We have a hotel...finally!

posted Aug 17, 2010, 12:24 AM by Charles Boling   [ updated Aug 17, 2010, 5:20 AM ]
About the time we thought we were going to die we finally got to the hotel. We were thrilled when they took our luggage to stow for us while we explored the rest of the city. We just carried along the notebook bag (with computer, paper etc... in it) and I popped some pepto-bismal pills in my pocket. Then we set out to explore the city and figure out some place to eat lunch. We hadn't eaten since the breakfast on the plane at 6:00 and were pretty famished.

We meandered down the streets until we found a place that was called the “food center”. And that was a pretty apt description of it. The first floor was fresh meat and fish (much to Charles' nose's displeasure!) The second floor was all fresh vegetables and fruit and the third floor was a series of privately run “ma and pa” restaurants. Now, the way this whole thing was set up was very different than what we are used to in America. This building was set up like a Farmer's market. You could buy fish and meat on the bottom floor from dozens of different vendors all set up trying to sell you things as you walked by. The same with the second floor of fresh produce. The third floor was no different. It was just one big open room and each vendor's tables flowed into the next's. It was really interesting. The vendor that ended up getting our business was the one who spoke excellent English and really went out of our way to “accommodate” our tastes and suggested things that might ease our palates from Western to traditional Chinese food. Charles had a spaghetti noodle base with pork and veggies and a tomato juice (not sauce) flavoring. I had a rice dish with eggs some other unidentifiable things. It was pretty good actually – I think I like traditional Chinese food more than American Chinese. It tends to be less greasy and less flavored with extra things. We had been advised to take one Pepto-Bismol tablet before eating anything over here and we did. It seemed to work because even though we were eating in something that wasn't a normal restaurant – we had no ill-effect from it.

Once our tummies were full, we wandered down and tried to figure out what to do next. There was a harbor cruise we wanted to take, but had a hard time figuring out how to get there. So we boarded the underground train and got as close as we could figure out. Then we asked for help from a worker there and she pulled it up on phone and showed us a map of where we were and where we wanted to be. Unfortunately those two weren't very close together!

So we decided to hop up to the road and try to grab one of the billions of taxis we kept seeing zipping around. That proved to be really difficult as well. They were always full! So after vainly trying that route, we walked half a block over and happened to notice a classic “vendor street” where there were dozens of vendors and hundreds, or more, of people crowding and filling up a whole street. It was quite an experience. This is where the bargaining, selling and haggling occurred as a matter of course. The first thing we bought was a hat for each of us. We had left our hats in our luggage and we each found one we liked better – and they only cost us $5 each! All in all, prices at the vendors were better than things you'd find most anywhere in the US.

We spent most of the afternoon here, looking, watching and even buying a few souvenirs. It was hot, and Charles endured it well while Michele debated and haggled tried to figure out what she wanted :-). We finally made it back to the hotel around 4:45 totally EXHAUSTED, hot, soaked in sweat and dirty. We were very dismayed (to put it lightly) that the room we had been told would be ready at 3:00 wasn't going to be ready for another half an hour. In the states that would have been totally unacceptable. But apparently, they are much more laid back here. Checkout is 12:00 unless you want to stay later. You can pay a extra and have the room as late as 6:00 – even if someone else has it booked for that next night.

Michele was NOT happy. Water is a scarcity here – you DON'T drink it from the taps – you only have bottled water. She assumed the hotel would provide drinking water (even in the form of a drinking fountain) and was told there would be water in our hotel room, but that it wasn't ready yet. She was really dehydrated at that point, and looked pretty bad, because when she told the person behind the desk that she REALLY needed a drink, he ran outside and came back a few minutes later with a bottle of water. Come to find out, he ran next door to a store and bought it! We don't know if he did it on his nickel, or our's but Michele was grateful. We sat in the slightly air-conditioned lobby until our room was finally ready. We came up and found that while the hallways weren't air-conditioned, the room at least was. It wasn't super cool, but it was better than anything else we'd had recently. But we were again dismayed to find that we didn't have luggage! It took about 45 minutes to track it down (mostly due to language barriers). Fewer people speak good English than Charles thought there would be. Many (not most) speak passable English, but few speak good English.

Michele took a shower while Charles tracked down the luggage. At that point, she was too tired to eat – she just wanted sleep! But Charles was famished, so we headed back out and stopped by McDonald's (traditional Chinese food is not Charles' favorite!). We then came back to the room and Michele typed a quick email letting the people watching our kids that we were still alive and then crashed (about 9:00). At that point we had been up for 44 hours with just the sleep we managed to catch on the plane. I don't think I'd ever been so tired!

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