PVG to Nanjing

Old Oct 26, 18, 8:19 pm
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PVG to Nanjing

Hoping for a bit of help here...

I have a mileage run booked to PVG for Thanksgiving weekend (arrive Thurs, leave Sunday). I've been to Shanghai before, just last December, and did most of the big things to do in town. I'm sure I can fill 2-3 days of hanging around Shanghai, but I'm thinking of exploring outside of the city. I have the Waldorf-Astoria booked on points, so I can cancel without penalty up until the day before. I was looking at Hilton locations in nearby towns that have tourist sites, and Nanjing keeps coming up.

While looking through the forum yesterday, I found the following in a thread somewhere, by @JPDM:
I often fly into Pudong on an international flight and need to make my way to Hongqiao to take a train to Nanjing.
I have tried every combination and find the bus (30RMB) to be the "best" alternative in terms of cost and time to get there. However, there are often a lot of people meaning that you can't get on the next bus, resulting in a wait in excess of 30 minutes. If the waiting line is too long, I take the Maglev + subway.
If I wish to connect to a very specific train (some high-speed trains are faster than other), I take the Maglev + subway. While it may or may not be faster then the bus, the travel time is 100% predictable and I know exactly at what time I'll be in Hongqiao as traffic has no impact on travel time.
So my questions are:
1. Is Nanjing somewhere I can visit and will there be enough to keep me busy for 2 full days (plus nights on either side)? If not, are there any other cities you would recommend? Or I could possibly keep a night in Shanghai, then go to Nanjing (or elsewhere).

2. Is the Maglev-->subway connection recommended to get from PVG to Hongqiao? I don't speak Chinese, but I can read some of the characters (I speak some Korean and Japanese). I can sometimes understand a little Chinese when it is spoken slowly (which seems to be next to never). Does the Maglev take the T-Money card? I have one from last year, but will need to add to it. Is the connection between Maglev and subway pretty seamless?

3. Between here on FT and posts on TA, picking up tickets at Hongqiao sounds like a horror story. Is it really that bad? Has anyone done it and can give directions how (specific level and/or window I should go to)?

4. My flight arrives at PVG around 4pm. In looking at Flightaware, it seems to be on time most of the time, if not 30 minutes early. In the past 2 weeks it has been late twice, as late as 20 minutes. I will have carry-on baggage only (a roller and a backpack). Do you think I can feasibly make a 7:30pm train?

5. For arrival in Nanjing, I'm planning to stay at the Hilton in town (not the one on the river unless someone has a recommendation). According to Google maps, the main Nanjing and Nanjing South stations look similar distance. Should I just select the station based on schedule, or is one better than the other?

6. When leaving Nanjing to head back to PVG, what time would you recommend booking a train for? Would noon be too early? For that, I can have the ticket delivered to the hotel, and otherwise just follow what I did inbound (but in reverse order).

Thanks for any help!
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Old Oct 26, 18, 8:58 pm
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1) Nanjing is a big city - actually more than enough stuff for several days. It's the official capital of the RoC, has plenty of history (including the very dark part when the japanese brutes did the massacre of Nanjing - if you got a strong stomach, I'd strongly suggest to visit the museum) - also, it sports now an excellent public transport network, and tons of good hotels. You can do some hiking in the mountains around Dr. Sun Yat Sen memorial, visit the old sites of Pre-War Nanjing including Presidential Palace, visit the first ever YangZe Bridge built - I suggest asking TripAdvisor for more details. In short, Nanjing is less international than Shanghai, but it has a lot of history.

2) Personally I'd suggest the bus, since it's most comfortable compared to the subway, for a relatively low price. In the past I took the bus to the normal Shanghai Railway station (easier to actually change from bus to train) quite often. Alternatively, if you're not in a hurry, take the subway. It takes a bit longer, but the interchange is on the same platform (and much cheaper, of course) - Maglev+Metro is actually requiring the most amount of "changes". But all 3 options aren't THAT much different. With (heavier) baggage it would always be the bus for me, if not very much in a hurry, all by metro is my choice (did this in- and out of Shanghai in spring, found it rather convenient with light luggage, and not really much slower when the metro just drives off compared to possible waiting time for Maglev + need to change "properly")

3) Never picked up tickets in Hongqiao station. Regular Shanghai station always had an "English speaking counter" on the far right - other stations have it on another side, so no clue where it's exactly located in Hongqiao. However, I've found the setting always to be clear enough signed, never really had trouble to buy/pick up tickets. It's not much fun, though, so if I get a chance to buy tickets at a travel agency in a city (usually 5 RMB extra) I'd happily do that. But picking up tickets at a station (or even buying) is fine, outside of the golden weeks. I suppose you don't need explanation when those are.

