Earlier this month Jon and I were very fortunate to be able to visit Shanghai for the very first time. The main reason to visit was of course the brand new Shanghai Disney Resort that opened there in June.
On our first day however, we did make a trip into the city, albeit a brief one. So, here I'll tell you about our arrival experience and visiting the city, and as always, the main Disney park report has begun on Character Central
Arriving in Shanghai's Pudong airport was easier than I had anticipated. We were utilising the 144 hour visa free transit option, which meant we could visit Shanghai Disney Resort for up to six days without the hassle of going to the embassy in Washington DC.
While I am not going to give out visa advice here, I will say this. Most "Western" nations are able to make use of the 144 hour visa free scheme, but you should be well prepared. We flew out of Newark, NJ, with United on their daily scheduled Shanghai route, but were alarmed to find that nobody knew what we were talking about when we checked in. We were asked if we had a visa, and when we explained about the visa free transit, they looked at us as though we were crazy. After some checking on their part, and me showing them various printouts, they were satisfied we could board, but it really was a problem at first. So my advice would be to make sure you are armed with printouts and all the facts, and stand your ground.
Arrival in Shanghai was much simpler, with there even being a dedicated lane for the 144 hour visa free transit people. As long as you have proof of your onward flight and where you're staying, you should be through within minutes. There were even Shanghai Disney Resort posters in the hallways to get us excited!
After we collected our luggage we decided that we would take a taxi. There are clear signs within the airport for the trains and taxis, and we were easily able to find the right place. Asking the people at the taxi stand to get us to Shanghai Disney Resort on the other hand was more of a problem. Surprisingly, given that Shanghai’s Pudong airport is the main international airport of the region, people here spoke very little English, and seemed to be bewildered by what Shanghai Disney Resort was! (Didn't we just see posters advertising the resort in the hallway?!) Some arm gesturing and variously articulated pronunciations later, we established we wanted to go to a hotel at Shanghai Disney Resort. Of course, we were taken to the wrong hotel, but we politely paid the fare upon arrival and waited for the shuttle from the Shanghai Disneyland Hotel to the Toy Story Hotel, because quite honestly, it was easier.
Skipping over the hotel details for now (that'll be in part one of my main Disney report on Character Central), after checking in we made our way to the train station. The hotel has a bus that serves the various amenities of the resort, including the train station.
Of course, things weren't quite so clearly signed and we ended up in the exit trying to figure out how exactly to get a ticket. Walking around the outside of the building we eventually found the rather nondescript ticket office, and purchased what we needed. The train station itself has a modest Disney theme to it, with characters depicted on the platform doors and up the walls of the stairs, and some sort of statue in the entrance. The ceiling is pretty at night with lots of changing colours. I personally don't think it is as nice as the train station at Hong Kong Disneyland, but it is certainly better than either Maihama or Marne la Valleé Chessy at Tokyo Disney Resort and Disneyland Paris (respectively).
I have to say, given the investment in this place, and as big a deal as it is, Shanghai Disney Resort is not an easy place to reach. Between the visa complications, nobody knowing where to take you from the airport taxi stand, and with what I'm about to tell you with the trains, it is definitely the most complicated resort to visit.
So, to those trains. Despite being near the airport, apparently there is no direct train. In fact, there isn't even a second-hand train (if that makes sense). You have to take no less than three trains (with all your luggage), to get here! Then of course once you arrive you have to take a shuttle to your hotel. Wow! Leaving the resort to get to the city is just as complicated. To get to the core downtown area, and to the Disney Store that we wanted to visit, again, it took three trains. I don't mean to sound arrogant about it, but really, given the size of the resort and the investment Disney has brought to the area, making getting in and out easier would really be helpful.
Having said all that, using the train was overall a pleasant experience. They were clean, efficient and got us to where we wanted to go, so I have no complaints.
I am sure that Shanghai has so much more to offer, but ultimately, we are Disney nerds, and our goal was to visit the Disney Store. We tried to take in as much of the surroundings as we could while walking along the street, and what we saw sure looked cool.
The Disney Store is strategically positioned in a busy area, near lots of other stores (including an Apple Store). There is a courtyard outside that has a fantastically whimsical clock tower that has Disney characters move about it. The store itself isn't that big, and mostly contains items that can be found at the US or Japanese stores (it was an odd mixture of both. A hybrid store, if you like). They even had the Japanese-created UniBEARsity stuff. They did have some store-unique items though, which was nice to see, which mostly featured the clock tower from out the front of the store.
Of course, as you can see I took plenty of photos inside, and they didn’t seem to mind. You couldn’t take food or drink inside though, and there was even a security check at the door. Interestingly, it has been repeatedly claimed that this is the "largest" Disney Store in the world. I don’t know what scale somebody is using to make that claim, but having visited many, many Disney Stores world over, I can assure you this store is certainly not the biggest. Perhaps if they include the courtyard outside with the clock tower, then maybe, but that’s distorting the reality really, I think! It was fun to see though, and another one I can check off my list!
Three trains later, we were back at the resort, and ready for the next day - our first full day ever at Shanghai Disneyland!
Although we didn't see much of the city, from what I saw, Shanghai is an impressive city that is clean, modern and friendly.
Be sure to check out the first part of my epic Shanghai Disney Resort trip report on Character Central
Have a great day everyone,