A Walk to Remember: Shanghai Pudong to Hongqiao Airport

By Tobias Welte and Jon Settingsgard, October 21, 2020

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Reader Reports is a new series where That’s readers share worthwhile stories of their time in the Middle Kingdom.

We would like to go back in time with you to the height of COVID-19 in Shanghai. This was a time when all Beer Ladies closed, you developed a closer relationship with your Ele.me driver than your girlfriend(s) and Totino Panino suddenly started to do waimai

During this time there were few thoughts of moving around in China and even fewer opportunities to travel abroad. But man needs to experience, man needs to discover, right?

As American and German expats, we found there was only one way to cure the ‘international travel bug’ – visit two international airports in a single epic walk. We unearthed the holy grail of urban discovery with a daytrip from Pudong International Airport (PVG) to Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) by foot in late May. Yep, that is 60 kilometers. 

Admittedly, we love the city and have a painstaking passion for marching over land. (If you are also into torturing yourself, consider participating in the Dodentocht in Belgium.)

We were looking to relive the memories of overcrowded walkways, fellow travelers sleeping in the airport, washing dirty clothes in the bathtub of a JinJiang Inn, loudspeakers on a stick and the crowd of first-time air-traveled ayi chattering around you.


Less than two decades ago, city officials were mulling plans to link PVG and SHA via Maglev train. ‘Better city, better life…’ 

As far as we can tell, they are no longer pursuing this goal – so we set off to accomplish the distance a a relatively slower pace. 

We decided to attempt the ‘Shanghai Loop’ – leaving Jiangsu Lu metro station at 6am to make it in time for a 7.15am kickstart at PVG and walking back to Hongqiao Transportation Hub T2 in time before the last metro of the night.

The time of year was perfect in terms of temperature and we were spared from the plum rain season’s daily downpours. The day before the journey, we made sure to review the essential rules for a longer-than-average walk:

  1. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen;

  2. Wet wipes;

  3. Hard boiled eggs, survival snickers and bananas (traveling on a shoestring budget);

  4. No matter how hungry you are, no hot pot breaks.  If you still do, see rule #2;

  5. No road beers until mission accomplished (yep, that is a tough one for the expat crowd);

  6. No headphones, get unplugged!  This walk will just be you, nature and 25 million other people. But, most importantly, a day of good talking to an old friend

Even with the walking route confirmed, we still had no clue how to walk out of the airport onto the street.  We eventually managed so sneak out past the parking lot reserved for napping bao’an. Queues had never been so short.

After setting off on our journey, we made sure to stay on dirt roads, resembling the genuine travel experiences we had been missing for months. 

For the first few hours, it was just people fishing in dirty rivers, tricycles doubling as public transportation and heavy-duty equipment separating concrete rubbish. Plus, two strangers enjoying local life in Pudong’s countryside.

Dirt roads in Pudong.

We did need a map for the initial stretch of the trip across the eastern planks of Shanghai. However, when crossing the big stream into the heartland of Shanghai, we felt ‘back in da hood.’ Passing through Huaihai and Fuxing Lu was a test of laowai self-control. Do not think about the tired feet, resist the temptation to stop in for a shower and forget about the afternoon free-flow specials. (See rule #5, above). 

A bit of grime along the way.

Major international sporting events such as marathons or the Tour de France have volunteers lining the street handing out water, candy bars and drinks loaded with electrolytes. Shanghai provides a similar service year-round called Lawsons – air conditioning, cheap drinks and fake curry fish balls and pig intestines wafting around the store.

Finally we made it, of course. Sixty kilometers in 12 hours. Painful but well worth it for a sense of adventure!

Interested in joining the next Shanghai trek? Tobias and Jon are organizing another epic walk, dubbed ‘The Beer Lady Marathon,’ covering all The Beer Lady locations. Reach out to Tobias at welte.tobias@gmail.com to learn more.

Have a wild story you’d like to share? Feel free to reach out to our editorial team at editor@thatsmags.com.

Click here for more Reader Reports.

[Cover image via Pixabay]

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