Mega-Projects and Raising Power of China

This year is a unique and special year in China. I can feel it, but still cannot find a way to understand it so well. The most obvious thing is the recent completion or construction of mega-projects in China.

Let me name a few in this short article, to help my friends to understand the energy and passion of life here in China.

Airports

On March 26, 2008, two terminals of the two largest airports in China – Shanghai and Beijing – opened. On the same day, I happened to experience the two wonderful airport and bring back reports:

At the same time, the third runway of Pudong Airport was opened the same day. Considering both Shanghai Pudong Airport’s first terminal and the second terminal of Beijing airport were opened in 1999, you can imagine the economic boom in China in the last 9 years. Now Beijing’s third terminal is the largest terminal on this planet, bigger than Heathrow’s four added together, and also one of the largest building ever built (in term of space). The Pudong Airport T2 also doubled the capacity of the first terminal, and both airports (in Beijing and Shanghai) can handle almost the same amount of traffic as current Heathrow airport (the current world busiest airport).

Beijing didn’t stop because the second airport is also under discussion with the completion of the new terminal.If you look at the whole China, the scene is even more amazing. Beijing’s second airport is only one of the 97 new airports to be built in the next 12 years in China. That is almost 2/3 of the number of the current airports in this country. Raise of economic power? I think so.

Bridges

Besides the current Donghai Bridge (46 km in length and extends to Yangshan Deep Water Port) that was completed in 2005, the second large bridge, from Shanghai to Hangzhou, crossing the Hangzhou Bay – if there is a bay area, maybe this is the best place to name it. The bridge is going to open on May 1, 2008. It is now the largest bridge in the world – another world’s mega-project.

Before this cross-sea bridge opens, the second cross-sea bridge already started construction, just 50 km west of the first bridge, while the third bridge is under planning. If the first cross-sea is far beyond my imagination, the next two bridges sound like fair tale to me. What does it mean? It may mean the hottest city circle in the world may emerge, with Hangzhou, Shanghai, Ningbo, Shaoxing, Jiaxing, and many other cities connected deeply with each other via express ways.

Besides what is happening in the south of Shanghai, another mega project is going on on the north. The bridge and tunnel connecting Shanghai and Chongming Island and from the island to Jiangsu province is under construction and will open in 2010. The tunnel and bridge will connect China’s third largest island with the mainland, and also connect the north China to Shanghai crossing the wide Yangtze River.

Just imagine what if all the projects are completed!

Railways

The Beijing to Tianjin – two of the largest cities in China were just connected via high-speed train. The 120km high-speed train cost people only 30 minutes to commute between the two cities. At interval of 5 minutes, the train runs at 350 km/hour (just a little bit slower than the maglev, but still fast enough, especially considering the lower cost, it is a good choice). 30 minutes may mean that to live in Tianjin and commute to Shanghai is possible alternative for people in the two cities.

Besides the Beijing and Tianjin high-speed train, the Shanghai and Beijing train (beside the old line) is also under construction, and the high-speed train between Shanghai and Nanjing (besides the old line) are also on the way. In the future, fast-speed trains will connect the most powerful cities in this big country, and more economic power will be generated with these lines.

In Shanghai, the Hongqiao Train Station is going to be the largest train station (much larger than also huge Shanghai South Station). Maglev will also go to the station. With Maglev connecting the two big airports in Shanghai, people may transit in just 15 minutes – how people can believe the two stations are 40 km away from each other, and one is on the east most and the other is west of the largest city in China.

Subway and Expressways

In the last month of the last year, 58 metro (or subway, if you want to call it this way) stations were put into use on the same day! They are just part of the 150 subway stations currently under construction in this city. If you look at the future metro map, you will be amazed that places like Chongming Island, and Dishui Lake are connected by metro. All these locations are almost the farthest locations in Shanghai.

In Beijing, its the same. In Nanjing, it is the same. In many cities in China, subways are spreading quickly, and more and more lines are running underground.

If you look at the whole China, I was so amazed by the expressway network. In my Luoyang, in central China’s Henan province, I was happy to see the expressway connected Luoyang with the near by city – Kaifeng, and Zhengzhou, something around 200 km. I haven’t thought about how close these three cities are with the express way. Pretty exciting, isn’t it? However, if you look at another name of the segment of the expressway – Lianhuo Expressway, which means, it is part of a longer expressway, G30, that connects Lianyungang (at city at the East China Sea), and Huoerguosi (a city at the border of West Border) – it is 4280 km in length. The Mega project connecting the three cities is just 0.5% of the entire highway.

