My First Foray into China - Getting to the Transit Hotel

Mar 14, 2019     China     My Adventures
Heading up to the check-in counter as our taxi drives away with our hotel voucher.
Heading up to the check-in counter as our taxi drives away with our hotel voucher.
What should be easy for most people, even getting the free hotel room from the airline was a bit intimidating for me.
I wasn't particularly looking forward to a long layover in China after already traveling for something like 18 hours.

I had checked out of my hotel in Labuan Bajo, hung out a couple of hours, took a motorbike to the airport (side saddle, no helmet - I was quite proud of myself for hopping on the motorbike like that so casually like I do it every day), waited a few more hours there, got my 1 hour flight to Denpasar only to wait another 7 hours for my flight to Xiamen, China. Ugh - I just want to get HOME at this point!

Xiamen airlines is awesome though and on a long layover you get to choose between a free hotel, city tour, or use of the crappy lounge. I did the lounge last time and wasn't going to make that mistake again. But China just plain intimidates me. Even taking a taxi to the free hotel made me nervous.

I'm sure the review I found online about the process didn't help. It was by someone who spoke Chinese and he said it was even hard for him! And that was about the only information I could find about the layover options online. There is almost no information on any of it anywhere. Hence my latest article to help Xiamen layover folks like me! (see What To Do During A Long Layover in Xiamen)

I was so much hoping to meet someone on my flight that I could hang out with during the layover. Boom. Waiting in Denpasar by the electrical chargers, I met not only a fellow American, but a fellow San Diegan! And he has done this trip quite a few times already and is very familiar with the hotel process in Xiamen. Yay! He said most Americans usually group together and do the hotel thing. That sure didn't happen on my first trip through. I was totally on my own.
Getting the free hotel voucher was pretty easy.
Getting the free hotel voucher was pretty easy.
I knew I needed local currency for the taxi to the hotel and I figured between the ATMs and the US dollars I had to exchange, I'd be fine. Wrong. I should know better. Me and the San Diegan (Korey) got our free hotel vouchers then went to get some money. His ATM card worked but mine didn't and the money changers weren't open that early. Damn. I felt like an ass. He offered to pay the taxi ($5 round trip, not a fortune, but still) so that was super nice. I really really didn't want to be stuck at the airport for 16 hours!

The airport is just like the airport at Beijing; large, modern, and empty. There are hardly any people anywhere, including the taxi line. It's the strangest thing and I'm learning that this is the just the way China is. I guess it goes along with those shows you see on TV where China builds entire cities even though there are no people to live or work there. Build it and they will come ... I suppose.

We gave the taxi driver the voucher so he could read where the hotel was. Zero English. Zero. Low and behold, even though we asked if a 100 yuan bill was okay (using hand signals of course and the bill as a prop), he didn't seem to have change. He finally broke out his wallet and gave us 70 change when the meter said 14.50. Uh, not quite buddy. He chuckled and handed over another 10. Fine.
So happy we arrived at the hotel quickly and without issue on my first venture out into China!
So happy we arrived at the hotel quickly and without issue on my first venture out into China!
The Hezheng hotel looked pretty nice with the gaudy chandelier and sofas in the lobby. We got to the front desk and Korey is like "what did I do with that voucher??" OMG, yep, it's in the taxi. We're screwed.

I tried miming to the woman behind the counter "Xiamen Airlines, paper" (draw a rectangle), "taxi" (driving motion), "gone" (woosh away). A simple look of frustration, she grabbed her phone, pecked away, and showed it to me. Google Translate "You left the paper in the car, didn't you?" :( Yes. Google Translate "You'll have to wait."

Then the young hippy couples from our flight arrived. We hung off to the side and then after a while she handed them their passports. Oh wait, they were OUR passports. We must all look alike. LOL The hippies handed us our passports and a room key - hooray!

I told her "shei shei" and got nothing. Not a single smile or personal interaction the entire time. It became kind of funny. The hippies all laughed and said they were getting the same treatment.

According to the elevator sign, floor 5 was the non-smoking level. It hit you hard as soon as you walked into the hallway. It was the smokiest smelling hotel I have ever been in.

The room was pretty great though! Modern, free bottles of water, tea kettle, slippers, toothpaste! Settled in to the comfy pillows and semi-comfy bed and crashed out before venturing out into the city. I'm in China!

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