Thursday, September 8, 2016
Here we go for my Shanghaî Disneyland review that you're waiting for and in this part one we'll talk also about a few tips that you really need to know if you plan to visit the park and Shanghaî in the future! So, we'll start by the beginning and, except if you're living in Shanghai area, chances are that the beginning for you will be at Shanghai Pudong Airport!
I have to say that i quite liked this airport. You don't have to walk miles before arriving to the Immigration desks or to take your luggage, which is not the case in all airports, unfortunately. One thing that i've noticed is the huge space around the airport. An airport is always classified as a "strategic" place and in China anything strategic is really strategic more than anywhere else so this may explain why there is literally miles of empty land all around.
The Immigration was quite fast, i would say it took 20 - 30 minutes to go through and there was plenty of desks open with immigration officers, so that was another good point. I had my Chinese visa, so everything went fine but U.S citizens must note that a visa for China for U.S citizens cost four times the price than it cost for European citizens. There is the option of a 72 or 144 hours visa free transit option but this one has special conditions that you can check HERE. Basically you must leave China for a different destination than where you came from. For instance you cannot do Los Angeles ( or any other town in the world ) - Shanghaî - Los Angeles, but you probably can do Los Angeles - Shanghaî - Hong Kong, and then go back to L.A. It sure don't make things more simple but, hey, it may be a good opportunity to visit Hong Kong Disneyland at the same time!
CHINESE SIM CARDS AND INTERNET
One of the first things that people usually do is to buy a temporary SIM card when they arrive at the airport of another country to avoid roaming fees from their local SIM card. It may look like a minor subject, but there is some real important things to know if you intend to do so. When i arrived at Shanghaî airport, and considering i stayed one week in Shanghaî, i went to the desks selling chinese SIM cards. I saw a desk which had many people waiting in line and choose another desk nearby where there was no wait, thinking it would be the same SIM cards. Boy, that was my big mistake! The SIM card was one from China Unicom and when i wanted to top-up a few days later, impossible to find a place in Shanghaî where i could top-up the SIM card. I've lost literally hours - and walk miles - trying to find a place where i could do this top-up and ...never succeeded. Usually in most of the countries you have plenty of shops where you can do it and it's easy, but in China for whatever reasons it's unbelievably complicated and when you find a shop doing it they don't do it for all phone companies, not to mention the language problem to have them understand what you want, and the fact that apparently after 7pm they can't sell top-up to foreigners!?! Finally, i had to change, literally, of mobile phone company and buy another sim card from China Telecom which had a branch near my hotel so i knew i could go there to top-up easily if needed. This SIM card story has been a big, big mess for nothing - i mean to top-up should be a simple thing to do, right? - so my advice is this one: if you stay in Shanghaî let's say, less than four days don't buy any SIM card. And if you really want one and need to be able to check your mails, internet, etc... then ask for enough GB of download and minutes to call to don't have to top-up during your stay. And i forgot to say that the whole thing is pretty expensive too so the best is really, really, to avoid to buy a Chinese SIM card.
Now, even if you have a SIM card and enough GB to download you also need to download BEFORE you leave your country as you won't be able to do it in China apparently, a VPN App, as many of your favorite websites can't be accessed in Chine, starting by Facebook. The one who worked fine for me was the Betternet VPN App, that you'll find easily for free HERE. It also exist for Android.
MOVING TO SHANGHAI
With all this, we're still in the airport and it's time to move out of it. Now, some of you will go directly to Shanghaî Disneyland and i suppose there is eventually buses or at least taxis who will bring you to the resort. Others will go to Shanghaî to also spend a few days in the city itself. Which would be an excellent idea as Shanghaî is a great city, really, and i can't recommend enough to spend at least two or three days in Shanghaî. Now, if you want to go to Shanghaî from the airport you have three choices: either you take the Metro - the cheapest way and there is a direct line to Shanghaî center, or you take a taxi and it will cost you at least ten times the price of the Metro ticket, or you choose the Maglev train. Which is the one i choose as i had never experienced a Maglev train and wanted to try it. It won't bring you directly to Shanghaî center and you'll need then to take a cab but you'll get nearer to Shanghaî so the Taxi will be cheaper, too.
