When I'm not sleeping in my tent near a graveyard, rubbish tip or jaw dropping scenery, I'm frequenting one of China's business hotels. They often award their own stars but by a global standard they're somewhere around two or three stars. What is not in doubt is the value they provide; I have not yet paid more that £25 a night and some have been as cheap as £12.
I write this whilst sat in by far the worst I've stayed in, but more often than not you get at least one bed and a clean bathroom with a powerful shower. You don't need more than that, but how best to maximise the Chinese business hotel experience I hear you ask.
"How best to maximise the Chinese business hotel experience Simon?"
First, your arrival. I quickly learned during the pollution and coal heavy days of Hebei, that if you arrive looking like this....
.....then you need to start by explaining what you've been up to. Also apologise until someone in hotel uniform asks you to stop apologising.
Now, you have a reservation because Ctrip's app is excellent. Only the thing is, 80% of the time they won't find your reservation, but this is irrelevant because there's space in the hotel, because you are in the middle of nowhere. Where it will become irritating is not Ctrip taking Tesco Clubcard points (or whatever they are) off you for failing to arrive for your reservation that you did arrive for, 100% of the time, but phoning you to ask why you failed to show, eight days later, requesting your receipt, then putting you on hold and asking for your room number - which you know because you're a little bit like a serious mental illness even this light-hearted blog won't make fun of.
You make it to your room, normally assisted by an excitable and brilliant security guard staining his white gloves with the road filth of one of your panniers.
Now this is where the magic happens. Your immediate priority is to get clean, unless you have beer. Then your priority is to take the living room bin and fill it with the frozen beef tongue balls and the strongest cans of beer (3.6%) you found in the nearby shop. Here, the word tongue is especially important.
One man's bin, your bin, is another man's ice bucket. The floor is now your bin, as my right of centre friends always remind me, if you cleaned up after yourself then other people would be unemployed.
Now you can wash, unless of course, you have this shower.
After you've showered or sat in a sink like a massive toddler who's shit himself at a barn dance. You need to begin pillaging. The fact you are naked after washing will aid your primitive urges to scavenge. Things you simply must pack up: the toilet roll - you're not a bear but you will be shitting in the woods sooner or later; the cotton buds - sand gets everywhere; sanitary bag - say you do have to shit in the woods but feel some how paper takes too long to decompose, then you'll want something to carry it with you; the sewing kit -you don't know what clothes/tire/panniers you'll need to fix, or sadly, what boil you'll need to pop on your saddle punished arse.
Everything else is superfluous or off limits for stealing (see checking out section).
Always choose the twin room over the double if offered the choice. If staying for two nights, that's a clean bed each night. If staying one night that's a your not bending all the way down to the floor to pick stuff up benefit.
Pillows; search for a spare, because it will be the least used and comfiest. if nothing else it almost certainly won't contain the platinum grade bean bag balls that make the every day pillows so long lasting.
Not sure how I didn't use a hyphen there.
Put the do not disturb sign on, not for any reason because from 7am til midnight your desire to not be disturbed is not relevant. Today I had only four visits from hotel staff; including one man who arrived with polyfilla, looked under one of my quilts and then left.
Your biggest problem is check out. There is no way round this, I've tried declaring my consumption of 2 beers, 2 pot noodles, 2 bottles of water, 2 coffees and 2 Red Bulls, but it doesn't matter, without fail you will suffer a ten minute sweep of your room.
This isn't about your consumption, this is about profit. As yet it's only happened once on this trip. On the boys final weekend as they tried to check out a cleaner radio'd down to see one of them had 'dirtied a towel', the cherubs both proclaimed innocence, so in my best Chinese I requested to see the dirty towel. what followed was a magnificently Chinese experience where, within view of us, the duty manager and cleaners literally kicked all of the towels and bedding around the floor to try and find the offending item, which they failed to do.
In short leave an extra thirty minutes and oppose any charges (also cover your stinky drains with the towels that will never be identified as dirty).
This is where I update on my progress. Expect lots of fabricated statistics and dated music references.