We made it! The last park we had to visit was Shanghai Disneyland.

Day 1: First Day at the Last Park

First day of travelling. We wake up on a typical LA Saturday morning to get some last minute packing done before our flight at night (we chose a flight at night to be able to sleep on the plane). I can’t usually sleep on the plane, though, for a combination of paranoia over watching my things, discomfort from the rigid seats, the noise, etc. Nevertheless, I have that excited and hopeful travel buzz: apprehensiveness of the unknown but ready for an escape from the day to day.

We think of our priority pass benefit that comes with the Chase Reserve Card. But it’s late so it’s sad that we can’t use the lounge because by the time we arrive the lounges are closed. And then the question of whether to eat or not to eat before our flight comes up. Will the airplane give us good food to eat? Will we feel like eating it?

We end up eating on the flight. China Airlines fed us many times on the flight and we felt that they were more generous than other airlines. Did I mention we booked the flight with points? The airplane ticket was $486 US but we used points to book it, so essentially it was free. Travel hacking is such a sophisticated way of managing money.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Points: 32,426 (equivalent to $486 US in airplane ticket prices)

China Airlines airplane food meal #2

 

It was really nice being able to catch up watching movies. I think that’s one of the best parts of long flights… catching up on movies you haven’t watched. And reading books you always tell yourself you’re going to read but you never do.

The flight path was basically from LAX to Taipei for a layover then to Shanghai. We arrived in Taipei at 5AM, so it was calm and felt… very early. After a stop at a lounge for some more food and drinks, we hop back on another plane to Shanghai.

Plaza Premium Lounge at Taoyuan Airport in TW for our layover to PVG Shanghai

 

After a couple hours we landed in Shanghai and I immediately notice the air feels and smells… well different. Not in a bad way, but there’s a distinct scent in the air from the humidity and climate. People who have traveled to Asia probably know what I’m talking about.

Proceeding to the outside world, we’re greeted in Mandarin Chinese by a person who seems to be directing arriving passengers to taxi or bus lines.  I’m prepared with a printed out Google and Baidu map (the Chinese version of Google Maps because Google is blocked by a firewall) and the address of the Shanghai Disney Hotel, along with estimated fare I had researched from the internet and time of travel.

There were several trucks on the road. One of the trucks with an open top — carrying some kind of sandy material — made the road a complete dust storm. We passed through Ji Chang Dao and through a couple tunnels. After approximately 45 minutes, we arrived at what looked like a bus terminal. We had told the taxi to take us to the hotel, but we arrived at this place instead so we were a bit confused. I asked where the hotel was and he said something along the lines of “it should be over there. They don’t allow taxis to drop off at hotels.” Well.

From Shanghai Pudong Airport to Shanghai International Tourist Zone (to catch the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel shuttle)

Time: ~45 minutes

Cost: 85 RMB

There was a group of guys standing around where we were dropped off. They appeared to be  taxi drivers. They asked us where we were going, if we were going to Disneyland. I replied that we were going to the hotel. They pointed to where Disneyland was and asked if we wanted to go to the park or Disneyland. I just reiterated that we were going to the hotel… Why was that hard to understand? So, we knew at this point that we were just going to find the hotel ourselves. Finally one of the guys says there’s a bus across the way to the hotel. It was an odd exchange.

We walk over to the bus terminal and we see that there are obvious signs for Toy Story hotel. The Shanghai Disneyland hotel sign wasn’t so obvious but we watch for a bus coming in indicating that it’s headed for the hotel. When we boarded the empty bus for Shanghai Disneyland Hotel, the bus driver asked us if the air conditioning was okay. I thought that was nice of him. Taxi drivers don’t seem to care all that much.

Right at the bus stop for the hotel, a cast member is standing right outside the bus waiting for us to off board and help us with luggage if needed. As we walk into the hotel lobby we are greeted by a few cast members directing guests this way and that. The hotel receptionist spoke some minimal English and we manage to figure out the logistics of the place.

It was some time in the afternoon, so we still had time to visit the park. But first, we freshened up after a 16+ hour flight. There’s something nice about showering in the middle of the day…it’s like a sense of renewal. More pictures/video of our hotel room in my Youtube vlog

 

Disney Hotel, Garden section

Can you find the hidden Mickey?

 

We headed to guest relations to ask a few questions about tickets. And it is at this point that we learn something about how other people cut other people in line here. A middle aged man walks up and stands right in front of us while we’re in line! Are you serious?