Just like G30, G10, G12, G16, G18, G20, G22, G36, G40, G42, G50, G56, G60, G70, G72, G76, G78, G80 all run from the east-most city to central cities or west cities – all cross the country from east to west! From south to north, we also have G11, G15, G25, G35, G45, G55, G65, G75, and G85. The two Mega bridge (Shanghai to Ningbo, and Shanghai to Chongming is just part of the G15 Shenyang to Haikou expressway, again, less than 1% of the total length.

China is building the world’s largest expressway network – just like Roosevelt built the current US freeway network. Although I am not an economist, I can see the huge economic power the highway network put into the country.

Mega-Projects and the Raising Power Behind It

I am not a economist, and I am not a politician. I am just one of the many people in China. I can feel the change on daily basis, and sometimes, when I start to connect the dots together, I saw a picture I never saw before, and many people in China haven’t saw for centuries. China is a complicated mixture of the best thing, a

nd sometimes the worst, and the brightest and the darkest, as I mentioned in my entry: blind men and the elephant.  Today, in this moment, I do feel the best and the brightest from this country. There is no doubt that behind the mega-projects I mentioned above, there is a raising power – a power that people cannot afford to ignore.

Bus from Beijing Airport to Tianjin

A picture is worth of thousands of words. Look at this big sign at the Gate 5 of Terminal 3 of Beijing Capital International Airport.

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You can take bus directly from Arrival gate of Beijing airport to Tianjin.

The bus starts from 9:00 AM to 22:00, and interval is 30 minutes. Ticket price is 70 RMB (or 10 USD) per person.

You can also take the bus at Gate 11 of Terminal 2 of Beijing Airport

The departure and arrival station in Tianjin is at the corner of Nanjing Road, and Shanxi Road

Beijing Airport Express Train

An airport express train line will be opened in Beijing before Olympic Games this year. I traveled to Beijing on March 27, 2008, and saw the train station at T3 of Beijing Airport.

Location of the Train Station

The train will run from Dongzhimen Station (at the northeast corner of 2nd Ring Road and connect to Subway #2 Station), and via Sanyuanqiao (where it connects to future Subway #10), and directly get to Airport T3, and T2.

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The Airport Express Station at T3 (New Terminal 3) is exactly south of it. As this un-updated satellite image shows, it is the big oval at the south of it.

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Outside the Train Station

The big "turtle" is the train station. The bridge connecting the terminal and the train station are the train level, and the level with the cars parking there is the ground floor. Under that are B1 and B2 parking level.

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Inside the Airport Express Station

This is the new Airport Express Station. The roof is a little bit similar with the Maglev Station in Longyang Road in Shanghai, but much bigger.

The construction of the station is already completed, but they are still testing the line and it will take some time to open. BTW, the train on the track are automatic train without a driver.

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After you leave the train, you can directly to go the terminal. There are four big gates at the north exit of the train station: left and right most two are for departure, and the middle two are for arrival.

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The bridges are very long, so sloop is mild. The following picture is taken on the 4th floor (The Departure Level) of the station. As you can see, the far-most bridge connects the taxi drop-off area to the lower Departure Level, and the nearer-two bridge go to the Airport Express Train station. 

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The good thing about the Beijing Airport is, although the bridges are all pretty long and are sloops, there is a way for people to WALK through all the levels. If you imagine people flow as water, and the waterfall flows from the top to the bottom of the station:

  • From taxi and car drop-off level to the Departure Level
  • From Departure Level to the Train Station
  • From the Train Station to the Arrival Level

On the bridge, via the big window, you can see the parking lot entrance and the taxi pickup area.

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Lower Floor of the Train Station

At the lower floor of the train station are a big shopping center. The stores are not opened yet – pretty empty there, but I guess when the train station is officially put into use, and T3 starts to attract more passengers, these are the good place to have  a shop.

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B1 and B2 of the Parking Lot 

As you can see from the picture above, there are some glass windows on top of the Parking Lot. They are actually the roof of the parking lot – I love this design a lot. Standing at the bottom of the parking area – B2, it is like a big in-house garden.

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The B2 has not been put into use yet, so it is pretty empty. If someone put some coffee tables there and open a coffee shop, it will be great. (Although at second thought, I realized it is not possible to have a coffee shop in garage.

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Bird view of Shanghai on Flight

I am a big fan of scene outside aircraft, especially when it is taking off. No matter how many times I take flight, I always push my nose to the window to see what is going on outside.

The city looks amazing from above. Let me share with you my favorite views.

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Below should be A30 – the ring road outside A20 (the outer ring)

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There are golf outside the Pudong Airport – it is just completed, and I cannot find it on Google Map – waiting for the next update.

