Even in the wired age, travel's headaches still manage to endure

By Chen Liang ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-06-27 08:17:52

Traveling in the country has become more convenient in the mobile era. You can book your plane/train tickets, hotel rooms, and even car rides through various kinds of apps and arrange a trip from your home within minutes.

Yet, it doesn't mean everything will turn out fine. A careless choice on your mobile phone can still lead to an unpleasant experience. And in Yunnan, not everything is connected, as I was to find out.

I was in my colleague's car on the expressway to Kunming after an interview in Songming county. I had met her in the airport that afternoon and didn't think to book a hotel room until we were on the way to Kunming in the evening. My colleague suggested that I stay in a hotel close to where she lives, so that we would avoid the traffic jams during rush hour the next morning.

She lives near Kunming Expo Garden (Shibo Yuan), the only remains of the International Horticulture Exposition that was held in 1999 and is still one of the city's major tourist attractions. So "Shibo" was the keyword in my search using a hotel-room booking app. Soon I got a dozen choices.

First was Expo Garden Hotel (Shibo Hua Yuan). "It is good, but probably a little pricey," said my colleague as she drove.

Then came Shibo (Expo) Yao Xing Hotel, with a standard room priced at around 300 yuan ($48). "I heard of the name and have the impression that it's a decent hotel," she said. So I made a booking.

To check for directions, she asked me to search "Yao Xing hotel" in her mobile's navigation app and bingo, we found it. At about 9 pm, we drove into the hotel's parking lot.

It is a high-rise building with a spacious and well-lit lobby. At the front desk, however, the receptionist told me he couldn't find my name on the booking list. "You've probably booked a room in Shibo Yao Xing," the receptionist said. "It's a hotel a couple of hundred meters away."

He was right - we had gone to the wrong Yao Xing.

About 300 meters from Yao Xing Hotel, I saw the Chinese neon sign of Shibo Yao Xing Hotel. At the front desk, a female receptionist told us that we were in the right place, but she couldn't find my name on the booking list.

It turned out that the hotel has two wings, separated by a residential community. Most of standard rooms are in the east wing. We were in the west wing. The two wings don't share the same computer system, but have independent systems of their own. Talk about being wired. We had to drive to the east wing and check in there.

At 10 pm, I was finally in my room, which was spacious and clean. A problem was that my neighbors, probably members of a package tour group, were far too noisy. Another problem was that the room didn't have a Wi-Fi connection. Was this civilization or what?

The two nights in the hotel were fine. On the third morning, I walked back to my room after breakfast, planning to get my luggage and check out. But now, I couldn't open the room with my card. It had obviously expired and I had to renew it at the front desk. What a hassle. It was several minutes' walk from the room. I tried to find the room service lady on my floor, but there was no one around.

Quite by chance, I noticed a gap between the door of my room and its frame. I inserted the card into the gap toward the lock tongue - and tried to open the door. I succeeded, phew! What a relief it was when I saw my packed luggage on the floor. My computer, my cameras ...

At the front desk, after I had checked out, I asked the receptionist for a receipt. She was surprised by my request. "I don't know how to print out a receipt," she said helplessly. "I was just transferred here. Few customers ask for receipts. Could you wait for my colleague?"

It was 9 am. I had an appointment that morning. Now I was truly upset!

She started calling her colleagues. Half an hour later, a colleague finally came to her rescue. But, of course, I was late for my appointment.

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