Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When It Just Isn't Right

We arrived by train in Dandong late in the evening. It was already dark and we needed to find a place to stay that would accept Americans. My friend and I had outlined a basic plan which included a hotel with a river view, since the Yalu River was the main attraction.

Her father, however, was heavily engaged in a conversation with a stranger, her grating voice tearing into my ears and interfering with my idea of what was going to happen. I usually like to take a few moments to gather my perspective, get my bearings, allow my soul to catch up … etc. It absolutely wasn't going to happen. We quickly walked away from the train station following the grating voice into darkness. I mean literal darkness. Dimly lit streets, dark streets, a dark hotel. The hotel was pretty smelly, odorous. The rooms were a reasonable size for me, I just barely need a few square feet of anything flat.

The hallways had people sitting in chairs in them. The doors to people's rooms were open. It reminded me of sketchy resident hotels in America. Every one of my emergency warning indicators was blaring; No! I would be afraid to leave my room. I was already feeling trapped.

My friend asked me, "Is this going to be Ok?" I started into a series of "I'm not sure's" and bolted outside to find out if there was a store nearby. Since I had lost control of the situation I was unsure of the availability of bottled water and had a variety of other concerns. I couldn't get out of the place fast enough.
It quickly became clear that this was a no.

Now. I am not normally afraid. I've stayed in some really sketchy places in the world, including residence hotels, with some pretty sketchy folks. So why was this so wrong.

One, we were led there by a stranger. When travelling, we need strangers. Stranger give us guidance, local knowledge, kindnesses, sometimes friendship. They may offer us future opportunities, as the young man I met in Qianshan Park did, "When you return to China, would you like to visit my family in Jilin?" But they may also steal from us, mislead us, can harm us, may lead us into danger. One day while I was travelling in Cheoung Ju, South Korea, a man noticed that I had my passport in my front shirt pocket, and then invited my to accompany him for tea into a basement doorway with no signs. I graciously declined, claiming business responsibilities, and immediately walked away.

Two, egress from the hotel was unsafe. The doorway opened directly into the sidewalk without any opportunity to see what was outside, and it was dark. Big hotels tend to have big entryways and people around, and are well lit. It is easy to identify what's happening just outside the door from inside.

Three, services that I wanted seemed unavailable. Since I wasn't consulted at any time during the process of finding the room and seeing it, I was unable to find out if I could get what I needed from the hotel.

Four, I didn't feel safe in the common areas of the hotel. There's no way to state this strongly enough. The hotel with even the most minimal of services is part of your livelihood while travelling. Not being able to travel freely down to the front desk is a deal breaker.

Clearly, it takes more than a flat spot on the floor to make me happy. We went off to find a different hotel.

1 comment:

Kristina said...

Good for you for listening to your instincts. Too often we ignore them and regret it later.
Who cares why it felt wrong? It did and that's all that's important.