Always Have the Name of Your Hotel Written in Chinese

Asia

This post was contributed by Richard Fenrich

I may have only been a flight attendant for about a year or so, but I’ve always had this burning desire to visit China. Maybe it’s the food, the culture, the history – I’m still not quite sure. After putting in a ton of work for this airline company and dealing with some questionable passengers, I finally got earned my first trip to China.
12 hours of offering chicken-or-beef filet or risotto in business class finally led us to the smoggy city of Shanghai.
After the 273rd “thank you, bye bye, take care,” we were off the plane and driving full steam towards our hotel. My armpits were sweating, my lips cracked from the high altitude and drying air, and I forced smiles for 12 hours… it was time to go! 

Post Landing Priority no.1 :

Peel off the uniform (that’s been nuzzled under stinky bits for hours) and jump under a skin scalding hot shower.

Post Landing Priority no. 2:

Go explore!
My job as cabin crew allows me to be in Australia one day and in Buenos Aires the next.  It makes country hoppin’ a breeze; however, the tradeoff is having limited time in each destination. 
Within minutes, I was downstairs, in a cab (which the hotel had arranged for me) and heading towards Shanghai’s bustling city centre. Whilst in the taxi, Chinese pop played quietly through the busted speakers of a car that was definitely older than I was.
Then, I realized that I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. UMMM! I hadn’t researched anything prior to landing. Oh well.

What’s the worst that could happen?

So far, the day was going surprisingly well. I had wandered around the city. I even stumbled upon the Yu Gardens which looked like the set of a film production with old pointed roof buildings and bright red lanterns around every corner making me feel like I’ll run into an emperor if I took the wrong turn. I also managed to walk along a stretch of the boardwalk which had the most incredible views of the Shanghai Skyline, AKA The Bund, all by following an inaccurate, cartoonish map which the hotel provided to “English” tourists. RUDE!
I was quite proud of myself for pseudo-signlanguage-ing my way through the day. I even managed to order dumplings by depicting what a dumpling looked like with my hands. I made an “OK” shape with my fingers, used my other hand as chopsticks and pretended to eat the “dumping.” The poor lady probably thought I was either a mess or was asking for sexual favours. Regardless, after a few attempts, she understood. There you have it ladies and gents, the international sign for dumplings.
Throughout the day, I started to realize there were less and less people who spoke English than I expected. To think of it, I hadn’t heard English since I left the hotel. After contemplating that thought in a Chinese Starbucks, sipping on a Matcha latte (No, it does not taste the same as back home but to be honest, I wasn’t expecting it to), I figured I should probably attempt to hail a taxi to get me back to my hotel. 

Getting a taxi driver to stop was the easy part.

The events that followed were when it started to get interesting. 
The first of many drivers pulled over and waved me to get in. I hopped into the cab and tried to say the name of our hotel. The driver gave me a nod and sped off completely ignoring the traffic around us. I thought “well, that was easy,” then sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the view. The longer we drove, the less I recognized anything around me. Shanghai’s skyscrapers quickly disappeared and more of an industrial area appeared ahead. The little positive angel sitting on my shoulder was saying “don’t worry, he’s taken an alternate route” whilst the little red devil said, “abort abort, he has no clue where he’s going, I REPEAT, abort!” 
The driver pulled up in front of some decrepit looking building that had the word “HOTEL” in weak neons, flashing above the entrance. This was definitely NOT where I was staying. I sighed. I paid the man and walked into the hotel, while I hoped someone who spoke English could point me in the right direction. 
Just my luck, nobody spoke a word. I tried French, Polish and even the minimal Spanish I know but received blank stares in return. 
I flagged down another taxi and said the only thing the guy would understand…” The Bund.” The driver takes me back to exactly where I came from before. 
I spotted the Westin hotel and figured someone MUST speak English there. The receptionist was lovely and told me I was dumb and should always carry around a card with the name of my hotel in Chinese because no taxi driver will understand me. She passed me a little paper with Chinese letters and told me to catch a taxi outside and show the driver the note.

That’s exactly what I did. 

I was dropped off in front of the Marriott Hotel, which was still not my hotel. I showed the note again to the driver and he nodded while pointing to the building. 
He repeated the same steps as above. 
This new receptionist called me and the Westin receptionist dumb, saying that she wrote down the wrong address. He handed me another note with the “supposedly” correct address. 
After what took over 2 hours, I finally made it back to the right hotel.
Not only did I have to work a long international flight the night before, but I had to deal with being aimlessly driven around while my mind was ready to explode. Let’s just say that China doesn’t ever have to worry about me not writing down the name of the hotel again.

My name is Richard and I am a Canadian flight attendant based in London, UK. I started out studying economics in Warsaw, Poland and realized it wasn’t for me so I dropped out. #dropoutlife. I decided the best thing was to move to London and become a flight attendant to travel and get paid at the same time. Best of both worlds, am-i-right? I’ve been globetrotting for the last two years and am absolutely loving it. Keep up with my adventures here

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