Because of the extensive metro system, the past few weeks, I was able to explore a big part of this city on foot and using the metro system as my main transportation. Here’s the top five reasons why I love this system:
1. It’s BIG and CHEAP! With 13 lines crisscrossing through the city, you can practically get anywhere with the metro and there is bound to be a metro station at all of Shanghai’s big attractions including most (if all shopping malls). In addition, each trip only costs 3, 4 or 5 RMB ( 1 USD = 6 RMB). Compared to a one-way taxi trip that can cost 40 – 60 RMB into Nanjing Rd from where I live, a 5 RMB trip in the metro is a major bargain! So far, I have only used lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 9 and 10, and it’s enough to get me to everywhere the tour books suggested. Though, this week, I am planning to take the metro to some of the few farther places outside of the city. We’ll see how that goes. On top of that, I have never have to wait more than 4 minutes for a metro to come around, so practically no wait time.
2. Everything is in ENGLISH. As a non-Chinese speaking or reading, the metro beats the bus or the taxi system here anytime because everything is in English, from the signs in the stations to the directions on the metro. In fact, the announcements on the metro is spoken in Chinese and then in English right after so you know where you are heading to. Though the walk during the transfer of different lines can be long, the directions are posted where in Chinese and English, on the ground and on the walls. And if that do not help, all the metro lines are color coded, so just follow the color of the lines you need to take.
3. It’s AIR-CONDITIONED. The weather in Shanghai is always in the mid 30s (celcius that is) and if it is not, the humidity makes it feel like it is in the mid 30s. As a result, having air condition really helps not feeling sticky wet all the time. Well, the best part is that most metro stations are underground and they either have air condition or a nice cool breeze blasting through the tunnel, so it’s amazingly cooling. The metro itself is always air-conditioned, so to avoid the heat and humidity, the metro is definitely a good choice. Given that not all metro stations are created equal (i.e. the station near where I live is the crappiest I have seen in all), most stations are clean and can be an escape to the nasty weather here.
4. SHOPPING! From high-end fashion malls to fake brands to yummy egg tarts, the metro stations have it all. I don’t know if it is coincidental or not, most stations are right underneath a major mall. Well, most stations in the center of a city exits right into the basement/ food court of a mall. So if shopping is in your blood, just take a random line through the center of the city, exit and most likely you’ll hit a mall. Now you can’t really avoid shopping while taking the metro anyways because within the stations are stalls that ranges from 7-eleven style shops to bakeries that sell wonderfully smelling fresh-bake egg tarts, to ramen shops, to snacks on a stick. And if you are not satisfied, in the afternoon, you can find people stretching a piece of blanket on the ground spreading out hair goodies, fake LV wallets, women bags, or cellphone accessories. It is literally an unofficial underground malls some times. Actually, there is an official underground mall underneath one of the most popular station in the city (at People’s Square). If that bores you, the metro stations are covered with bright ads at every step, from Charmaine Sheh selling diet programs, to Bi/Rain selling facial products, to Transformers/Harry Potter ads … the metro stations themselves are quite a trip some times.
5. Last but not least, it’s good, fun, EXERCISE. Most metro stations are located underground or high above ground, which means to enter or exit, one must use the stairs. Now don’t even ask how many set of stairs are in these stations because there are A LOT! For the lazy ones like me, I just take the escalators, which I found has an entire set of rules on its own. If you want to just stand and wait, it is suggested that you stand on the right hand side of the escalators, just step on and let the machine take you up. However, if you are in a rush and need to run, you can use the left hand side to quicken up your trip and walk as the machine is rolling you along. On a side note: Shanghai must be the capital for escalators. There are escalators everywhere and of every sizes, in malls, outdoors, in metro stations, they are everywhere! The longest one I have been one stretches 3 floors (yep, it takes you from floor 1 to floor 4). Anyways, if you feel like you are not getting enough exercise some times, then just take the stairs. Just 2 or 3 stops and you will feel your behind tightened up, this beats the boring StairMasters at the gym for sure.
Well, after 3 weeks of navigating the metro system, I have found that not only do the metro system have their stations, each stations have many exits, heading to different directions. Some times, you don’t have the luxury or a sense of direction to know which exit number to take, so just blindly picking one is fine, but knowing the right exit can save you a ton of time. I.e. the station at Xuijahui is the most extensive I have seen so far. It has 14 exits spreading out in all directions. Now, given that half of those lead into one of the 5 shopping malls in the area, knowing which exit to take will save you at least 15 minutes of walking in the heat. Why do I know this ? After 3 times going to church, every time having to walk in the burning heat for 15 minutes from the station to the church, I finally realized that there is an exit right next to the church. Now, even though I still have to walk, at least I am walking underground, where it is nice and cool and then take the exit right next to the church.
Now, there are some downfalls to taking the metro all the times, that is:
- I have not seen a lot of street life or traffic in Shanghai since most of my time is spent underground and just the walking areas around where I am heading.
- During traffic time, morning, lunch, and afternoon, it can get crowded, even from getting on an escalators to squeezing into a metro car.
- You have to be rude as people do not let you exit out of the metro before they get it in. Once the door opens, every man is for himself, just push your way through. And forget about getting a seat in the metro if you have any common courtesy because there’s always an old person or children standing while a capable young man pushing people out of the way to fight for a seat.
- Some of the transfer can be a pain as you are walking for almost 5 – 10 minutes or so. Good exercise in my view, but a pain for others.
- PDA. Boys and girls of Shanghai just tend to hold each other a little too close in the metro. It makes me want to barf some times.