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The viaduct at the right bottom is A20 and the Yanggao South Road. I can see my house in this picture.

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The imagine below is not clear, because of the dusty air – I used "I’m feeling lucky" button in Picasa. If the air is clearer, Shanghai is a great city – but it seems we don’t have any bird-view photo of Shanghai like this – never saw one.

Please pay attention to the high building cluster in the middle right area – it is Lujiazui.

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In the image below, you can see Shanghai Stadium, and the Shanghai South Station.

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Before airplane left Shanghai, we can finally see the runway of Hong Qiao Airport.

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Beijing Airport Terminal 3 (T3) Opens

With the opening of T2 of Pudong Airport, today, another terminal, T3 of Beijing Capital International Airport also opens.  I am also lucky to experience the new terminal today.

Overview

The first impression of T3 is, it is HUGE! Look at the Google Satellite image below: T1 (opened in 1959) and T2 (opened in 1999) look so tiny compared to the big T3. The Google image is not updated yet. On the image, it is not completed, and now, it is open, and 60% of flights have already transited to T3.

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Today, it is the largest terminal in the world, larger than the combination of the current four terminal in London’s Heathrow airport (the world largest airport).

By building area, it is also almost the largest building ever on earth, bigger than Pentagon in Washington D.C. More notable, it is completed within 4 years, which is pretty astonishing. According to Matt, one of the designer, their firm got the job to design the terminal 6 months before the construction actually started. Considering the Beijing Railway Station (Asia’s largest) took one year to built, and the city’s tallest building, World Trade Center, took only 1 and half year to complete, the short schedule of the airport seems OK in China’s standard.

Outside the terminal

The terminal is not very tall (at least seen from the runway), and you can hardly see them from the plane. It does not look very big from outside, does it? However, you will quickly find out you are wrong. It IS tall and it IS huge when you take a closer look.

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The first impression of the terminal for me is, it is a pine apple!

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Another pine-apple picture:

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Inside the terminal

To be honest with you, the dark orange color plus white is a little bit shocking for me. I didn’t expect Beijing to have an airport with this color. I don’t know why, but it reminds me of the airports in southeast countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia…

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I am in the big curve of T3-C section.

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Looking back:

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The package picking area is also pretty amazing. The hall is high and with strong ceiling decoration.

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The direction board, as always, is pretty clear in Beijing Airport.

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This is the diagram of the terminal.

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This is the most amazing part – the departure hall – the biggest inner space in the airport.

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Look at the orange and reddish roof – what it reminds you? I thought about sky and galaxy when I first saw it.

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Parking 3

This huge architect is a parking building. It has more than 6000 parking space there. I have several photos of it. I also have a special entry on it: this huge project is not only a parking space, it is also the Beijing Airport Express Train station.

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Summary

I didn’t have time to explore the Beijing Airport T3 as much as I did for the Shanghai T2. I will do more research and take more picture when I get back tomorrow. Beijing’s T3 is huge, out of my imagination.

With the completion (after four year’s construction) and open, it is another solid milestone for Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Shanghai Pudong Airport Terminal 2 (T2)

How exciting! Shanghai Pudong Airport Terminal 2 just opened today – exactly today, and I am lucky to happen to travel to day, on March 26, 2008. So I had the opportunity to experience the brand new terminal on its first day. Here is my report.

Overview

There are two airports in Shanghai: Hong Qiao Airport (the older one), and the Pudong Airport (the newer one). I am talking about the Pudong Airport.

Geographically speaking, Pudong Airport is at the south bank of the entrance of Yangtze river into the East China Sea. Pudong Airport is the major airport in Shanghai. It is at the east sea coast of Shanghai – 30 km from city center, or 40 km from Hongqiao Airport.

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There are one terminal building in Pudong Airport and two runways. Now, the second terminal – almost the same shape of the first one was built and put into operation today.  With the two airport and 3 runways, it has 224 plane parking lot, 70 boarding bridges, and 2.4 million square meters of plane parking area. Now it has the capacity of 60 million annual passengers with 60 airlines covering 90 International cities, and 70 domestic cities.

The second terminal is much larger  than the first one. Here is a table:

Item Terminal 1 Terminal 2
Floors 3 3
Building Area 280K sq. meters 480K sq. meters
Boarding bridges 28 42
Airlines Counter 204 352
Stores and Restaurants area 10K sq. meters 20K sq. meters

* Data source: brochure of Pudong Airport Terminal 2

My Journey of the Pudong Airport Terminal 2

My journey started from the Maglev train station. The train station, and the track are the perfect line dividing the airport into two part – on east is the T2, and on the west is T1. These two are pretty mirroring each other, with connecting walking path.

