Pudong’s Way Station

When you are an expat living in places like Changzhou, Wuxi, Zhenjiang, and some of the smaller satellite cities around those prefectures, getting to Pudong International can be a bit of a drama sometimes. This is more the case when you are on a university teacher’s salary and need to travel on budget. You don’t have the deep pockets of an engineer or a business man, and there is no hiring a private driver; you basically have to take a combination of train, subway, and coaches just to get to the airport — and that is just the beginning of a longer journey back to the west. And, sometimes, even logical plans and preparations can go awry.

I know this because I am writing this in New Jersey. It’s that time of year when I go back to America to see my family. Part of my plan involved going to Pudong a night early and staying at the hotel there. Only, no rooms were available once I arrived, and when that happens, one of the airport employees / ushers points you at an booking office that will help you find lodging elsewhere. 

I eventually ended up in a shuttle bus to a nearby hotel. By close, I mean 7 kilometers and in a village near a highway’s on and off ramps.  If you are not careful, you could end up in a “super bargain” of a hotel. Of course, “super bargain” could be a euphemism for something like this…

I ended up here because I thought a representative standing near the Korea Air help desk was some how affiliated with that airline. He wasn’t. This bit of lodging was located on a back street next to a decrepit canal.

Because of a flight scheduling mishap, I ended up staying here for two days. Before anybody suspects that this is the beginning of a horror story, let me just say it isn’t. I have very low standards for hotels — all I need is a clean room, a clean bathroom, a functional shower, wifi, and a desk. If I have that and a cheap lodging price, I am extremely happy. Pools? A weight room? A swanky bar? A fancy restaurant? All that is pretty much useless to me. I am also a guy that doesn’t mind wandering places unfamiliar to me, and I certainly spent a lot time doing that.

At first, Jiangzhen — the town I was in — seemed like a dusty little backwater of Shaghai’s Pudong New District. The major industry here are solely hotels serving overflow passengers needing a temporary accommodation.  I chose to try hard to not look at it that way, and I tried to wander to get a sense of the landscape. I felt watched, quite frankly. Especially by this guy …

Clearly, one of the most epic mustaches in Shanghai.

This all sounds bad, but the entire area has some basic amenities for international travelers that may end up here a night or two.

Starbucks, a Burger King, a KFC, and a few other things. Those are not reasons to come here. Most international travelers do not choose to visit a place like Jiangzhen. None-the-less, they end up here, and time seems to slow down as if you have no other place to go.

Either way, the Jiangzhen area was better than a similar area I stayed in last year while traveling to the USA. That was Hongqiao — their hotel overflow area had nothing, the ATMs were all out of money, and the whole area was a construction site with people staying in it. To that end, Jiangzhen seems a bit cozy.

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