By Tom Blake

My partner Greta and I are on an 82-day cruise in Asia.

After spending two days in the Tianjin/Beijing area, highlighted by a trip to the Great Wall of China, our ship docked in Shanghai, a bustling city of 25 million people.

From our ship stateroom, we had a million-dollar view across the Huangpu River to the Pudong New Area, which features the imposing Oriental Pearl TV and Radio Tower that rises 1,535 feet, the fifth-tallest structure in the world.

The 88-story Jin Mao building is close to the tower, as well as at least 100 other impressive modernistic buildings, most within walking distance of each other.

The Shanghai skyline. Photo: Tom Blake
The Shanghai skyline. Photo: Tom Blake

Prior to 1990, the Pudong Area was rice fields and farmlands. Now, the buildings and nearby homes and condos are the showpieces of the booming economy of mainland China.

The ship was docked near the Bund, a historical area that was the financial district in years past. At the Tourist Information Office there, we secured a map of Shanghai and boarded a hop-on, hop-off bus, which we often do on the first day in cities we haven’t been before. This gives us a quick overview of the important sites to visit.

A couple of hours later, we exited the bus and took a 10-minute, under-the-river, gondola-like ride through flashing neon lights via the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel to the Pudong New Area. We emerged amid those massive buildings and a bunch of Disney attractions.

But Greta and I had a bigger adventure in mind on the Pudong side: we hired a taxi to take us to the Long Yang Train Station, a 25-minute ride. There, we purchased round-trip tickets to the Shanghai International Airport train station, not because we were flying anywhere, but because we wanted to experience riding on a train of the future.

The Magnetic Levitation (Maglev) Train connects Shanghai to the airport. It has no wheels and floats on an electromagnetic cushion, along a guideway for 20 miles, reaching up to 267 miles per hour—the highest speed ever by any operational transport on the ground.

While waiting for the return trip in the train departure lounge at the airport, we met a delightful, young Chinese woman named Polly, who was traveling to Shanghai for her first-ever business meeting. She ensured we got on the train properly and rode with us back to Long Yang station.

And then, she guided us to the proper subway line for the return trip back to Shanghai and the Bund side of the river. We had made a wonderful friend and exchanged email addresses. Since then, we have emailed several times.

From left: Gretta, Tom and Polly. Photo: Tom Blake
From left: Greta, Tom and Polly. Photo: Tom Blake

The weather in Shanghai that day was perfect: blue skies, 70 degrees, with no air pollution. Hence, we walked back to the ship. We popped into the Peace Hotel, now a Fairmont Hotel, a historic, five-star attraction. We saw Sunday brunch advertised for $140 per person. We decided we weren’t that hungry.

Then we crossed the Garden Bridge. It’s a tradition for couples to pose there on their wedding day. Many people marry on Sundays in Shanghai. We saw six newlywed couples posing for photos on the bridge and many more along the Bund Riverwalk.

That night, as dusk descended on the Shanghai skylight, the lights of the buildings came alive as we viewed them from our stateroom. It was a blaze of lights and color, as entire buildings lighted.

And then a parade of dinner boats, all lighted, started on the river. At times, there were five or six boats passing below our stateroom, mixed in with barges moving through the water. The boats, together with the building lights, provided the most spectacular light show we had ever seen.

For our first day in Shanghai, China’s most impressive city, we had seen everything we hoped for, and more.

Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites www.findingloveafter50.com; www.vicsta.com and www.travelafter55.com. To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at www.findingloveafter50.com. Email: tompblake@gmail.com.

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