Little Trouble in Big China: still not ready for prime time…

20180622_094150There are so many things that can go wrong for an indie traveler in China, that I’ve been rather amazed that it’s been going so smoothly, if arduous and time-consuming, the process of booking rooms, and travel, and then actually ending up exactly as planned, with little or no language support…

The only time I really sweated was the time I was on the bullet-train from Langzhong to Xi’an and then all of a sudden so many people got off in Guangyuan, and then the trip number changed on the overhead display, that I seriously wondered whether I was headed off the map into the wilds of Qinghai province—but no, we arrived in Xi’an on schedule, whew, still no major snafus…

20180622_092541Until now. Leshan and Emeishan should be ‘slam-dunks’ for a traveler, given their status as tourist meccas, but not when your ‘hotel’ receptionist turns you out on to the street, apparently for not being able to accept foreigners, all of this with no warning or clue on the Agoda website, just the rude awakening, after a thirty-minute runaround, this in a place that advertises itself as English-speaking (not) and passport-accepting (ditto, many places only accepting the ID card from the PRC, made to fit in a special credit-card-like terminal)…

So this sets in motion a flurry of activity on my part, finally lassoing a pedicab driver to my cause, she taking me to three different places before finally finding one that would take me, at almost $40 a night quite a bit more than the local and backpacker’s dive that dumped me—so nice, 300sq.ft/30sq.mt of pure bliss, after the cramped digs I’ve been suffering through for the last few weeks, and even a killer breakfast buffet. I’ll make my money back on that, haha…

20180625_090445And the park of the Big Buddha 5-6 klicks away across the river is nice, even if I didn’t actually take the inside track, full of crowds and loud people. I like my room, haha, so I spend much time there, even though Leshan seems like a nice enough place with nice enough people, something not always to be counted upon in a country where foreigners are largely ignored, though accepted, even if mostly for stage props, lol…

And then it happened again, at Emeishan, hemming and hawing at the hotel desk, they finally allowing that they can’t accept the pre-payment I’ve made through Agoda, so I’ll have to pay cash, and then request a refund from Agoda—great…

That’s all I need is another hassle with Agoda, who are already quibbling with me over the compensation for the overly expensive room I procured—at a discount—in Leshan, rather than sleep on the street, compensation which I never requested anyway, just contacted them to inform them of the serious glitch, which could potentially leave a mother out on the street with child at midnight in a strange city, in a strange land…

20180625_092428But the deal in Emeishan is the best of the trip, regardless, on a price/quality ratio, and the ‘Baoguo Village’ up by the park is not bad, either, friendly people in a friendly town. The real deal is to spend several days inside the park, hiking and climbing and over-nighting at monasteries, but I don’t have time for that, just a quick glimpse, then on to Hong Kong, to catch up on some stuff, i.e. everything Google and social-media that is banned in China, lol, and then make final decisions about my next move…

So that ends this portion of the trip, and maybe all trips, though I’m certainly considering staying on, in China, but not really travel, or not much anyway, just hopefully live, and move, and have my being in a few Chinese towns selected for their quality of life and low-price accommodations. So when in doubt, go south I say, and that means Yangshuo, which was a pretty nice little backpacker burg a couple decades ago, so we’ll see how it is now…

And if that doesn’t work, then my trump card (!) is Xishuangbanna, the old Chinese part of what was once the border area between the original proto-Tai states of Lan Xang and Lan Na, based in Luang Prabang and Chiang Mai, respectively, and with local dialects I am familiar with, fingers crossed. It’s only a couple hundred klicks from my old digs in Chiang Rai, now accessible overland, direct tickets all the way CR>Kunming…

20180626_122653They call themselves ‘Tai Lue’, but close enough to northern Thai and Lao that I’m hoping for at least ersatz fluency. This is my last chance to do something in China, and if I can accomplish here what I accomplished in Thailand (when they let me), then that is a fitting end to my career as a back-pack style traveler…

So what have I forgotten? There are toilets everywhere in China! And bicycles for rent, too (if you have the app)! And everything you read about China is already out of date, so don’t bother. It has transformed from nearly the most backward country in the world twenty years ago to one of the most advanced now. What else? China is a happy place…

Material progress will do that for you, sometimes—Ai Wei Wei no, smartphones si. And though it’s straight outta’ the Japanese playbook for sure, i.e. make everything cheaper, it’s outta’ the US playbook, too, the part where fat people don’t protest. Girls are dressed to the nines in fashion and smiles. There are almost no beggars, with emergency shelters on the street for those in need when they need (even considered it myself once or twice)…

Then it happened again! Another bum reservation at my airport hotel in Chengdu, for the flight out next day to Hong Kong, in a room with no window! But the Agoda listing said something about ‘city views’, ha! And if that reflects badly on Agoda, it reflects badly on China, too, that this country on the verge of world leadership is not really even ready for prime time tourism, tsk tsk…

 

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