Thank goodness there’s a cast member to call him out on it. He just replies that he’s lining up. The cast member repeats that he has to be lined up, BEHIND the person in front. I feel like the cast members deal with this kind of rudeness all the time!

Then we entered the gates to our last Disney park.

The SH Disney Castle

Hi Olaf – and Sven hiding in the bushes!

 

And we bolted to ride Tron! The wait time was around twenty minutes. The process to ride consists of putting your bags/belongings in a cart. There’s a small compartment for your phone and/or sunglasses on the ride, but anything else bigger than that has to go in the bin. We reluctantly let us belongings go in the bin. After the exhilarating ride, we dashed to the bin to grab our things before someone else could… Right outside the ride there’s a locker area, but it just wouldn’t take our credit cards. The lockers weren’t free. Watch my youtube vlog to see more about the ride

There were interesting snacks: tater tots with meat floss, peach green tea in a cute mickey head cup, and seaweed flavored rice crackers

tater tots with meat floss

Peach green tea with mickey shaped gummies

 

It was a nice, warm afternoon that progressed into a comfortable spring evening. We decided to eat at Shanghai Min which is a restaurant in Disney Town. There were families and couples inside. I noticed a table had brought their own box of tissues (it’s not unusual in China to bring your own tissues/napkins to dining places and bathrooms); however, the restaurant did provide napkins. We ordered spicy pork dumplings (the ones in a pool of yummy spicy sauce), crab roe and meat tofu, and Shanghainese vegetable rice. It was good, but I was hoping the Shanghainese vegetable rice would come in a stone pot. We even wanted to order more rice to pair with the meat tofu dish, but the server advised that it would be too much rice. That was thoughtful of him.

When we retired to the hotel, we were pretty exhausted and fell asleep at 9PM! Can you imagine falling asleep so early? Although we traveled for 14 hours to Taiwan, did a 3 hour layover, and then flew to Shanghai for another 1.5 hours.

Day 2: Human Barricade

Now that we had a good night’s sleep, we were ready to conquer Shanghai Disneyland! We headed through the maze of barriers just to enter the park. Again, people tried to walk ahead of us while we were standing in line. We had to prop our elbows and make sure to tightly cut the corners or else they would slip in and try to get in front. It was getting a little ridiculous.

I had heard about the immersive, awesome experience of the Pirates ride. I also saw a demo of the ride, so I had to try out the finished ride. The line was pretty long. Then we notice a man behind us. We both turned our heads and we see these two people that we haven’t seen before. I had clearly remembered it was a mom and her son behind me. Then I look to my right. There’s the mom and son, extremely close to me. These were two new line cutters. This middle aged man and his companion were trying to cut us.

Waiting in line felt like a century. The man kept getting closer. His fat beer belly hitting our backpack. Each turn of the line turned into a human barricade. Then I turned to ask him if he knew how to line up!

And then he backed off. However, he wouldn’t stop nudging his way closer, past the mom and her son. This kind of stuff takes some of the magic away from the ride and the park.

Once we board the large boat-like vessel, we emerge into a different world. The ride was fantastically designed. Kudos to the Imagineers. The large IMAX screens, the designs, and sound effects are awe-inducing.

After the ride we see through the Disney App that the Tron fastpass ran out by 2pm! That’s crazy

We had to try Buzz Light Year, which didn’t have a long line at all, but it should! It’s way more responsive than the one in Disneyland Anaheim. Both of us scored at the highest tier, Galactic Hero, which is a score of over 1 million. The ride also has a photo-op and we took a look at the other scores to get a feel of how we were doing… Very well apparently.

While walking around the park we saw a lot of children connected via rope to their parents. It looked like this

Child safety mechanism…

 

Then we tried the Challenge Course. Twice. It was that fun! There’s no rope course like it in all of the Disney Parks except this one. I can’t imagine it in the US, there would be too many complaints from injuries, falling off, weight issues, etc.

There are different tracks for the Challenge course, so the first time we were able to scale a wall NEXT TO A WATERFALL. How amazing. The second time ended with walking on a tight rope.

We were connected to a rope while scaling a wall next to a waterfall

 

The wait was around 25 minutes at 10:30am.

Lunch time came around soon enough. There was a nice ancient Chinese themed restaurant called Wandering Moon. We ordered pork belly rice and seafood noodles. The sit down restaurant was clean and the food was alright.

