aqua fortis

Friday, June 09, 2006

China, Part II: Of Hotels and Lifts

Okay, okay, I know I owe you another China post. Trust me, I have plenty more observations and should probably note them down before I forget them all. For instance, here's one I forgot to include under "Transportation": Elevators in China are homicidal. About 95% of the elevators we rode--not that we spent our trip riding up and down elevators or anything--had doors that would close really fast. There was no way it was humanly possible for more than one or two people to cram in before the doors would start to close on you, and then they would be very resistant to being forced open again. Sometimes you'd just have to pull back your smarting, semi-squished arm and resign yourself to waiting for the next elevator. I know this is a very random thing to notice, but because we stayed in large hotels, we did end up using elevators more frequently than is perhaps usual for us. And, I swear to god, the doors would close on us more often than not. Once or twice our group of six even had to take separate elevators because only half of us were able to scramble in before the doors closed. I'm serious.

People smoke. A LOT. They smoke in hotels and restaurants and such, which I've rapidly and thankfully become un-used to over the years since it was outlawed in California restaurants. One night, our first night in Shanghai, we went to a restaurant that was so smoky it was literally like a haze in the air. The people at the table behind us were smoking. The people at the table next to us were practically chain-smoking. Frankly, it sort of puts me off my food when there's no ventilation to get rid of the smoke. I can't even remember what we ate, because I was busy feeling more and more ill and wondering if I was going to have to step outside. That night I had what can only be described as mild asthma accompanied by less-mild anxiety due to not being able to breathe well and having to pace around for a while until allergy medicine kicked in.

If there is a nightclub in the hotel, there is at least a 50% chance we will be placed directly above or below it. The Shanghai restaurant wasn't our only smoke-related incident. When we arrived at our hotel the first night we stayed in Xi'an, we thought the room smelled a bit smoky. By the time we were ready to go to bed, we noticed that the air-conditioning vent was emitting not only a distinct odor of cigarette smoke, but also rather intrusive music and voices. Is somebody having a party up there? we asked ourselves, and promptly covered nose, mouth, and ears with any stray bits of clean clothing we could find. However, this didn't make for a restful night's sleep. The next morning, I looked at the hotel directory, and lo and behold, two floors above us was a nightclub. We could only assume we shared their ventilation system. Needless to say, we requested a room change that morning.

Our Guilin hotel was nice, quiet, and uneventful. But all that changed yet again when we got to Shanghai. Late the first evening, as we were winding down from our busy day that began with plane travel and ended with me choking on cigarette smoke, we noticed that it sounded like maybe someone was watching a loud music program on TV next door. It wasn't as loud as the nightclub, but it was definitely a bit irritating. We thought, well, better luck the following night. But no...and we decided there was definitely something going on either next door or below us. Something unsuitably festive for our exhausted selves. Plus I was sure I could hear someone singing poorly.

I looked in the hotel directory yet again, and on the fourth floor, right below ours, was not only every single one of the hotel's conveniences--sauna, fitness room, etc.--but something mysteriously called KTV. What is KTV? we asked ourselves, and braved the rapidly-closing elevator to check out the fourth floor. KTV turned out to be...a karaoke bar with private booths, one of which was directly below our room. Of course. So we changed rooms in Shanghai, too, ironically to a room that had last had smokers in it. However, after an airing out it wasn't bad at all, and housekeeping thoughtfully left us a new box of matches when they made up the room.


chloe said...

There's a Chinese mini-mall near us. The elevator takes excruciatingly long to travel up and down, but the doors only open long enough to close right back again. The doors are like a steel trap! Why do they do that??

TadMack said...

You sound like me, in any state other than California. I'm so spoiled by a lack of cigarette smoke it isn't funny. I can get very whiny and panicky and wheezy and pull out my asthma inhaler from junior high when pressed...