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I started with the red building, and immediately after you leave the Maglev and use the elevator to get to the second floor of the Maglev train station, you have an important decision to make: going to T1 or T2, since they are on opposite side of you. They have a table to help you figure out which terminal you should use.

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Caution: This map is only valid for a very short period of time (one month), and when you are checking this back, it may already be out of date. Check with latest information, since when the chart was drawn, the airlines are in the transition period.

Central Path to T2

I decided to use T2. turning left (or right depending on which wing you are in the Maglev station), you see the central path:

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To my pleasant surprise, the Central Path, is full of sunshine. It is wider than the T1 since it combined the two path into one wider path, and have windows on the ceiling. Look! It is very bright!

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The ceiling with curtain made it a perfect combination. Look up!

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At the middle point of the Central Path to the T2, there is an exit for the Airport Shuttle Bus. The bus still start from the T1, as I described in this article: Bus Schedule of Shanghai Pudong Airport. This bus station, on the east side of the Maglev train provide service to T2, as the first stop of all airport shuttle bus, before they leave the airport.

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Meeting Point

The other very important improvement of T2 is, it has a big meeting place. The big orange square put people who want to meet each other in the square – pretty lovely design.

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Looking back, it is at the end of the Central Path.

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Sunshine Terminal

If you ask me to give a name to the new terminal of Pudong Airport, I won’t hesitate to give the name of Sunshine Terminal!

Its walking paths have many ceiling window like this:

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and the sunshine pours down, and made some artistic shadows. I have another article specially written for the sunshine  and shadow of Pudong Airport T2.

Equipments

They have nice equipments, like these – a fancy telephone booth. The only problem is, I don’t know how to make a phone call with the booth after play with it for some time.

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On the screen, they have some Olympics message today (March 26, 2008)

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From the a little bit dirty window, you will see that you are pretty close to the huge T2 – you are in the middle way in the central path.

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Parking Lots

The parking lots of T2 is also improved from T1. As you can see from the photo above, the parking lots start to have identification colors, like this:

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Entering the T2

Finally, I completed my 3 minutes walk in the Central Path, and start to finally enter the T2 main building. Before entering the building, you are provided with a chance to go down to the first floor (arrival level)

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This is pretty handy for passengers who don’t want to wait for the slow lift, like in T1.

T2 Main Building

Here is the hall of T2:

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Brand-new display board:

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and some artificial plants along the way:

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The automatic check-in counter should be put into operation soon:

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They also have decent restaurant like this:

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and my favorite Ajinsen Ramen:

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Roof of T2

As in the Central Path, the roof of T2 is also the highlight of my tour in T2. Look at the leaf on the roof and the sunshine!

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It lit up the whole building, and I would expect the new terminal will consume less power than the T1.

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The sunshine leaf is also decorated outside the main building:

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and I have to say, the leaf is BEAUTIFUL!

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Summary

After my tour of T2, I feel very excited. T2 is far beyond my high expectation. It IS a modern airport. I challenged the usability of Pudong airport, and gave negative comments on staff of Pudong Airport, but the opening T2 completely changed my mind. Both the design, the hardware, and service of the new building is a completely new stage of the airports in China.

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Congratulations to the completion of the T2 of Pudong Airport. It is a great archivement, and I am  so happy to have such a modern, bright, comfortable airport in my city!

Sunshine and Shadow of Pudong Airport Terminal 2

As I said in the other article, the best part of Pudong Airport Terminal 2 is the design of ceilings, and the window, so it allows sunshine to pour in, and create shadows as well as lightening up the building.

These are the ceilings, with curtains (which avoided direct sunshine)

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(This picture is taken at the meeting point)

and this:

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Shadows

This is my favorite: X in T2.

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I believe every time I visit the T2, I will take photo of the amazing shadows it created. I don’t know who is the architect of the Path, but I want say, you really made a great design.

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Avoid Taxi with BX in Plate Number

One little tip to share about Shanghai taxi: try not take any taxi with BX in the car plate.

Any car in Shanghai has a car plate, like this:

沪B-X1234

The first Chinese character 沪 means Shanghai.

There are special coding standard for taxi in Shanghai.

For the third character – the one after the little dot – the following characters were assigned to taxi:

U

V

W

M

N

X

That means, if there is a car without these characters on plate, and pretend to be a taxi, you will know it.

Among all these plate, X is very special.

X plate taxi are private taxi plate, while all the others are company owned taxi. A company owned taxi means the taxi is owned by a taxi company, and the driver is hired by the company to drive the car, and the driver needs to pay about 450 – 500 base fee to the company everyday. Their earning needs to pay this fee, gas fee, and all kinds of maintaince fee for the car before he can get a profit.

