The trip to Shanghai was all but likely. Yes, we'd bought some plane tickets and sure, we knew how to get to the airport, but once at the airport it seemed like the Beijingers did everything they could to keep us from leaving.
First, we couldn't find where to check-in. We were flying on a Chinese discount airline called China Southern who was supposed to be at check-in station Q. We looked around and saw that the stations went from A-L. We were finally directed to station "Q" located in the corner and near a suspicious open door. We checked in and then went downstairs to the gate, which was also strange because the rest of the gates were upstairs. It turned out that China Southern flew out of a sort of make-shift gate that was on the ground of the runway. From there, we took buses to the actual plane. Well, that's how it was supposed to happen. We were there pretty early so we had a seat, read and wrote in our journals. They were announcing boarding calls in Chinese and English so we kept an ear out. We were supposed to board at something like 11:00, and while neither of us really kept track of time, we were both listening intently. At some point, instead of the clear, automated English messages, they started using a scratchy walkie-talkie and only speaking in Chinese. The next thing we knew, it was 11:10 and we still hadn't heard anything about our flight. J went to check it out and not only was it "last call," but our gate had changed! We ran over to the gate, which was just a door, then ran outside, hopped on a bus, and just managed to make it to the plane. Of course, it ended up being delayed for an hour anyway, so all that worrying was for nothing.
Before leaving for our vast Asian adventures, J and I had heard about the Maglev train of Shanghai. It was the fastest vehicle in the world, and it just so happened to transport people from the Shanghai airport to the city center. The Maglev, no longer the fastest train in the world, can top 300 mph and runs on magnetic levitation. They actually have a model of it at the Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago. So, we were pretty excited about taking this train into the city. We had lofty aspirations about our first trip in Shanghai being at top speed. Unfortunately, China Southern got us once again. Apparently there are two airports in Shanghai, a sort of smaller domestic one (think Midway) and a larger, international one (O'Hare). The Maglev runs from Pudong International Airport to the city center in 7 minutes, and between the airports, but not from Hongqiao Airport to the city.
We found the hostel easily and checked into our room. The can of Raid on the cabinet wasn't a good sign, but the common area looked nice and it was filled with foreigners there to see the World Expo.