 4 hours.
Hour 7: Prep, breakfast. Our hotel of choice served Chinese and western breakfast of toast, fruits, rice, mushroom, boiled egg, custard buns, juice. Not the ideal Pinoy silog breakfast, but enough to kick-start the day.
Hour 8-12: The first order of business was Yu/Yuan Garden. To be honest, by the end of October, I expected some foliage but nope, the leaves were full and green as can be. We went on to buy souvenirs, the usual – fridge magnets, jewelry (allergy-tested by Mary), shirts and a cap. We had all sorts of food, fruits dipped in honey (which we also tried in Beijing), mango with dry ice – didn’t know how they called it, and early lunch at one of their prominent restaurants in a hotel. Here you’d see Starbucks and Costa Coffee quite redundantly, like a few meters apart.
Hour 13: Probably a wrong decision we made, is to visit The Bund at noon. See, autumn in Shanghai on a day is hot. I just wore a cotton shirt these two days. But, as advised, there are less people there, so we got a chance to record a video with the Pudong skyscrapers as our backdrop. But you may have guessed, we didn’t stay long. As we walked through Nanjing Road, we noticed the 19th century buildings, and the shopping center that is Nanjing.
Tip: If you haven’t been to Japan yet, you can experience a mini-Shibuya crossing here at Nanjing East.
Hour 14-17: Finding the world’s largest Starbucks branch, recently opened in Shanghai. It’s a 2-storey building completely owned by Starbucks Reserve, and people had to queue outside for a few minutes before being let in. I have to warn you, the price is not your usual Starbucks price. The consolation to that is, most of the drinks and pastries you find there are exclusive to this branch only.
Tip: get a guide near the store entrance and scan the stores bar code for an interactive experience. We didn’t do that since we were too tired after a few hours of walking and transferring from one platform to another. It is also imperative to wear THE most comfortable shoes there is out there. Get off West Nanjing Road Metro Station, Exit 3, turn right.
For 2 drinks and 2 pastries, our bill was 129 CNY (about 1,230 pesos or 23 USD).
Hour 18-20: Back to The Bund and some more food trip. The buildings have started to illuminate in the distance as we found our way back to the busy riverfront. We sat a while to overhear a few Filipino workers having a blast taking selfies, rested our weary feet, and witnessed the dancing lights of the prominent buildings. After a while we walked back to the metro station, but made a quick detour to a a food court that Mary spotted earlier (see, she has eyes for food, literally).
Hour 21-31: Hotel, sleep, prep, eat. When we came home, Mary munched on the assorted fruits we bought, and I told her, let me just raise my legs for a few minutes and I will join you shortly. The next thing I knew, I woke up at 4am. I was that tired. Lol
Hour 32-33: Mary wanted to go back to the jeweler who sold her a pair of earrings yesterday outside the Yuan Garden. It was affordable, and her ears didn’t get irritated. And there was less crowd on that Monday morning.
Hour 34: Jing-An Temple. If you’ve been to Beijing, you can pass this one up since all the huge temples are there. Entrance is 50CNY (387 pesos, less than 7 USD). The Mahavira Hall has the largest pure jade portrait of Sakyamuni, and a Silver Buddha sitting on the lotus base, which is made of 15 tons of silver.
Hour 35-39: Finding French Concessionaire. This, I thought was gonna be easy. But I didn’t realize I was actually looking for a district of the city, and not just a street. What drove me to include this on our list is its French influence, alfresco cafe, where instagrammable places abound. All I knew was that we had to get off at Dapuqiao station, but didn’t know which exit. This is around 12nn or 1pm and the sun was scorching. We were hungry, Mary was running out of patience, and so we decided to just find a place to eat and then head to one of my “surprises” for her.
Hour 40-43: Sir Elly’s Terrace at The Peninsula. This is where the beginning of this story happened. When we sat back, sipped our Mojito, and watched the night go by as the lights flickered in the distance. It was one of the perfect, if not THE perfect, places to watch Pudong buildings and The Bund at night. If only I could set up a tripod and take a long exposure shot.
Tip: Be there at 5 o’clock to get the best spot. It may help to call ahead and make a reservation since they only have a few tables. Dress smart casually. Go there full, obviously the food is expensive.
For 2 glasses of Mojito, a glass of red wine, and a basket of truffle fries, our bill was 554 CNY (almost 4,300 pesos or less than 81 USD).
Hour 44: Hotel, pack up, early check out. This was a conscious decision I made when booking the hotel. I wanted to be able to freshen up privately. If you want to save up on accommodation, check out at noon, bring your stuff outside and come back for it before your flight, or carry it around if you can until your flight. For us, we chose comfort over cost.
Hour: 45-48: I asked the hotel staff to book a cab for us to drop us off at the Longyan Maglev Terminal. My last surprise for Mary is riding the Maglev train back to Pudong International Airport. When we were in Japan in 2016, we missed the opportunity to get on a Shinkansen (I rode one in 2015 in Tokyo), and it kind of broke her heart. Maglev ticket is affordable in Shanghai, it was 55 CNY for a one-way ticket plus 24-hour unlimited metro pass. We reached the airport in 8 minutes at a top speed of 301 kph. The afternoon trains are faster at 430 kph. Mary was impressed. My heart sang.
Checking in at Cebu Pacific’s counter was the worst of my international traveling experience though. Lines crawled, and it was purely unorganized. Later when the passengers complained on the plane to the flight attendants, we were informed that the airline had no control of Pudong’s ground staff and that we should make the complaint to the airport. There were about 70 passengers, who are all part of a group tour (Filipino tour provider, RK for short) whose baggage allowances did not reflect as paid, therefore the delay. The sad part was, all of them had to wait for each other because the immigration official wanted them numbered from 1-70. Cebu Pacific had to delay leaving for about 20 minutes because of that issue. May that serve as a reminder to those wanting to get the services of a tour provider.
Manila-Shanghai-Manila flight for 2: 3,475.16 pesos, no bags, packed light.
Visa fee: 1,400 single entry (x2)
Hotel: 7,811.74 (3 nights, 2 pax)
Klook Airport PickUp (private): 2,144.88 (2 pax)
International Travel Tax: 1,620 (x2)
Sub-Total: 17,326.9 pesos or 8,663.45 per pax
Metro Fares – Around 60CNY
Maglev Pass – 55CNY (x2)
Starbucks Reserve – 159 CNY (for 2 pax)
Lunch Day 1 – 129CNY (for 2 pax)
Lunch Day 2 – Around 200CNY
Street Food – Around 400CNY
Pasalubong – Around 200CNY
Mary’s Jewelry – Around 200CNY
The Peninsula – 454CNY
Cab from hotel to MagLev station – 50CNY
Sub-Total: 1,962 CNY or 15,177 pesos for 2 people.
GRAND TOTAL: Around 32,500 pesos or 16,250 per person.
Whatever number you see above, whether it’s too high or too low, or just right, the expenses didn’t matter much to us. We can always work and earn that amount again, in no time. But the memories we made sitting there, smiling at each other, were priceless. I doubt I could buy that moment again. Next time a seat sale happens, don’t ignore one headed for Shanghai, which literally means, upon the (China) sea. You’ll never know what you’ll find there.