你好 / Nǐ hǎo from China!

As I write, it’s 9pm here in Shanghai, 2pm UK time on Tuesday 16th July.  Feels like I’ve been here ages already but as I’m just starting to settle down, I thought I’d get cracking with this diary of my travels so far.

My journey began at 7am on Monday.  I said goodbye to the Mrs and the kids and then got the Metro up to Newcastle Airport.  I started with the short flight to Amsterdam, then boarded for the long flight (11 hours +) from Amsterdam to Shanghai Pudong International Airport.  The flight went over pretty quickly as I got my head down for a bit of sleep and watched a few movies to pass the time.

I arrived at Shanghai airport at 5:45am local time.  Things went smoothly upon arrival and luckily there wasn’t too much of a queue for immigration or to collect my luggage.  My next task was to find my way to the Maglev train ticket office.  The Maglev is currently the fastest train in the world, with a top speed of 267mph / 430kmph. Any train with the word ‘Mag’ in it is good enough for me.  It has no wheels – it floats along on magnets using magnetic levitation (Mag-Lev).  This takes you from the airport to the centre of Shanghai (19 miles) in under 8 minutes.  Even DeAndre Yedlin would be impressed by that speed.  If only Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley could get transfers signed off as quickly.

So after feeling like I was travelling through time on this Maglev train, I got off at its only stop which is Longyang Road.  Upon exiting the station to go and catch the subway to my hotel, I had my first taste of authentic China since my arrival.  Stray cats/kittens, street vendors selling dubious looking food products, dodgy taxi drivers pestering you to take their cab to your destination, but most notably – the heat and humidity.  I feel sorry for the footballers having to play in such a climate when they are not used to it.  Its going to be hugely draining for them, plus the jet lag factored in makes me question whether this trip to China is in keeping with what would constitute a constructive pre-season.

Anyhow – I fought my way through the crowds and entered the subway.  Next battle was to take on the ticket machine.  After a brief struggle it became obvious how to use them.  When I was in Porto with Adam W last pre-season we had a particularly horrendous experience with the Metro ticket machines.  It is far easier to buy a subway ticket in Shanghai than it is in Porto.  That might seem like a useless piece of info, but I know Adam will appreciate it!

On the subway train there was an extremely welcoming fridge-like air conditioned atmosphere.  Dragging my luggage around already had me a soggy, sweating mess, so this cold air was so nice – I didn’t want to get off again.

I got off the subway at Shanghai Railway Station and again got hassled to take a taxi, which I didn’t need as my hotel was a short walk away.  I walked into Holiday Inn (once again the air con was mint) and approached the check in desk, only to be told by the member of staff that I was in the wrong bloody hotel.  He was very helpful though and told me how to get to the OTHER Holiday Inn near to the train station.

I walked to the CORRECT hotel and unfortunately as it was only 8:30am, I was told I couldn’t check in until 12.  I was so tired by now that I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep.  Given how tired I was and the heat/humidity outside, I decided just to wait in the air conditioned hotel lobby until my room was ready.

After finally checking in to my room at about 11:30am, I had a few hours sleep and got showered and changed so I could go for a wander around the local area.  I eventually plucked up the courage to go into a local Chinese restaurant for my tea, where I somehow managed to order my meal with the non-English speaking waitresses.  The staff were really friendly, most people I’ve encountered so far have been.  I had beef stew with noodles which was fantastic.  This with a drink and salad cost 59 Yuan, which is roughly £6 so not at all expensive.

Then I came back to the hotel (the correct one) to write this article.

My early impressions of China are good.  The people have been friendly and helpful.  The public transport seems good and I’m looking forward to having more time to explore Shanghai at the weekend when I return from Nanjing.  I’m a bit nervous about getting the train to Nanjing tomorrow morning, but on the other hand I am proper excited to see Newcastle United play on a different continent.

The guys at Wor Flags have very kindly leant me one of the big striped flags with the club crest on it.  I’ll see if I can get this displayed in the NUFC section inside the stadiums as a mini surfer flag.  No promises though!  Keep an eye out for it on TV.

Rafa or no Rafa, manager or no manager, I think following NUFC abroad is an extremely proud moment for any Toon fan.  To be able to come here and do this for True Faith is an absolute pleasure and privilege.  Thank you so much to anyone who buys the fanzine, subscribes to our Patreon podcasts etc – it’s you the fans who are making trips like this possible and I hope I can provide some interesting insights for you while I’m here.

We will always bring you the alternative view of NUFC, wherever in the world that may be from.

Rob Clothier

Follow Rob on Twitter @tfRob1892