A Trip from Hangzhou, China to Tirana, Albania

We did not go to Albania on a train. That was just the first part of a long journey!

I made this on https://www.greatcirclemap.com/. (Yeah, we flew over Russia…)

For the first time in a long time, I got on a plane (two planes, actually) to go somewhere for fun that wasn’t my hometown. But first I got in a taxi, and on a train, and in another taxi, and spent the night in an airport hotel, and took a shuttle bus, lol.

Why Albania? Siqi was invited to a workshop, and I decided to take leave from work and go too. I’d never been to Albania!

We left on the evening of Tuesday, January 23 and returned in the afternoon on Monday, January 29. We had three full days in Albania, which I’m posting about separately, and then we did the whole journey again in reverse.

See below for more on the journey from Hangzhou (to Shanghai to Frankfurt) to Tirana, Albania.

Let’s go!

Siqi didn’t want to get up super super early to go all the way to Shanghai for the flight to Frankfurt and then to Tirana. So our plan was to travel to Shanghai after work the day before the flight and sleep in a hotel near the airport in Shanghai. Here’s how that process unfolded (mostly according to plan).

Yuhang District to Hangzhou East Railway Station

Went home after work and cooked and ate food at home so it wouldn’t go to waste. Packed the last items in the suitcases. Siqi called a taxi to the train station. Not the one on our side of Hangzhou; for some reason that one didn’t have direct tickets to Shanghai. So the taxi had to cross from the west side of the city to the east side. The taxi took about 45 minutes.

Inside the Hangzhou East Railway Station, waiting to check in at the train gate and go down to the platform. Photo at 9.00 pm.

It was cold inside the station. The heat was on, but just look at this place! This is not a building that can be effectively heated in winter, definitely not to a temperature that feels comfortable to someone used to the Singapore climate. And our train was delayed, so we had to sit there for I dunno, maybe half an hour longer than expected. Siqi filled his water bottle with hot water from a water dispenser and gave it to me to hold, and that helped a lot.

Waiting on the Hangzhou East Railway Station platform. Photo at 9.45 pm.

Foreigners have to check in through the human-staffed gantry that can recognize passports, but that wasn’t too tricky. Then we had to wait on the platform. It’s outside, so it was colder. But the train arrived before too long, and we got on with our bags and sat in our seats.

Hangzhou East Railway Station to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station

We were on the train about an hour.

Leaving the train platform at the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station. Photo at 11.00 pm.

Arrived at the railway station in Shanghai, which is just next to an airport. But not the airport that we’ll be using. No, that one’s on the other side of the city, naturally, and so was our hotel.

Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station to hotel

The taxi to the airport hotel took about an hour. Hotel check-in was after midnight.

Hotel hallway. Photo at 12:13 am.

If you didn’t know better, you’d think these were bathroom stalls, and not hotel room doors, wouldn’t you? Strange lighting design, if you ask me! Anyway, not important. Only sleep is important.

Hotel garden. Photo at 7.40 am.

The next morning, we had a decent buffet breakfast at the hotel, then waited for the hotel shuttle. This photo of the hotel garden shows a fountain still switched on, with icicles forming among the rocks where the water runs down. Brrr.

Hotel to Shanghai Pudong Airport

The free shuttle run by the hotel was overfilled. The staff stacked the luggage loosely at the front, and some people had to stand in the aisle, including Siqi. The staff made sure I had a seat, though; I think partly because I am foreign but also because I am female. This kind of chivalry is alive and well in China.

Shanghai Pudong Airport to Frankfurt Airport

At check-in, the airline bag scan detected a small flashlight with AAA batteries in my suitcase and they had me come into a luggage inspection room and dig it out for them to look at. But then all was fine.

After we passed the real security check and entered the terminal, Siqi spent some kind of points to get us into a VIP lounge. It’s a nicer place to wait than the gate: there are free snacks and drinks, including beer and wine. We had some drinks but didn’t eat anything because we’d just had breakfast at the hotel. Mainly we just relaxed until it was time to go to the gate and board.

Google says the flight is 12 hours and 45 minutes.

On long international flights, I try to watch non-Hollywood movies I wouldn’t know about, and thus wouldn’t otherwise watch. On this flight, I watched:

  • Eugenie Grandet (2021) in French
  • I Am What I Am (2023) in Mandarin
  • Journey to the West (2023) in Mandarin
  • Retirement Home (2022) in French

Frankfurt Airport to Tirana Airport

We had more than enough time in Frankfurt to navigate the airport. Siqi was pleased to see shops selling stuff made in Europe. He bought a genuine Victorinox Swiss army knife and a pepper grinder made by Peugeot.

We waited at the gate for a while, and when it was time, scanned our tickets and got on a little shuttle that took us over to the plane, and then went up the steps like important people—except much more slowly, and without the waving, red carpet, and camera crews.

Photo at 8.00 pm.

Google says the flight to Tirana was another 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Tirana Airport to Mariott Hotel at Tirana Stadium

Arriving at Tirana airport, we had to get on another shuttle after getting off the plane, even though the terminal was right there.

After immigration and baggage claim, we found our taxi driver, arranged for and paid by the workshop sponsor. The driver led us to his car, got behind the wheel, and said “andiamo”, Italian for “let’s go”. I laughed and said “andiamo” back, but was too tired to try any more Italian.

That taxi was the 9th vehicle we’d been in since leaving home!

  1. Taxi to train station
  2. Train to Shanghai
  3. Taxi to hotel in Shanghai
  4. Shuttle to airport
  5. Plane to Frankfurt
  6. Shuttle from terminal to plane
  7. Plane to Tirana
  8. Shuttle from plane to terminal
  9. Taxi to hotel in Tirana

The taxi ride to the hotel in Tirana was about half an hour. Finally, at the end of our journey, we were checking in late to another hotel. Of course, the time in China was totally different. But no matter, we were plenty tired.

The real fun would begin the next morning. 🙂