Since we began our sojourn in Shanghai with a highspeed event, the F1 GP of China, it is only fitting that we should conclude our fortnight in China with a couple of speedy actions, one horizontally, the other vertically!
On our penultimate day in Shanghai, we took the subway into town as we had done most days. But on this occasion, we remained on the train past our usual stations in Puxi, crossing beneath the Huangpu River to Pudong. At the Longyang Road station, we switched from the regular subway to the Maglev Highspeed train connecting to Shanghai Pudong International Airport.
We didn’t have any business at the airport, we weren’t flying anywhere, yet, we just wanted to ride the fastest commercial train in the world. Maglev stands for magnetic levitation, to be suspended in a magnetic field. The Shanghai Maglev Train which is also called Shanghai Transrapid is a commercial transport system in which a passenger train is lifted and moved forward through successive magnetic fields generated by a chain of electromagnets. This powerful propulsion “runs” the train not on a track but above a guideway. The train doesn’t actually touch the guideway while it is in motion. Yes, I know, we are fearless.
The countryside just flew by ……… incredible!
At the airport, we passed the time with a little window-shopping and a cup of coffee before catching the return train. It felt strange to be at an airport without flying off into the blue yonder.
From Longyang Road station we still had to take the Metro to carry us into the heart of the Lujiazui Financial and Trade Center for our upcoming vertical speed adventure. This necessity to switch from Maglev to conventional transportation at Longyang Road station is, aside from its astronomical construction cost, one reason for the commercial failure of the Shanghai Transrapid system. The Maglev trains operate at about 20% capacity with a downward trend. After the short Maglev ride, business travelers and tourists have to schlep their luggage across the vastness of Metro stations to connect either to offices in Lujiazui or hotels in Puxi. Therefore, most travelers opt for a Metro ride straight from the airport. It may be slower but it’s less hassle and considerably cheaper.
As we had already encountered in Hong Kong, most pedestrian traffic in the financial districts happens along elevated walkways.
So much green in the city! Spring in Shanghai.
Almost, however, this immense tower wasn’t it. Not quite yet! We were aiming for the Shanghai Tower, the newest and tallest of the Shanghai skyscraperscape. In the picture above you see the SWFC [Shanghai World Financial Center], informally known as the bottle opener. You’ll understand when you see some close-ups later. Reflected in its flank is the Shanghai Tower, one can even see a hint of the external glass skin shrouding the internal structures.
Below you see the bottom section of the twisted, double-layered Shanghai Tower we were aiming to visit.
Just goofing around with our fun-mirror reflections in a polished metal wall, as we and another couple approached the Shanghai Tower lobby.
A multi-media information booth about the Shanghai Tower. It was playing the Chinese version when we came by, so we didn’t stay very long.
Actually, it was a soft ride, over much too soon. The NexWay High-Speed elevators in the Shanghai Tower were designed and are operated by the Japanese Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. The innovations implemented in these elevator systems are mindboggling. They include high-density magnetic field motors, a patented steel fiber and plastic rope system, Active Roller Guide technology that reduces lateral vibrations by 50%, AI, and fuzzy logic. I had a rice cooker with fuzzy logic once, a great little appliance, it even prepared risotto, perfectly. Should you be a technology junky, do click on this NexWay link for detailed information on high-speed vertical transportation.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let the disappointment begin! As it had already been evident down below, smog pretty much canceled out any visual long-distance adventures. Since this had been our last chance to ride the fastest elevator in the world, we didn’t mind all that much. After all, we had seen many of the views close up and personal during our two-week stay in Shanghai. As a matter of fact, I could’ve jobbed as a tour guide for some of these areas in Puxi 😉
Urban legend indicates that the original SWFC design featured a round opening which proved to be too Tora Tora Tora* for comfort, especially in a city that was brutally occupied by Japan. After some serious reflection, the builders changed the shape of the opening to a trapezoid.
Leaving the Shanghai Tower, we got briefly lost in the psychedelic underground shopping spaces.
Finally emerging from the netherworld, we enjoyed one last glimpse of the triplets, Jin Mao Tower and the Bottle Opener, above, and the imposing Shanghai Tower below.
Making our way to the Metro station, we passed some USA-friends and the base of the Oriental Pearl Tower.
On our last day, we tried to get organized. Ayi helped with the laundry and eventually, we got packed up and ready, sadly saying goodbye to our home away from home.
In the evening, we asked our hosts out for dinner. Their choice. Lucky us, they picked one of the most popular bao places in town, Din Tai Fung. I wish, oh, I wish, we had such a dim sim place here!! I truly miss my steamed dumplings!
David took us to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport the next day.
From there we flew to Hong Kong and onward to Paris.
From CDG we caught a train back to our sleepy town of Saintes in the Charente-Maritime department of South-West France,
where we walked in a springtime park with blooming chestnut trees the next day. Home. So welcoming after three months of travel to the far reaches of our globe.
* The phrase “Tora, Tora, Tora” [meaning: tiger] originated during the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It became the title of a highly popular US movie.
On December 9, 1941, this code was sent to the Japanese aircraft carrier by the pilot in the lead plane of the first wave of Japanese fighters in an attack on American soil without a declaration of war. It was an acronym for totsugeki raigeki (突撃雷撃), literally meaning “lightning attack,” indicating to his superiors that the objective of complete surprise had been achieved [wiki].