X plate taxi, or private taxi, is owned by individual persons, and they don’t belong to a company, so they don’t need to pay anything. Recently, they are required to join a company setup just for the management propose of private taxis. The management is as low as 150 RMB per month, v.s. 15,000 for other taxi drivers.

So they owner of X plate taxi earns huge profit.

However, their service quality is the worst among all the taxis, just because they are not afraid of any customer complain at all – there is no company responsible for it. Their service standard is also pretty low. The rule of thumb (although with a little bit discrimination) is, if you feel very bad about a taxi driver, chances are, it is a X plate taxi.

In Shanghai, there are 40,000 taxis, and among them, 300 are with plate 沪AX, and 3000 are with plate 沪BX. So for your safety, avoid BX taxi as much as possible.

Disclaimer: This article is based on my personal experience of BX taxis, and feedback from Internet. It is of cause more generalized, and some BX taxi may provide good service, I justified and thought it is still the right thing to do to put a caution here, to avoid unhappy experience for my readers. I hope the BX taxi can find a way to improve their reputation, just as Dazhong taxi has gained the reputation of the best taxi in Shanghai, even though not everyone of the drivers are very good. That is the power of brand, isn’t it?

Personal Guide to Astor House Hotel, Shanghai

Many of my readers choose to stay in the Astor House Hotel in Shanghai, and asked me about that hotel. Here is my personal guidebook for guests to this hotel. Please note, this entry is special – all of the text content is from my personal experience, while the photos are from Internet – It is a regret for me that every time I visit the hotel, I forget to bring my camera. I hope  I have properly gave credit to the photo owners.

Location of the Hotel

Location of a hotel is maybe the most important factor of a hotel.

The Astor House Hotel is located at the delta of Suzhou Creek, and the Huangpu River. It is in the Bund Area – the heart of the city. If you like a historic tour of the city, it is maybe the best choice. It is within walking distance to the major attractions of Shanghai – to be more exact, it is part of the historical architects.

Location: 15 Huangpu Road, Shanghai

Phone: 021/6324-6388

Website: http://www.pujianghotel.com/

E-mail: sales@pujianghotel.com

It is at the other side of the Waibaidu Bridge – the bridge of exactly 100 years old.

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History of the Hotel

There is much more to say about the history of the hotel. To be short, it is one of the most historical hotel in Shanghai.

The hotel was built in 1846 in China’s Qing Dynasty. The hotel was named by Richard Hotel at the very beginning after the name of Richard, the sea captain – it is so cool to be a hotel manager and at the same time, be a sea ship captain. 

In 1860, the hotel was sold out to Henry Smith, and was renamed as current Astor House Hotel.

In 1906, the current hotel build was built, as current Ionic and Baroque styles. There is also a youth hotel on the top of the 5-story hotel, which you can hardly see from this image below:

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Photo credit: Byron

It is the first western modern hotels in Shanghai, and is also the site of the first electronic lamp in Shanghai.

Before 1949, it is also the important place for celebrates in Shanghai. Among them, the most interesting person is Albert Einstein (It is said it is in this hotel room that he receives his nobel price award letter) . Visitors can also choose from four restored "celebrity rooms," once occupied by famous visitors such as U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant in 1879 (Room 410), Scott Joplin in 1931 and 1936 (Room 404), Bertrand Russell in 1920 (Room 310), and Albert Einstein in 1922 (Room 304).

Rooms

As its historically face, the internal design is also pretty — hmm — old style.


Photo Credit: Tofubrain


Photo Credit: relaxedtype

This is my favorite part – the lobby on the third floor and fourth floor.

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Photo credit: Gary

The rooms are by no way modern in the current standard, but the good thing is, most of the rooms are BIG.

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Photo credit: Byron 

They even have nice Virtual Reality show case of the rooms.

Future of the Hotel

As the oldest hotel in Shanghai does not guarantee a bright future for the hotel. Now, the status of the hotel is not so good. The current service level of the hotel is, in my standard, 3 star at its best. The hotel is like a state-owned enterprise. No wonder the price of the hotel does not match the status of this noble hotel.

One very interesting observation: it only charges 400 RMB per half day for 40 people in its Grand Hall, and its breakfast is only 20 RMB/person (or 3 USD)

My Personal Recommendation

The hotel’s pro and cons are both very clear.

Pro: Historical, and big room, good location, and nice view.

Con: Service is bad, and facility is old.

So, the conclusion is also very clear: If you are a history lover, and enjoy being part of the heart of the city. If you think service and comfort room are more important, choose another five star hotel, which is almost the same price.

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