A 19-Hour Layover in Shanghai

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The first stop on our trip was a 19 hour layover in Shanghai. So not only did we get a cheap flight, we got to see a fun city for a morning.

Arrival in Shanghai

The flight wasn’t bad. While there are plenty of interesting stories on the internet about flying with Chinese airlines, we had no real issues. A few of our flights were delayed by about 30 minutes but that’s it. Otherwise, the long-haul flights were operated by new planes (Boeing 777s), and FAs were nice though their English was hit-and-miss. Regardless, it was a cheap flight and we only arrived about 45 minutes behind schedule. Of our 19 hour layover, we had 18 hours and 15 minutes remaining when the plane touched down at PVG.

We had to go through Chinese customs and baggage claim, which meant we spent well over an hour trying to leave the airport. We then took a High-speed Maglev train ride to the Bund district, and crashed at the Holiday Inn. By the time we woke up, we had a solid 6 hours before we needed to leave for the airport. That’s enough time to meander downtown and see the highlights of the city.

Our Day on the Bund

The next morning, we looked out the window and I wasn’t sure that I was going to get any good pictures here:
Pollution clouds the Shanghai skyline at 8 am

These are not clouds; it’s smog. I have video of the sun at about 7:45 am, and you can see the smog rolling past the sun. But as the morning came, the pollution in the sky went away and it was only slightly foggy, as you can see below:

Shanghai downtown

A few times now, I’ve encountered situations where far away objects are obscured by pollution. This is where knowing a tiny bit of Photoshop comes in handy as I was able to mask the front layer and amp up the contrast of the buildings in the back. Unedited, this photo looked like the background was blowing out (overexposed), but I was able to get it closer to what it looked like.

This photo better shows what pollution does to the sky. It shows that I still have a long way to go as a photographer because I cannot, for the life of me, fix the sky.

Shanghai downtown

Almost everything in the Bund area was new, except a few structures like this one. I think was a train station in a previous life but is now overgrown.

Abandoned structure with overgrowth in downtown Shanghai

Shanghai Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. Getting this photo required me to lean on what I learned in a college course about Photoshop. For this trip, I used the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens which is fixed at 50mm zoom. It’s a great walk-around lens for shooting at ground level where zoom isn’t needed (I once read that you should ‘zoom with your feet’ when possible) but it comes up short when I need a wider angle. To get large angle photos, I’ve remembered that Photoshop has the ability to stitch photos together. Thank god for the Photomerge function, right?

Shanghai World Financial Center on the Bund

The Jin Mao Tower – also made possible by the Photomerge function. I’m not a huge fan of this angle, but it was hard to get a good photo of the Jin Mao Tower. After seeing looking through my photos on the plane, I wanted to work on my framing for the rest of the trip, so my photos get a bit better as we went on.

Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai on the Bund

The Oriental Pearl Tower also required combining a few photos. The walk way around it was very pretty, as you can see in the photos.

Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai Bund area

Lastly, there were a few of these Coke stores:

A Coke stand in Shanghai

As you’d expect, they sold soda (exclusively Coke products but made with real sugar–something this American misses) but also had some fried bread things that would have been great if I hadn’t already eaten breakfast. However, that was one thing in China that I wasn’t there long enough to experience: fried food at any hour you wanted. The streets were full of the smell of fry oil.

After this admittedly brief tour of the Bund area, we had to head back to Pudong Airport. This time, we saw the Maglev during the day with its wonderful Engrish signage…

… and its uncomfortably fast speeds. Unlike other high-speed trains, this one felt uneven and like it was going to jump off the tracks at any second.

Finally, this was a Red Bull that I bought at the airport. It was flat.

A Red Bull in China

Next, we went on to Seoul!

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    1. Author

      There’s no getting around the smog. From what I gather, there are good days and bad days. If you go multiple days, you might be able to get a good skyline shot. I wasn’t able to, though.

  1. It sounds like a whirlwind! Did you wish you’d had more time in Shanghai, or were you ready to go? How did you choose which area of the city you would explore? You mentioned the airfare was good, where were you flying from? #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      I think I could have spent more time there. 19 hours was enough to see the “must see” things in town, but not enough to discover anything new.

      I flew from Chicago to Seoul. Even today, China Eastern is the cheapest and has nice layovers in Shanghai.

  2. Sounds like you packed a lot in! I visited Shanghai for work years ago and remember the smog…it’s really quite astonishing isn’t it. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      I have a video from our hotel room where you can see the smog roll by in front of the sun. It was otherworldly.

  3. The smog makes my chest hurt! And those skyscrapers are stunning. Nothing like that in Denmark. I think the entire population of Copenhagen might be able to fit in one of them! Good work making the most of your layover. Thanks for sharing your photography tricks and tips too. #FarawayFiles

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