From Siem Reap, I booked a flight to Seoul, South Korea. I noticed that the least expensive route connected through Shanghai, China. As a free-spirited wander, I immediately thought about exploring China for the first time. I broke down this one-way flight into two legs: Siem Reap–>Shanghai and Shanghai–>Incheon (Seoul’s international airport). As I suspected, the two legs priced the same ($338) as one combined leg since the hub of the carrier, China Eastern Airlines, is Shanghai.
Two weekends earlier, I had attended the second race of the 2015 Formula One season, the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang. Happenstance was smiling upon me because this weekend coincided with the next circuit event, the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai, which cemented my decision.
Until this Shanghai trip, the largest city proper I had visited was Istanbul, which is fifth-largest with 14 million residents. By my count, I have been to 12 of the top 50: Shanghai, Istanbul, São Paulo, Seoul, Mexico City, Lima, New York City, London, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Rio de Janeiro, and Singapore. Shanghai has more than 24 million people, and with a city that large, there is no place to hide from the masses. Everywhere, there were volumes of people waiting to fill the spaces, in the way that the chemical properties of water fill up any receptacle.
It was only a few hours after I had arrived in the city that I was told about air quality. I have read much on Chinese air pollution, but I was still surprised because I had not thought about it. When I was there, I thought the air quality quite breathable, although it was in the 150-200 range, which is marked as “unhealthy.” Already obsessing about the real-time UV index, I regularly check this awesome air quality page: aqicn.org.
Annoyingly, visitors to China require securing a visa in advance. Only recently implemented, U.S. visitors can now receive a visa that is valid for 10 years instead of for only three months. A lightly known and unique opportunity arises if one would like to visit for 72 hours or less, which was my case. I do not need to apply for a visa in advance, and there is no expense! I went in the regular immigration lane and impressively, the agent already knew my name before I handed him my passport. This creepy introduction made me think that he had received in advance information on all passengers who would be requesting this special visa. The whole process took less than 10 minutes.
My second consecutive Formula One event was not as eye-opening as my first ever experience at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but it was still awesome. The cosmopolitan glamour is captivating. The cars were also much louder this time, as I sat in a proper seat, closer to the track. I paid $220 for my grandstand seat near the back straight. The race was not nearly as exciting as the previous one, as Lewis Hamilton ran away easily. Although getting to and from the track nearly two hours each way on both Saturday and Sunday, the logistics were far simpler, with only one simple train transfer, as opposed to a bevy of shuttle buses and walks in stifling heat.