28.01.2013 - 29.01.2013
Bayuquan is where it all started for me in China. When I first came here this little port district struck me as an other worldly little Fisher price town: one main drag and one department store but a strange super-abundance of KTVs, hair salons and '4 star' hotels, strangely out of proportion to its size. Since then, it has spread south and I've periodically returned as a curious spectator to see what's new.
It now has a high speed train station in the south but that that seems to be Dalian-Harbin and I went to Xiong Yue Cheng as normal, arriving at about 3.40 in the morning. The bus left at high speed toute suite and the young conductor deliberately ignored me so I tapped on his shoulder and told him where I wanted to go, as did another customer, and he muttered something but again showed no interest in my fare so I ended up going to the New Hong Yun hotel for free. This is my favourite kind of racism.
At the hotel everyone was asleep and I had to wake some folks in the bathhouse up and then I retired to my normal place in the common room upstairs. There were 3 or 4 men in there and one broke the world record for snoring, which was set in Batou. Actually, he didn't so much snore as fall silent for half a minute then gasp for air, yawn and scream for another half and then continue the cycle. The price of admission was 29 RMB, a nice price you probably wouldn't get in Bayan Nur.
So why am I in Bayuquan? Well, the agreement with Judy was, I would teach for free to help her get her new business going, if she would find me a hotel with a swimming pool and cover travel and board. Reasonable, I thought, if not bend-over-backwards because hotels with swimming pools don't come cheap. She couldn't afford the Gang Feng but she rang up the New Hong Yun and told her all about the foreigner who had specified a hotel with swimming pool who was coming all the way from Inner Mongolia. The lady at the Hong Yun had told her no problem and Judy could afford 268 rmb per night.
So at 8.00 we met in the reception and checked into my room. Then there was a slight hitch. The nice lady who told Judy there was a swimming pool now said with the sweetest smile that the swimming pool was closed for maintenance. After remonstration she rang up the Royal Garden Hotel, who agreed to lower their astronomical price for a room to a one that was still exorbitant. More than the Ramada in Nottingham, where I found nothing to groan about.
First we went to the Gang Feng but they were pretty inflexible on price so we did end up at the Royal G, though not the one in Kensington. It was going to be pricey at 368 per night, but I told Judy I'd do a few nights here and then move to a cheap place later so that we ended up paying the same.
The Royal Garden hotel is designed along vaguely similar lines to my apartment building and I'm currently wondering how I can capitalise on this happy find for my film. It has an atrium (bi-sected) with rooms that open out onto balconies overlooking it. It has a goldfish pond. It has a Grand piano. It has marble floors and a leisure centre style roof. But the similarity ends there because this place has turned the style dial to distortion. There is a new Rolls Royce in the foyer just sitting there with no apparent function. There are several super expensive boutiques in the hotel, just as you would see in an airport and wouldn't dare step inside. There are gardens inside (I saw the palm trees being watered earlier on, or maybe cleaned? are they real?) and there is a tiny pool a bit bigger than a jacuzzi with 4 sea lions in it. I was rather surprised to come across this aquatic concentration camp and I happened to do so when the inmates were being tossed their food. After there were no more fish the alpha sea lion stood on his flippers calling out for more for a few minutes afterwards. I felt sorry for him. Swimming around in demented circles all day waiting for food he devours in a split second: but my presence appeared to make things worse by giving him false hope and I backed away.
There are many ways in which this hotel has had money thrown at it-besides bling and sea lions- but again, it's interesting to see how they've overlooked what Westerners would patronisingly call the obvious. Toast and butter at breakfast is nice but where are the knives? No orange or grapefruit juice but pear juice. Why is the coffee pre-mixed with sugar? What if he doesn't take sugar? Some of the international clocks above the reception are wrong. Well, the London one was, I didn't check the others. 15 watt lightbulbs in the bedside lamps and no other lighting anywhere near the bed (no lights on or in the ceiling) so that it's basically impossible to read a book at night? No WIFI? And what about that extremely noisy function that was just held down in the atrium? Is that really fair on your guests who don't want to hear sound approaching the noise levels of a riot? Well I guess that would just be me.
Ah well, there is always the swimming pool. Later, I went for a swim and discovered that the swimming pool is stone cold. They have filled it up and simply let nature take its course and regulate the temperature. No wonder there was no one swimming in it, or in the other 2 much smaller ones. Once again, Judy and I had been fleeced. Or rather, I just keep forgetting that this is not the West.