Civilized Sundays, or, Formerly Known As

Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
Trip End Jun 29, 2011

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Flag of China  , Jiangsu Sheng,
Sunday, March 27, 2011

I've made reference many times to the hotel across the street from our back gate, where we regularly have dinner.

Today, Charles, Mike, and I went there for lunch.  We had delicious food as usual, including a chrysanthemum salad, vegetarian mini-hamburgers with chopped bamboo root in lieu of meat, chicken and shrimp in a tangy sauce with white gourd, pork bao zi, and fruit-filled puff pastries.  We ate lighter than we usual do, and our meal had a decidedly brunch-like feel.  Mike said we should make brunch at the hotel a regular Sunday affair.

After our meal, Charles asked me to use my mad Chinese to ask the person at the front desk (whom I can't call the concierge) how much a room in the hotel costs for the night.  He wanted to know for future reference.  As fate would have it, my brain chose this moment to forget how to say "room" in Chinese, so I had to communicate half in broken Chinese and half in gestures.  The person at the desk thought I wanted to know how much the hotel cost to build.  She told me in English "one thousand million."  

I had to start over, but I finally managed to get across that I wanted to know the price of just one room, not the whole building, and for just one night.  In a flourish, the woman finally understood what I meant and rapidly told me "mei you, mei you, mei you" (don't have).

I thought this meant that the hotel didn't have any vacancies for the night.  So I asked the woman something like, "yes, but when you do have rooms, how much do they cost?"  She looked confused again, but told me "yi bai kuai," which means "one hundred Yuan."  This seemed like a low albeit reasonable price, so I left satisfied.

However, when Charles, Mike, and I walked out of the building, I turned around to study it for a moment.  We've been to the restaurant enough times to know the first floor pretty well, and there are no guest rooms there.  We've also been to the third floor, and haven't seen any guest rooms there either.  The building has only three floors and isn't all that big.  

I turned to Charles and asked if it was possible that the place wasn't a hotel at all, and if we'd only assumed it was because it's big for a restaurant.  

Realization dawned.  For the last six months or so, we've thought the building across the street was a hotel, when it was really only a restaurant all along.  We couldn't believe our own oversight.  

When you can't read Chinese characters and you can't walk into a place and say, "What is this place?" you have to make educated guesses, and apparently we guessed wrong.  What a moment of embarrassment.

As best as I can guess, the woman who told me hotel rooms cost "yi bai kuai" was probably either quoting me an average price for a hotel room in China (because foreigners know nothing about China), or letting me know what a reasonable price for a decent hotel room would be.

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