Actually, this Maglev train will be your first ride in Shanghaî as not only it goes at more than 300 km/h during the 20 minutes ride but you'll also be amazed to see how the train incline at an angle of almost 40 degree when there is a curve - as the train is "magnetically attached" to the track, of course. That Maglev trip was cool, not a E-Ticket ride, but pretty cool and the entrance to the Maglev station in the airport is easy to find and just a few meters ahead.
WHERE TO STAY IN SHANGHAI?
If you don't decide to stay in one of the two on-site SDL hotels then you'll stay in Shanghai which is probably the best, especially if you plan to spend a few days in the city. Now, where to stay? The hotel location is more important than it looks as Shanghaî is a huge city and if you want to avoid to walk for nothing you better choose the right location. If you plan to take the Metro to go from and go back to the Airport ( green line no 2 ) AND to go to Shanghai Disneyland also by Metro ( Line 11 ) the best is to find a hotel which is near the Jiangsu Road metro station ( circled in orange on the picture below ) as it is where is the junction between the line 2 and 11, meaning that whether you'll go to the airport or to SDL it will be direct with no changes of metro lines. Now, if you want to have an hotel near the famous and not-to-be-missed Shanghaî Bund near the river then a hotel located near the Nanjing Rd ( East ) or Yuyuan Garden stations will be perfect ( circled in blue on the map below ).
WHERE I STAYED DURING MY TRIP
Personally i stayed in Shanghaî. I didn't stayed in any of the resort hotels because i was not a fan of the Toy Story "budget" hotel and the SDL hotel was full, and anyway the room price was more than i was ready to pay not to mention that its art-nouveau decor looked a bit too "fresh" to me. But i love art-deco style and Shanghaî has a lot of places which will delight any art-deco fans. I stayed at the Bund Riverside Hotel, not far from the Bund. The hotel rooms looks on the pictures on Agoda to have an older art-deco style and it looked fine for me. When i did my first reservation - remember that i first expected to be at SDL for the park opening days before having to cancel my trip as i had lost my passport - i had booked a "River View Suite" which at that time cost 70/80€ and then for my second reservation because the price had jumped i choose the "Superior River View Queen". Which i don't recommend as the room was not only a bit too small but the one they gave to me had an air-con problem. They finally upgraded me for free to a "River View Suite" - the one i had booked the first time - and this one was great, a real large suite. The art-deco deco looked like a room that could have been in the Tower of Terror (!) and there was great views from three different angles on Shanghai, see pictures below. For those interested HERE is the Agoda page for the Bund Riverside Hotel. If you succeed to have this "River View Suite" for less than 100 euros, then it's a good deal. Hotel breakfast was fine too.
MORE THAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SHANGHAI
About money: there is ATM of course in Shanghaî from which you can withdraw money with your credit card but you need to know that they all have little doors in front of them, meaning that you don't see the ATM machine like you can in all others cities. You need to open the door, then after you entered you lock the door behind you, all this obviously to avoid people who could attack you when you withdraw money. So, the ATM machine are not really visible at first sight and you may need someone telling you where they are. In my case they were at 20 meters from the hotel, so that was fine.
Something more important than it may look: when you cross a street make sure there is really no vehicle coming. Say like this i know it looks stupid but sometime we are crossing streets not really looking or eventually briefly, because we don't hear any noise indicating a vehicle is coming. Now what you have to know is that in Shanghaî almost all motorbikes are electric, meaning they don't make noise at all, meaning you don't hear them coming! More than once i was close to be hit by one of them simply because i trusted on the no-noise in my field of vision. Believe me, it can be a trap, so keep this in mind.