As we waited to ride Tron at night (it’s more fun with the lights surrounding you), we rode Buzz light again. and again and again and again. Yup, 4 times!

We ate dinner at Nan Xiao Guan in Disney Town to try some five different types of Xiao Long Bao. Watch my youtube vlog to see the inside of each dumpling

 

What an eventful second day packed with all the rides and food we wanted.

Day 3: The Bund

The next chapter of our trip consisted of exploring Shanghai and The Bund.

The hotel helps call us a taxi to Hyatt on The Bund

Time: ~Approximately 40 minutes.

Cost: 116 RMB

The hotel spoke English fairly well and we settled into our more metropolitan stay. More details in my youtube vlog (link above)

Off to eat at a restaurant that specializes in crab and fish maw soup.

We walked from the hotel to East Nanjing Road station, which was around a 10-15 minute walk along tourist and busy streets. We paid for a ticket at the East Nanjing Road subway station on the Green Line #2 towards Xujing Road. We got off at Zhongshan Yuan and walked out Exit 3. The Cloud Nine Shopping Mall had a restaurant Chi Pin Pin on their upper levels. The mall had 8 floors. The crab and fish maw soup combination was very good. The service was good as well. The waiter heard us struggling with the Chinese menu so he handed us an English menu!

After walking around a bit, we get some boba! Afterall, we are in China which is close to Taiwan, the birth place of the delicious dessert called boba. According to research, Dakasi was one of the popular boba places in China. We order the passion fruit tea which had a lot of fresh seeds! We also have the fresh kumquat and lemon.

Cost: ~19RMB for two boba drinks. The mini boba and large boba milk tea is 8RMB.

Dakasi Boba at Cloud Nine Mall

 

Then we head back… And we unfortunately didn’t notice the time…

Everyone says to avoid the subways around rush hour.

And we took the subway around rush hour.

We were packed like sardines on the subway at 5pm. Lots of pushing and shoving to get off the train.

The weather was amazingly clear – we could see The Bund/oriental pearl tower from our hotel. It was a beautiful cityscape.

Shanghai Bund at night

Day 4: “Are all restaurants this dirty?”

After all that walking, a trip to the spa sounded like the best solution. We book a foot massage at Hyatt, but with some difficulty with the spa representative on the phone. There was some confusion about whether the discount could work anytime or only if you retrieved a voucher from the front desk. Either way, they had availability when we wanted. Receptionist at the spa didn’t speak English, so I tried speaking Mandarin.

The treatment started off with some tea and crackers. The crackers were surprisingly good. After finishing the delights, the massage began. The masseuse knew what she was doing and really worked out the most of the knots in my feet. Who knew I would have them at this age.

Tea and cookies at the spa pre-massage. Good cookies.

 

Then we took the subway to Xintiandi, a place with plenty of food and shopping. From the hotel we walked to Nanjing East Road Station and boarded the subway to Xintiandi, which was the third stop on the green line.

Cost: 6RMB

We ate at Din Tai Fung to try their xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. I mean, these dumplings came from Shanghai, so when in Shanghai, we have to try them! The soup dumplings tasted a bit more flavorful than the DTFs in LA. They also add 10% service charge.

DTF puts covers over your belongings while you eat!

Truffle Xiao Long Bao

 

Then we walked to the French Concession because it was so close! Lots of Europeans walking around. We got boba at the popular Yi Dian Dian. And I saw for the first time, light brown colored boba. The milk tea was alright. Sweetness was low which was preferred.

Yi Dian Dian Boba at Xin TIan Di

 

The area felt very European with people sitting outside, having high tea. So we had high tea at Cobra Lily. The little finger foods were plated on a moon shaped multilevelled serving platter. The servers even spoke English.

Cobra Lily high tea

High Tea at Xin Tian Di

 

We had a food tour scheduled in the Jing An area, which was near Shanghai. The taxi was 40 RMB from Xintiandi to the Jing An area. We were a little late due to traffic.

The food tour took us to local restaurants and through winding streets and alleyways. We met a lot of expats and tourists on the tour. However, I felt like the food tour was geared for people who are totally unfamiliar with Chinese food because we ate things like roast duck, which we ate before and still eat. But we did try unique things like Muslim Chinese food and spicy Sichuan food. The funniest part of this tour was when this European couple asked the tour guide, “are the restaurants usually this dirty?”

