Off the beaten path
Thursday morning another guide, Melody, picked us up at the White Swan and transported us to the airport. She’s Katie’s height. We are changing guides very quickly now, because of the logistics of getting many tourists through the city. There appear to be two sets of guides: those with better English speaking skills who take you to the local tourist destinations and those with lesser skills who just take you to and from the airport or train station. We had a pre-arranged time to meet at the pickup location, but Melody called us the night before to have us meet earlier to ensure we had enough time. Good thing, because we arrived at gate B220 just ten minutes before boarding.
The flight to Zhanjiang was delayed quite a bit and we didn’t meet Jason in the destination city until mid afternoon. The Zhanjiang airport is tiny and there was an 1.5 hour bus ride to Katie’s hometown of Maoming. The driver, like seemingly everyone else in the city, likes to honk his horn while driving. He honked it about a dozen times per kilometer the entire way into the city.
Maoming, although it seems like a large city, is remote enough that nobody speaks English. Attempting to order dinner at the hotel was a treat. Katie ordered from a picture and the first two things I picked out weren’t available (too Western). We avoided the tap water served us and this was the first hotel that didn’t understand the word “Sprite” when we requested it. We spotted a can across the room so Chris got up to point out what she and girls wanted to drink. The three waiters that surrounded the table and genial and attempted to help us order, so the experience was more humorous than frustrating. Three of the meals came with one sanitary food preparation glove each. I have no idea why. Claire liked wearing hers.
The hotel is the nicest one in the city and it towers over the rest of its buildings. We are near the top floor and the room is spacious. Like every hotel we’ve been at, the service directory warns us not to drink the tap water. Unlike every other hotel, this one does not offer a couple of complimentary bottles of water as an alternative. At this point in the trip Claire admits she’s “getting too burpy” to drink more soda. Our saving grace is that there is a large, fine grocery store on the fourth floor of the building. I’d buy a bottle of Great Wall red wine if the room had a corkscrew.
Our room also has a computer in it which is both a blessing and a curse. The Windows XP computer is obviously behind the Great F*rewall of China blocking Skype and all the social media sites. It has been configured for Chinese and is impossible to switch over to English as it resets its settings upon each reboot. I tried re-using its static IP address and routes on my netbook but it must have some additional filtering to block that too, so there is no VPN access here. Poopers.