And what about Shanghaî inhabitants, you ask? Well, all Chinese have been nice and i didn't had any problem with them. Some can be more boorish than others but overall they were fine. Girls are lovely, and you'll find some Chinese who speaks english, but not a lot so make sure to ask your hotel to write in Chinese your destination if you take a taxi. Metro is very cheap, though, and a Metro ride from Shanghai center to SDL will cost you 5 Yuans if i remember it well, so just one dollar, not even one euro! One more thing: Shanghaî taxi driver have all around their seat a solid transparent structure to avoid being attacked by a passenger. Quite odd when you see it the first time, and i think i've never seen it before although i wonder if Hong Kong taxi drivers don't have the same or so.
WEATHER AND WHEN TO GO
When i was there in August it was "full summer" as Shanghaî has a summer season like we have in Europe or in the U.S. The good point is that i had one week of blue sky and no rain at all. The BAD point is that it was bloody hot! With temperatures over 36-38° it was really really hot and i promised to myself to never go back with that heat. So, if you go to SDL, definitely avoid to go if temperatures are over 30°. Believe me, it was not funny.
LET'S GO TO THE PARK!
Time to go to visit Shanghaî Disneyland! Not that there is no wonderful places to see in Shanghaî itself but i will talk about them in the last part of this article series. I decided to go to SDL with the Metro by far the cheapest way from Shanghaî as, as i've said, the trip cost less than one Euro. The Metro ride will take one hour and of course you arrive at SDL Metro station located at 200m from the park entrance. When you go out of the station, make sure to check at what time they close. I didn't do it on my first day and the result was that i missed the last train and had to go back to Shanghaî by taxi which has cost me 60€ or so. So, make sure to don't miss the last train!You'll find also at the exit a great map of the resort.
Moving out of the station you'll see instantly SDL Wishing Star lake on the left. And you'll notice how huge it is. I mean really, really, huge and almost inexplicably huge as it's hard to understand why they did a lake that huge - easily six or eight times bigger than the lake at DLP with all DLP hotels around it. It's so big that they could build a whole theme park in that space...
Anyway, let's move towards the entrance but, first, definitely look on the right as you'll see a huge piece of land which is the one you saw on the drone pictures near Adventure Isle Roaring Rapids. They easily could build for the park a new land there in the future - or eventually a new hotel - and here are some pictures of it.
The esplanade leading to the park entrance and Disneytown is quite nice and of course you arrive to the great Steamboat Mickey fountain, one of the popular photo locations of the park.
It's also nearby that is the pier for the boat going to the Shanghaî Disneyland Hotel.
From that point visitors can choose to enter the park or to go to Disneytown. I've been to Disneytown only by night and liked it quite a lot, even more may be than DLP Disney Village, found it more elegant. As i only have night pictures of it here is a great Youtube video filmed by daylight showing well the whole Disneytown.
Before you arrive to the turnstiles you have a first check point for security where they check all bags, and they really check them! If you've bought your ticket on the SDL online website before - which i recommend - make sure before you leave home that you've printed the e-ticket reservation as you'll need it in a few seconds.
Then, after the security check you'll arrive to the entrance where they will not only "bip" the barcode printed on your reservation but also take a picture of each guest coming in. I don't specially like that and the supposed reason why is to avoid Chinese going out of the park and giving his ticket to someone else. I asked to others readers who went in the park where are the cameras shooting a picture of you and none could really tell me. So, when i was there i asked the CM where they are. To what she answered to me "I can't tell you for security reasons". Which was such a corporate answer that it put me in bad mood and i told her "Security reasons? C'mon, it's bullshit! where are they?" And it's at that point that i noticed them. What they did in fact is to put different cameras in the ceiling, so basically they can shoot a picture of you on three different angles, meaning there is no way to escape to this corporate madness. Seeing them, i told the CM "Ah, here they are, right?" to what she didn't answer, so i took a picture to let you know exactly where these bloody cameras are!
In my second part article we'll finally enter the park and i'll tell you all the good things i think about it, so don't miss the part two! This is a pretty good cliffhanger, isn't it! :-)
All pictures: copyright Disney and more