Sunday, December 19, 2010

Our trip to..Beijing?

It was our understanding that Sarah, Alison, and I were taking the bus somewhere 2 hours north of Beijing. Instead, on Saturday, we took a 2-hour bus to...northern Beijing.

We knew we were in for a treat when our first sight of the hotel/com
plex was a hill out back filled with man-made snow next to an indoor water park. When we finally found the correct building with the hotel, our first step was to take a group picture of CICAMS epidemiology dept:
(It is fun to zoom in on that picture.) The self-proclaimed five-star luxury hotel was a few years past its prime, as evidence by its "Merry Christma" decorations...
But we didn't let that get us down. We spent the rest of the first day listening to lectures in Chinese about undetermined topics. 10% of the time, the slides were in English, so we could follow along, but the rest of the afternoon was spent in peaceful zen-like meditation, aided by ipads.

The big appeal of the hotel was that it included activities--Sarah, Alison, and I chose the hot springs, cool is that? Our enthusiasm was dampened somewhat by our 1 km walk through an unheated passageway in our swimsuits to the water park, being denied entry, walking around outside to the actual entrance, walking through the
man-made jacuzzis-in-jungle-style "hotsprings" back to the water park (which our ticket allowed us entrance to), where we begged to be allowed to go down the slides, which were closing. They let us (yay for being special!), and the slides were SO FUN. Favorite moment? Being hauled out of the water the second after splash down so I didn't drown. Thank you, "lifeguard."

We then went to sit in a jacuzzi, and it was pretty awesome and chillax...until we noticed that the spa smelled like mold and unwashed gym socks. So we left, and Sarah and Alison decided it was too cold to walk back without towels from the spa, so they smuggled them out for our long, cold, walk back to the hotel. (remember this)

On day 2, both Sarah and I gave our 10-minute talks. Mine was comparing cervical cancer screening in China and the US, which was difficult in that there is no national cervical cancer screening program in China whatsoever. We then snuck out to go bowling with Eunuch as the rest of the talks did not have English slides. I came in last, but I was awarded an "A" for effort.When it was time to leave, Wangshaoming told me and Alison that the staff was accusing us and Sarah of stealing towels from the hotel. We thought we were in trouble for moving towels from the water park to the hotel (keep in mind it's the same complex and company), so I went to explain. The hotel staff berated me for 45 minutes (they said there was only 1 towel in each room, when there should have been 2 from the hotel and 1 from the water park, so they demanded payment for stolen property), and I was getting angry as 1) Alison and I both showered that morning with separate towels 2) the towels were gross so why would we steal them? and 3) I'm not letting some skeezy lady take my cash money. It was made even more sketchy because they refused to let us back into the rooms because "their maids had double checked." Luckily, Shangying convinced them to let us upstairs, and surprise surprise, we found 3 towels in each room. By the time we got back to the lobby, the hotel said the error was fixed. In the US, we would have been comped SOMETHING, but here, there was no apology whatsoever. I think what happened is the hotel didn't think we'd have such strong Chinese-speaking advocates, and that we'd just quietly fork over the we're Americans, so obviously extremely rich.

We still had a good time and are glad we went, but will not be recommending a visit to the "Leisure Hotsprings Hotel" for any of our Beijing visitors.

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