It wasn’t even that dirty, but I could see how the price we paid didn’t seem to match the places went. I didn’t even know whether to laugh or just ignore the question. There was a cat walking around. According to one of the attendees of the tour, it’s considered good luck.

 

Day 5:  Giant Soup Dumplings for $ vs. Michelin Menu for $$$

We meet a friend staying in Shanghai for a study abroad nursing program. There’s a tourist spot nearby with the famous single large soup dumpling at the Yu Yuan Garden. We took a subway there from the hotel and it was only 3RMB per person.

It feels like a shopping center in a garden. They’re selling jade, gold, silver, embroidered tapestries, Chinese peanut candy, traditional Chinese clothes like the qi pao,  scarves, and more. It’s a full on marketplace.

I misread one of the signs and thought that the soup dumpling was located in one of the cafeteria-like restaurants. We enter the restaurant and see a lot of food on skewers and Chinese food. Before we know it, we’ve spent 240 RMB on food here. It’s hard to control oneself when you can just grab any plate that suits your fancy. Also, pricing isn’t clear for each plate of food. They’ll plate three fried crabs on one plate and then charge you per crab…

After that little misstep, we set out to walk around some more. It starts to drizzle. Then it turns into pouring rain. We huddle inside the shops to wait it out. After we browse the shops some more, we see a sign and long line for giant soup dumplings. Aha! So that’s where it is! The soup dumpling was 20 RMB and the set of soup dumplings were 25 RMB.

The famous giant xiao long bao

 

Then we were in the mood for some dessert after all the salty food. Mango desserts seemed to be ubiquitous. We ordered a bowl of fresh mango, coconut milk, and ice for 38 RMB. They had different combinations for us to choose from like a beverage with dessert ice if we spent over a certain amount.

We also visited the world’s largest starbucks in Shanghai. It probably won’t be the biggest Starbucks for long as Starbucks continues to expand.

The largest Starbucks in the world in SH

 

We walked with our friend back on the subway and to The Bund to take some pictures. Unfortunately, The Bund was very cloudy (with pollution or just low fog, we may never know) and not ideal for pictures. It’s such a hit or miss with the weather.

See? Its a hit or miss to get a good shot of the Bund

 

After wishing our friend good luck, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner across The Bund. We had the hotel write us the address of the restaurant. We mapped it and saw that it was 15 minutes by car. We waited and waited by the taxi stop outside the hotel. Then a taxi came by. As we got in, the bell boy informed the taxi driver of the location. Then the taxi driver said he didn’t know where it was and asked where it was…

He has a phone with a GPS map screen open. He could’ve looked it up.

The bell boy told him the address and the name of the hotel with the restaurant.

Again, the taxi driver said something in a northern Chinese dialect that I don’t understand. But as soon as the bell boy shook his head at the taxi driver and re-opened the door for us, we understood it meant the taxi driver wasn’t going to take us there.

So, we waited and waited. Perhaps the destination wasn’t far enough for the taxi driver so they pretend not to know where it is… the bell boy speculated that this might be the case.

From Hyatt on the Bund to Yong Yi Ting at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Cost: 41 RMB

Time: 45 mins

There was traffic and who knows where the taxi driver drove us. The time should have been just 15 minutes.

The restaurant was Yong Yi Ting, a 2018 Michelin starred restaurant. It was very elegantly designed and had an elevated atmosphere. The menu said one of the dishes was served smoked egg and caviar, but when the dish came out it was sweet shrimp…

Sprite and tea = 55RMB

This one broke the break and we won’t be spending this much at a restaurant like this for 50 years.

 

During the meal, one of the headwaiters came to chat with us. He expressed that he didn’t encounter people who looked like us who didn’t speak Shanghainese or Chinese. It’s very interesting to meet people who don’t have the same exposure to other people from different cultures.

They replaced the caviar with a sweet shrimp…

abalone

traditional SH meatball

soup mochi in spicy sweet ginger soup

 

The meal left us full but desiring something more. I’m not sure if I’ll expect a Michelin here to be the same as a Michelin in the US.

The taxi back to hotel was only 25 RMB… Why was it twice as much getting there? Gr.

We settled in the hotel and gazed at the cityscape. Ready for our Korean Air First Class seats bought with points the next day to end our trip on a sky high note! Stay tuned for a post on our first class seats, how we booked it for free, and the service on the flight.

(The conversion rate from USD to RMB at the time of this post: $1 USD = ~6.6 RMB)

Would you want to visit Shanghai?