4) 7.30pm sounds like a very safe bet to me. In fact, I'd probably say that's about the best time if you pre-book the tickets. If you arrive more or less on time, you should be out of the airport no later than 5pm even with terrible queues (or quicker if none) - giving you plenty of time to even take the metro-only connection.

5) I think the Hilton Wanda Plaza is about the WORST Hilton I've experienced in China. It's fairly new, but my experience there was beyond terrible. First room being occupied I got (not kidding), then staff who got my luggage running away, leaving me with all luggage (had plenty on that occasion) in the corridor, not coming back even after 20min - eventually I somehow managed to drag everything into the lounge.. where they were clueless, new room I eventually got was terribly stinky (non-smoking, HAHA!), second room wasn't much better but I eventually was just tired.. lounge offers were sub-standard, cheapest Tsingtao (3.1%) for example, food also less than what you'd expect. Breakfast was "ok", but nothing memorable either. No "recovery" from the hotel at all.

While the Riverside had GREAT service. (Both hotels as Hilton Gold)
Got great Riverside room (after having booked cheapest room), lounge access (with great staff and awesome dinner including "extended" happy hour since they insisted on keeping it open), the spa, while not being very new, was in very good shape with a great pool, and breakfast was fantastic. Oh, and it only cost 2/3rd of the Wanda Plaza.

So yeah, if you ask me, if it has to be a Hilton in Nanjing, take the Riverside. The Wanda Plaza isn't really downtown anyway (several stops by metro)
Riverside is quite near the (old) Nanjing Railway station. But it indeed lacks good public transport (If you know how to use Didi, it's not really a problem..)

Personally, if you'd want to stay in the city centre with good public transport, I'd pick other hotels than a Hilton in Nanjing.

But others might have had less bad experience at the Wanda Plaza and might recommend..

6) I'd plan to reach Shanghai (Hongqiao) 3.5hrs before your flight departs. That will give you plenty of time to make the flight. For the railway tickets for the return, why not buy them at Nanjing Railway station when you arrive there? Then you'd not have to worry about them anymore, their delivery, or anything. Or just buy them while in the city at one of the various travel agencies that can directly produce them.
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Old Oct 26, 18, 9:40 pm
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Why not spend your first night in Shanghai and buy train tickets in town?
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Old Oct 27, 18, 7:23 am
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Why not spend your first night in Shanghai and buy train tickets in town?
I've thought of that, but since I arrive on a Thursday, leave on a Sunday, that basically just gives me one full day in Nanjing. It would give me the chance to eat at Din Tai Fung though

Plus the W-A doesn't look super convenient to transit or to either railway station. There is a Hilton (and HGI) near the train station, but I'm not sure what else is out that way.
I'd rather just rip the band-aid off and get to Nanjing right awa.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 8:12 am
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Suzhou is much closer, far smaller and certainly more walkable than Nanjing. I think it's better for a quick visit.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 10:09 am
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Originally Posted by aztimm View Post

Plus the W-A doesn't look super convenient to transit or to either railway station. There is a Hilton (and HGI) near the train station, but I'm not sure what else is out that way.
I agree that the W-A is horrible for public transit, but there's no reason to stay near either train station. Basically, look for centrally located hotels on lines 2, 10, or 1. Ticket offices are ubiquitous so just focus on the hotel first. I agree with 889 that Suzhou makes more sense for such a short trip.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 10:54 am
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Haven't been to Nanjing, but did go to Suzhou a few weeks ago and would concur with others here that it's a great place to go for a few days if in Shanghai. About 20-30 minutes by high speed train with plenty of services all day.

Re: transport from the airport to train station, I personally think that the maglev is a bit of a gimmick really. It is quicker but probably won't save you all that much time once the transfer at Longyang Rd station is considered. It's worth doing once as an experience, but after I did try it once I haven't bothered with it since. If I remember correctly, the Maglev station at Longyang Rd is above ground on a viaduct. You exit the station, go downstairs to ground level, brave any taxi touts milling around and find the subway line 2 entrance and enter the system again (i.e. ticket and security check). Not difficult, but not quite seamless either.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 11:45 am
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Plenty to do in Nanjing. I have tried every option from Pudong and the best is the airport bus that takes you to Hongqiao. I usually book my train ticket for about 3 hours after my scheduled landing in Pudong. I am often too early for the train so I try to exchange for an earlier train (free of charge) or I eat something at the train station. Not that some trains to Nanjing are much faster than others. Pay attention to this in the train schedules
I never had problems picking up tickets there. Watch this video:
The hotel "in the city" is in the "new downtown area. A bit sterile and not much going on at night. But it is near the subway which the other one isn't. Probably a newer hotel as well. Both neither is great for tourism.
No need to have your return train tickets delivered to your hotel, pick them up with the other ones when you arrive.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 6:03 pm
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Thanks all for the help!

