Over the last two weeks, you’ve read about the good and bad of traveling with a Chinese tour group in China, which as most people here will tell you, is the only way to travel apparently. If you join one of these groups, you might be lucky enough to have a really cute little girl in your group, but you also may not be given any bathroom breaks. You win some, you lose some, I guess?
All this has built up to this week’s post, where I present the downright puzzling things I observed on our holiday. Enjoy!
Chinese people generally dress for the calendar rather than the weather. This means that a couple of unfortunate little girls sat at the gate in the airport in sweaters, pants, and long underwear, waiting to board our flight to the tropics, sweating already. It was not an unseasonably cold day when we left, but because it is autumn and October, their parents insisted on dressing them in multiple, heavy layers.
As with all tourist destinations, the fashion policewould have had a heyday in Sanya. Between the tropical print shirt/shorts sets purchased by thousands of people who I can only assume had no access to any weather reports whatsoever before they left home, the matching T-shirt sets worn by couples and families (“My little boy is lost! Can you help me find him? If it helps, he’s wearing this exact T-shirt I’m wearing…”) and the next-to-nothing worn by the Russian women, my eyes were burning no matter where I looked. Honestly people, it’s not hard – do as Coco Chanel said and “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”…like your outfit…and replace it with something not ugly.
I get that iPads are popular and that having one automatically makes you seven notches cooler than me. I get that they are expensive and that you want to show off that you have one. But don’t you think it might be better and more convenient to invest in an actual camera instead of toting your iPad aroundthrough the rainy rainforest to take photos?!
I mentioned earlier how Chinese tourists rush through attractions with seemingly little interest in seeing anything. I wasn’t quite truthful. They are interested, very interested in fact, in one part of each place visited – the gift shop. Many of the other people on our group couldn’t have cared less about the displays of Li minority culture or rainforest flora and fauna, but they were certainly keen on buying shaved coconut and small bottles of local jiu (wine). I don’t know if this obsessive purchasing of souvenirs is a way to gain face among their friends and colleagues back home, or if it is simply a result of today’s Chinese having the disposable income available to them to be able to purchase these things, but no trip is complete without a gift or souvenir bought at each place visited, no matter how overpriced.
Good hotel design eludes China (this is not restricted to Sanya), most especially when it comes to the bathrooms. I bring you three examples from our trip.
Exhibit A: Our first hotel room had a little shelf above the sink to hold toiletry items. This could have been useful, except that it jutted out over a third of the depth of the sink, making it nearly impossible to get one’s face near enough the sink to wash it without flinging water all over the floor.
Exhibit B: A frosted glass partition is NOT an acceptable substitute for a real wall when it comes to separating the bathroom and bedroom areas of a hotel room…I don’t care how close you are to your family, there will be unnecessary sharing.
Exhibit C: Another hotel we stayed at had an interesting mix of amenities. Located in a smaller town outside of Sanya, there was no hot water available until 7:30pm, because the local authorities didn’t turn it on for them until that time (this was apparently a daily occurrence, according to the staff). This, despite having the words “Hot Springs” in the hotel name itself. What the hotel lacked in hot water, it made up for by having a television channel broadcasting nothing but American TV shows in English! I had a cold shower and enjoyed a few episodes of Lie to Me and Friends – and thanks to the heavy rain that evening, I didn’t even have to feel guilty!
Whenever I stay in a hotel here in China, I like to peruse the hotel information, mostly because I usually find some amusing Chinglish translations. This trip was no exception (apologies for the poor picture quality – they are from my cell phone).Here I draw your attention to item 3 in Accommodation Security. “Do bring strangers into your room.” It then tells you to be sure you lock everything, especially the door and windows, before sleeping. So you want me to lock the strangers in?!Here are our Regulations on Civic Virtues. First of all, for anyone who has spent any time in China, some of these are laughable (do not spit or litter, do not shout, try to form an orderly line, etc.). My favourites are “Do not chase, beat or feed local wildlife” (under item 3), “Keep your clothes clean and well maintained” (under item 7), and all of item 8, which reads “Promote healthy recreation activities like sports or board games. Resist feudal and superstitious activities. Reject the evils of pornography, gambling, and drug use/drug trafficking.”An advertisement for a place called Sunshine Blue Sky Sea Leisure Romantic Stimulation (yeah, I don’t know what sort of place it is either). At least they are being honest when they write, “Boundary Island is the first no-residence-before island exploited by Hainan. Without human activities on the island before exploitation, the whole island is more primitive and mysterious.”Here, we learn that “if anyone telephones or knocks at your door for molesting” you should contact the security department. It also tells us that if your smoke alarm should go off, “personnel concerned will be at the spot right away.” What if no one is concerned, though?Finally, at this hotel, guests are not allowed to “transfer the bed” (damn, I was going to have it shipped home!). Also, “guests should note the hotel before planning to stay over night outside the hotel” (so, people actually book this hotel and then stay on the street?). At this hotel, unlike the other, only “excessive drinking, fighting, prostituting, drug-taking, gambling, sexual massaging, pornographic books, sex video, decadent music and other illegal activities are prohibited” (so a little is OK, just don’t go overboard!). Lastly, “guests taking firearms and ammunition along should submit them to the Local Public Security Bureau. Except the exemption.” Well that’s as clear as mud.
And with that, I conclude this series on traveling not-so-undercover with a Chinese tour group. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our (mis)adventures!