My parents arrived on the 26th September and stayed in Beijing for a few days, then they came to CQ. They stayed in Hechuan for 2 nights and had Harry's for dinner! Then we went to CQ.
We stayed at a place in Chaotianmen - the port area of China. Not only was it impossible to find, but it's not that nice a place. Sadly this part of CQ is used to toursts going on the Yangtze Cruise and so decides that all foreigners have a lot of money and want to spend it...They also decide that the foreigner discoutn is applicable to all (roughly +300%). Also, unfortunately, the Hostel owner has guaranteed that i will never go back there after encouraging this rip-off. Luckily, i know the basic taxi prices in CQ as a whole. I also know that from the train station to the airport is Y35. He was trying to get us a car that would cost Y300 to the airport. Hmmm...don't think so. I got us a taxi from Chaotianmen to Chongqing North railway station, then changed taxi to the airport - total cost: Y85.
Chinese people really need to learn that overcharging is not a way to endear themselves to the rest of the world!
The night before we left, i had promised Susan that we would go for dinner at her apartment. Her and her boyfriend, Lotus cooked us a really nice home-cooked meal. It was delicious!
So, after that meal and the taxi ride to the airport the next day, we got our flight to Hainan. The airport process in CQ was painless as normal. CQ's airport is pretty small and fairly well organised, so flying from there is always a pleasure.
We get to Hainan to be greeted by more rain (interesting...Hainan is supposed to be tropical...) and the most useless taxi drivers ever! We got a taxi, i negotiated the price for a while, the taxi driver had the address of the hotel, he knew where it was, so off we went. 45 minutes later we weren't at the hotel. We had passed the same roundabout 6 times and i was becoming a little irritated. I asked him where we were going and he replied 'Hotel!'. He pulled up at some random hotel...that wasn't our hotel and said 'Here'. He lied. I must remember this...if there's money involved, Chinese people lie. You might think this is a bit of a generalisation. It is not. It is the truth. Especially if your are a foreigner and they are looking to give you the 'Foreigner Discount' of +300%. So, i called the hotel and alarm bells should have started ringing when no-one at the other end understood me...even in Mandarin. I passed the phone to the taxi driver who then shouted down it for a while, passed it to me and said 'ok!'. Any normal person would assume, as i did...wrongly, that he now knew where he was going. 30 minutes later...no hotel...so i call again and he gets more directions...then he pulls over and says 'to get to the hotel, another Y10'. I argued with him for some time and explained that we had already agreed a price and we were not paying any more. He carries on and eventually we get to the hotel.
You would think, wouldn't you, that a hotel that takes international guests would not only have a good grasp of Mandarin, but basic English as well. Hmm...you would think wrong. They pretended not to understand for some time, and then had to phone someone who spoke a little English. She managed to convery to them that we had a booking and that we wanted to book in. That was the wasy part! The next thing was that we had to pay a deposit...of Y3000. The whole stay for both rooms wasn't Y3000, so i had issues with that. The other problem was that we didn't carry that much cash. We were expecting an international hotel to have a Visa card machine...apparently they only have it in the winter! So, we argued for some time and eventually got the the point where they agreed that we could stay if we gave them the deposit tomorrow. The taxi driver had still not left. I gave him the money we had agreed and he threw it back at me telling me that he told me he wanted another Y10. I told him that this was the agreed price and that after an hour or so of him getting lost, i was not paying him any more. He threw the money back at me again, so i asked if the ride was free, because he obviously didn't want the money i was giving him. He picked up the money, scowled at me and disappeared into the night.
The hotel wasn't too bad...if you think a garden is a building site, the only restaurant is some dodgy open air barbecue and you like instant noodles.
The next day, before i had gone anywhere i decided that we were going to a different hotel. I asked to use the internet and had the 'manager' hovering over my shoulder flicking through MY phrasebook looking for the English for 'money'. I cottoned on to this little act and brought up Google translate and asked him what he wanted. He said deposit. I explained that we had not left the hotel, and did he really think i could magic up Y3000 from nowhere? He just kept asking for money. So...i did what any sensible person would do - threw the phrasebook at him, got my parents and went out!
The first stop was the bank to get some money - a disaster! Apparently it is virtually impossible to change Sterling for Yuan on Hainan. If you do change it, the notes have to be perfect - the slightest crinkle and they won't take it. Naturally, i inspected every single Y100 note that they gave us very carefully and rejected one with a small tear. Just to make a point...
