As Virgin Atlantic flight 250 gently descends onto the runway, my heart begins to flutter. The most exillerating feeling runs through me. Shanghai for the 4th time in just over a year still cannot stop me or bore me. I am about to spend time in one of the world’s most excitingly sensual cities, again….
Pudong’s new terminal 2 is antiseptically clean. There are no queues. The plane was only a third full. The usher points to Counter 44. Hmm, never a good number to be stuck with. A slight irritation occurs. I am asked for my name in Chinese, written in Chinese. It makes no sense as I scribble the Chinese characters on my landing card. I do it as best as I can. When the light flashes on the counter asking me to rate my experience at the peril of the immigration officer, I press the non committal button but only after my passport is returned to me. No, she didn’t deserve the top extra smiley face.
Luggage was out, lifelessly revolving round the new squeaky conveyor number 8 by the time we had gone through immigration. Everything in my life is about numerals. I’m Chinese, I reassure myself. Nothing wrong with that.
A HSBC cash machine is the next stop. Checking carefully as 3000RMB is expelled. We head for the taxi rank. 88YongShou Lu by JinLing Lu is the destination. For the first time in months, Mandarin hits my ears. It seemed so normal.
The Toyota heads off. The smell of Shanghai is numbingly oriental. At 8am in the morning, the sun is shining. There is no pollution in the crisp air. The forty minute trip included a sightseeing tour, passing the construction site of Shanghai’s 2010 Expo, filled with cranes and labourers with the firework like sparking of electric saws in the distance.
People everywhere. Bicycles, bells, hawkers, as we head into the city centre. The aromas change. The noise changes. Roads narrow down drastically. I am tranced by the skill of the taxi driver.
New Harbour Apartment block is the same. It felt like I had never left Shanghai. Same receptionist, anal to the minutest detail on the check-in form. The meal cards are carefully counted. Each one with a neat stamp of the issuance date. The bell boy, in his royal blue uniform and pillbox hat takes our luggage. 1601. That’s OK, my mind still working overtime on numerals.
Time didn’t matter anymore. I was in Shanghai. Racing through my mind, Zhengjien Baojis, hairy crabs, XiaoLong bao, and everything Shanghainese. But I wasn’t hungry. Adrenalin pumping I couldn’t wait to hit the city. All my favourite spots.