I'm now more open to staying the first night in Shanghai, then going onward the next day.

So now I'm considering the following options:
1. Nanjing (original choice), and staying at either Hilton
2. Hangzhou, staying at the Doubletree (about 40 min by subway)
3. Suzhou, there's a Hilton about 30 min from most sites.

I guess the real question, which I'm not sure anyone can answer, is where will I see the smallest crowds?
One of the only times I remember not being in a crowd out and about in China was when I did a hike along the Great Wall in a remote area, so I know it is all relative.

I just downloaded the DiDi app. Between the Hilton Nanjing Riverside and the Confucius Temple is CNY36, which works out to about US$5. For that price I probably would just use DiDi to get around and not even bother with the subway. Makes Nanjing even more tempting. I just connected a credit card to DiDi, so I guess it will work like Uber.

Edited to add: after watching the video JPDM posted above, I'm not nearly as hesitant to just go with my original plan of going straight from PVG to the train station). I'll decide in the next few days (hotel prices will probably start going up as the time draws near).

Last edited by aztimm; Oct 29, 18 at 6:09 pm
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Old Oct 29, 18, 6:17 pm
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I usually avoid both hangzhou and suzhou on weekends, but late November could be really pleasant wrt crowds. If you go to hangzhou, I recommend staying on the lake.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 6:44 pm
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The walk around the lake in Hangzhou, exploring all the many areas to the side, can easily take a whole day. It is crowded, sometimes very crowded, and those little tourist vans that creep up from behind are awful. But for all that the lake and the gardens are exquisite, a highlight of any visit to China.

Suzhou has some touristy areas with narrow streets that can also become exceptionally crowded.

Bottom line: if you don't like crowds, China is not a good place to visit.
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Old Oct 29, 18, 8:10 pm
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Originally Posted by 889 View Post

Bottom line: if you don't like crowds, China is not a good place to visit.
Yep!

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Old Nov 2, 18, 7:01 pm
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So I think I'm going to stay the first night in Shanghai, then make my way to Nanjing around noon on the second day. Just takes some stress off, in case the flight is late, I run into lines at immigration, etc.

Does anyone know anything about the Hampton Inn in Nanjing? When I first started looking, it was showing as unavailable, but now it is showing available and the prices are very good (US$60-80/night). It is close to the South Nanjing Railway station, and about 40 min (by subway) to the Confucius Temple area (same subway line, no changes required). How is the neighborhood near it, any restaurants or a place to pick up snacks?

If not that property specifically, has anyone stayed at a Hampton Inn in China? I've only stayed at properties where breakfast was either at a cost or because of status, so I don't know how crazy it will be at a place where breakfast is free for everyone.
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Old Nov 4, 18, 6:01 pm
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So after a bit of deliberating with myself, and looking through guides/Wikipedia pages, and multiple sources on various places... I ended up booking the Hilton Sozhou (with a pre-paid rate).

A good bit is due to that fact that there is a bus (about 1-2 an hour) right between PVG and Sozhou. Yea, 2+ hours on a bus isn't my idea of a great time, but it beats the multiple options from PVG-->Train-->other places (then I'd still have to get from a train station to a hotel).
Once I'm in Sozhou, I'll probably just use Didi to get to the Hilton. Although if I'm feeling adventurous (after time on the bus), I may try out their metro system (they have 2 lines, but more under construction).

The property gets pretty good reviews...both here on FT and other sources. The town also seems like a place where I can relax, stroll around some water, take a boat, etc. And they have a new-ish 10 lane 50m pool.

So if anyone has any tips, must-see things I should do, please chime in. As it is pre-paid, it is pretty much a done deal now. Well my travel is in 2-1/2 weeks, so I wanted to get something finalized anyway.

Some things I really want to do:
1. Visit Bookworm: Home - The Bookworm Suzhou
2. Take a boat cruise on the water (perhaps at night): https://www.chinadiscovery.com/jiang...and-canal.html
3. Spend some time at the Suzhou Museum: http://www.szmuseum.com/En/Home/Index#page1
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Old Nov 9, 18, 8:55 am
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I thought that Pan Gate and Ruiguang Pagoda was really good. Wonderful garden and lots of koi fish you can feed (a kiosk in the middle of the lake sells fish feed for 2). I also spent an afternoon walking around the canal. If you look on the map, there's essentially a square river/canal that surrounds the city center. There is a walking trail and parks all along it. Consider it in conjunction with the river cruise, perhaps.

Shantang street looks good too, but it was far too crowded when I went during a major Chinese holiday. Hopefully you'll have better luck!
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