After the bank, we went to an internet cafe and booked into a new hotel. We went back to the first hotel and checked out. The manager followed me round like a lost puppy whining 'money, money'. So i gave him the money for the night's stay and no more. Then, he started telling me that it wasn't enough, so i showed him my booking and how much it was and walked off.
We got a bus and found the next hotel. Much much better! They had a visa facility - as long as we paid for the whole stay and the deposit, and the rooms were pleasant. However...they did suffer the language problem! I really don't understand why on Hainan - China's International Tourist Resort they cannot understand basic English...or Basic Mandarin!
After a while of trying, i eventually managed to work out which bus took us to the train station. So the next day we trooped off to the train station to try to get some ticket to go somewhere...anywhere! But...no tickets. No tickets at all. No explanation, just no tickets.
The next day we went to Binguan, which is the Li/Miao people reservation type thing. It was very pleasant (unlike the rain!), it was a fascinating day out. I wanted to know about the ethnic people of China so this was a great thing for me to see and i enjoyed it very much. It was slightly marred by the 'travel company' that we booked to go there. They charged us Y310 for the day, which was supposed to include the miao/Li reservation and Monkey Island. What they didn't tell us was that that was only for the drive...they were an overpriced taxi service! Welcome to Hainan - Get ripped off everywhere you go!
So, having managed to see something of interest, we decided to go back to Haikou a day early. I got the hotel booked for my parents, my plane was leaving at Midnight, so i didn't need one. We got to Sanya bus station, got the tickets, everything was fine. We got on the bus (30 minutes late...) and went merrily on our way for the 3.5...no...sorry 6 hour journey! After 6 hours on a stinking bus we arrived at Haikou and got another taxi to the hotel. Predictably, the taxi didn't know where we were going. The driver at first was more interested in whether my phone was an iphone (it's not, it's a chinese shanzai iphone). then, we met a lovely local...maybe the ONLY lovely local in Hainan who explained to the taxi driver exactly where we were going. Suddenly, he knew! It was pouring with rain as we drove to the hotel. He stopped at the side of the road and pointed vaguely in a direction and said 'there' i said 'no, take us to the hotel' at which point he admitted that he didn't know where it is. Again, i called the hotel and they gave us directions.
When we booked the hotel, we made sure that there was an airport transfer service because i needed to get my parents there and then leave straight away to get to the airport. When we got to the hotel, they didn't seem to know what this was! Yep, you guessed it...they lied! Eventually, after much runnign round in the rain and floodwater i was thrown into a taxi and told that i was going to be Y100. Luckily for me, i got the Best Taxi Driver in China! He was great. We were talking about my basic Mandarin and his basic English. I asked him what the word for flood is in chinese, he answered 'not good, i can't swim' Brilliant! He had a sense of humour!
We got to the airport and he only charged me Y70. I tried to give him an extra Y10 telling him that he was the best person in Hainan, but he refused and said 'You are here safely, i am happy'. How brilliant was that man? He restored my faith in Chinese people everywhere (except...maybe Sanya).
Have you ever been delayed in an airport? Maybe had to be ferried to a hotel somewhere? It's bad enough if they can tell you this...it's bloody terrifying if they're shouting at you in some unintelligible strain of another language! I got herded places and shown buses, but no-one would explain to me in basic Chinese, or in basic English what was happening. I got taken to a coach and loaded on, then the coach spent 45 minutes travelling around Haikou. People got off, i tried to get off and was shouted at 'NO', so i got back on and tried to sleep. Then, at the last hotel, a person came up to me and hit me on the arm to wake me up and said 'OFF'.So i got off and wandered about, dazed a bit into this hotel. I waited...and i waited...Chinese people don't do queues, they do Bundles. Eventually i got to the desk where i met 3rd Good Person on Hainan - the hotel manager who manged to explain in simple English that i was to stay there, in a room and they would wake me in the morning to get my flight. I could have kissed that man!
The next morning i eventually managed to leave Hainan. I got back to CQ at 1pm. I am determined i will NEVER set foot on Hainan again, not until the locals adjust their attitude to visitors, stop being obstructive and act like civilised humans.
When i got back, i learned that is was the worst storm Hainan had had in 50 years, and that it was the tail end of a typhoon. My flight was the first to leave Hainan in 3 days, and a week later 100,000 people were evacuated from the Island because of fears of flooding.
I suppose it explains this: