No Room at the Intime Hotel

Trip Start Jul 28, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Ocean Sonic Resort

Flag of China  , Hainan,
Monday, July 25, 2011

Me: "What do you mean, you don't have my reservation?"
Receptionist: "I mean, we don't have your reservation. Please wait a moment." (Furious typing and head shaking) "Which travel agent did you use to make your reservation?"
Me: "I didn't use a travel agent. I booked it myself through your hotel's website."
Receptionist: "Which website?"
Me: "Your hotel's website."
Receptionist: "Please wait a moment." (Furious typing and head shaking) "I'm sorry, we do not have your name, and we are fully booked."

There was no room at the Intime Hotel. This was my greeting on Hainan Island, the southern-most tip of the People's Republic of China, also known as the "Hawaii of China." No reservation, despite me having a print-out of my reservation and confirmation number in hand. Apparently, they don't use online reservation systems much in China. I should have known that.

Luckily, the manager at the Intime Hotel took pity on me. There is one thing I do know about China, and that is that whining often works. After an overly pathetic monologue about how exhausted I was from working in Beijing and how desperately I needed to rest--in fact, I was running a low-grade fever--the manager arrived with the name of another hotel written on a post-it note. She had made a reservation for me at the Ocean Sonic Resort in Sanya Bay.
Manager: "It's the only hotel in town that has a vacancy. That you can afford." (I had told her what I could afford.)
Me: "I see. And where is it?"
Manager: "It's in Sanya Bay, about thirty-minutes away by taxi."
Me: "I see. And what is the room rate?"
Manager: "They agreed to give you the room for the same rate as here."
Me: "I see." (Scratching my head)
Manager: "It's a platinum, five-star resort."
Me: "I see!"

And that's how I ended up at the Ocean Sonic Resort in Sanya Bay. It was a beautiful, elegant, expansive resort in soothing Balinese style, and it totally creeped me out. The whole three days I was there, I kept looking over my bath-robed shoulder for undercover policeman to handcuff me and escort me out.
Imagined officer: "Step out of your private, ocean-view, balcony tub with your hands up! Zhang, guard the entrance to the over-sized, outdoor, lagoon-style pool. Li, secure the 350 meters of private, white-sand beach. You thought you were going to get away with this, didn't you, foreigner? Well, we knew the moment you tried to pay cash at the restaurant, spa, and swim-up bar rather than care-freely mouthing off your room number that you didn't belong in a classy joint like this."
Me: "Officer, there's been a mistake!"
Imagined officer: "Of course there's been a mistake ... letting riff-raff like you into a classy joint like this."
Me: "Can I at least take these complimentary fuzzy hotel slippers with me to prison?"
Imagined officer: "Consider them a souvenir from your failed life of crime."

And so I wasn't able to enjoy the Ocean Sonic Resort in Sanya Bay as much as some of the other guests who knew they were supposed to be there. I balked at the hotel's overpriced dinners of RMB 88 ($14) and instead took the public bus twenty minutes down the road to local establishments where dinner was a more reasonable RMB 30 ($5). I treated myself to an outrageous facial at the spa for RMB 400 ($62) and felt guilty because I knew I could get the same thing in town for RMB 70 ($11). But eventually, the soothing Balinese-style decor took effect and I managed to relax a bit. That's when I decided to go snorkeling on West Island.

West Island is a small island ten minutes away from Sanya by speed boat. When the concierge at the Ocean Sonic Resort assured me that it was a good place for snorkeling, I don't know why I envisioned somewhere secluded and natural. When I, and the fifty other people packed on the speed boat with me, spilled out onto West Island, I thought I was at Disney World. Every inch of the island was covered with laughing dolphin statues. Every yard had been sectioned off into restaurants, picnic areas, and karaoke pavilions. Speakers hidden in palm trees and disguised as coconuts piped music along every path. Despite being surrounded by clear green water and majestic coral reefs, there were only two small areas on West Island designated for swimming. These "swimming" areas were roped off and crammed with people wearing large, plastic, floating devices. You couldn't swim in the non-swimming areas because of the abundance of jet skis, parasails, and water willies racing by, not to mention the guards stationed strategically around the island to prevent people like me from swimming in the non-swimming areas. So much for my nature retreat! West Island was a roaring tropical theme park.

As I stood puzzling on the beach, one of the most shocking conversations of my entire time in China took place. Two well-meaning young men approached me, wearing large, plastic, floating devices. Well-Meaning-Young-Man-One said, "Hello! You look very curious. Would you like to go swimming with us?"
Me: "Oh, no thanks, I don't think so."
Well-Meaning-Young-Man-One: "Why not?"
Me: "I was hoping for a beach that was a little more ... natural."
Well-Meaning-Young-Man-Two: "You mean you want to be naked?"
Me: "Ha! That would certainly be more natural, but that's not what I meant."
Well-Meaning-Young-Man-One: "What did you mean?"
Me: "I meant I was thinking of going somewhere less crowded."
Well-Meaning-Young-Man-One: "Like where?"
Me: "Like there." (Pointing to a beach farther away with no ropes and no people.)
Well-Meaning-Young-Man-One: "But that beach has no ropes and no people."
Me: "I know. That's why I want to go there."
Well-Meaning-Young-Man-One: "But it's not safe."
Me: "Well yes, it's probably less safe, but at least it's not crowded."
Well-Meaning-Young-Man-Two: "You don't want to be around people?"
Me: "Not particularly."
Well-Meaning-Young-Man-Two: "You can't handle China."

Ouch! Well-Meaning-Young-Man-Two, that one hit the jugular!

Then Well-Meaning-Young-Man-One finished me off: "Have fun looking for an empty beach. We're going to go have fun with the others in the safe beach." With that, they splashed off into the designated mass-swimming area.

I was devastated. Well-Meaning-Young-Man-Two was right. I couldn't handle China. At least not while trying to have a tranquil tropical beach vacation. So much for all my years of coming here.

Later, back at the Ocean Sonic Resort, the Balinese-style decor was working its soothing magic. Soaking in my private, ocean-view, balcony tub overlooking Sanya Bay, taking in the last swaths of color from the spectacular sunset and tuning out the sounds of karaoke and fireworks carrying over from the 350 meters of private, white-sand beach, I realized that I could handle some things about China. Like the current moment. As I gazed at the dark cut outs of palm trees against the sky and the emerging twinkles of stars, I decided that all my years of coming here had not been for naught, no matter what Well-Meaning-Young-Man-Two had said. And the police still hadn't come for me. Life was good.

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Inge Perreault on

Ingrid, I could not handle China either nor could I handle that Las Vegas-style hotel, been there, done that in the Caribbean and don't like it. Give me an Azorean Quinta any time. Your description of what happened is very funny, they respond to whining, I have to remember that when Chinese lojas take over the Acores which they are doing. The photos are great, you can add it to your Tumbleweed experience and I for one like deserted beaches as well.
These huge fancy hotels are not my cup of Cha (Portuguese for tea) and we grow cha here. But you had a good time and I am happy for you, go girl.........

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