Especially addressed to fellow female solo travelers.
11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012
Hetian, August 23rd 2012
As always, although it might cost more, I booked my accommodation in advance, because I didn't want to waste time on D-Day going in and out hotels, hostels, guest houses, you name it, to get a place to sleep. I might as well spend more money anyway for the transportation of going East and West, North and South. Tougher is the reason when it comes to Xinjiang during Ramadhan (plus summer) vacation. First, Ramadhan plus summer means double high season for Xinjiang. Second, not all hotels in Xinjiang can accept a foreigner. Thus, finding a space is one thing, being a foreigner is another. Don't remind me that I'm female which means safety is another concern.
The taxi fare from the railway station cost 20 yuan. Looks good, I said to myself. Nevertheless, carefully planning everything doesn't guarantee turning everything right. Life is full of surprises. Jinsanjiao Hotel which I booked through Ctrip, had one for me.
This time, unlike in Korla and Aksu, my booking through Ctrip was immediately acknowledge by Jinsanjiao Hotel's front desk staff. Less than 3 minutes, I was already checked in. Of course that's not a surprise.
Happily I stepped into my room, said thank you to the staff who ushered me, and was ready to close the door. Opsss! The door lock couldn't function simply because part of the lock slot was missing. I know I had a key card, but I always make it a habit to use the manual lock in any place I stay at. Somehow I trust a conventional manual lock better than a key card. For breaking through a manual lock and cutting off the chain from outside, one would need to be more secretive as not to arouse suspicion from other guest, fellow staff, or get caught by a CCTV. A skill to make the breaking through noise-free is highly required.
But, imagine one changing data of a key card. Unless another persons looks carefully at the computer screen, and understands what's going on, who would suspect someone sitting in front of a computer? Next, the same person or another, swipes that modified key card on a guest's room door... phew! He's in.
More than trusting on a conventional manual lock, I've since long bring a doorstop during traveling, after learning from www.OneBag.com here. [I find this a helpful source for independent travelers (plus adventurer).] Unfortunately, my doorstop has no screw like the one in OneBag's photo. The gap between my door's bottom edge and the floor was much wider than the height of my doorstop. Using a doorstop would be meaningless.
Therefore I returned downstairs to the front desk. In Mandarin, I tried to explain the situation and ask for a another room. The front desk staff went with me back to the room to take a look. She dialed, apparently a mechanic. The mechanic came and explained that all rooms are like that. He operated the key card and tried to show me that there's no problem. I couldn't accept that of course. I called Ctrip, but phew! Why is it so difficult to talk to a Ctrip customer service staff when in time of trouble? This time the voice over there said that she couldn't here me. I raised my voice, I shouted, but still I heard, "Your voice is very small, Madame." Aaargh. When I shout, I shout, you know. And still she couldn't hear me, whereas I could hear her very well? I hung up.
The hotel staff repeated explaining to me that all rooms were the same. That's weird. For a hotel of such a class, I doubt all guests but me can accept a room like this. Even if you sleep with a bunch of people in one room, you'd have your room door locked at night, won't you? You aren't going to arrange night shifts among you, are you?
At the lobby in front of the front desk, I tried to call Ctrip again. Now, I was heard well, but it was complete hassle just to get my booking number understood. I had already repeated my number more than five times. "One two six one two seven two one one!"
"We don't have a booking number with eight digits, Madame."
I counted. No, there are nine digits. So I repeated, "One two six one two seven two one one! There are nine digits!"
"One, two, six... ?"
"One two six one two seven two one one!"
"You are mentioning a different number, Madame. Just now you said 'one two six one two seven two one one' and now you say 'one two six one two seven two one five'. Which one is it, Madame?"
"Hey!! I never mentioned the number five! I've already repeated to you many times! One two six one two seven two one one!!!" I was frantic. I saw the security guard by the entrance door stood up on guard.
So why do you need to buy a local SIM card? For times like this! Aaargh.
I think my shouting at last scared Ctrip's customer service staff's ear off. She stopped arguing about my booking number. She asked me to hand my cellphone to Jinsanjiao Hotel's staff. When I got my phone back, she explained to me the same thing: All rooms are the same. But, she also said, Jinsanjiao has promised to fix the lock for me.
A few minutes later the front desk staff handed me a key card. The room number written on the envelope was different. Wasn't I told that they will fix the lock instead of giving me another room, because all rooms are the same?
"Is the key fixed already?"
"Key okay," was the answer.
Hah. What a day in Hetian. I pulled my suitcase to the elevator. Enough with arguing. The thing is, my credit card had already been swiped. Otherwise, I could go fine another hotel. Even so, to secure my booking, Ctrip has already registered my credit card data. They might charge me anyway, whatever my reason is. Phew.
Carefully I swiped my key card on the new room. Bing.... opened. Before taking a step, I turned my head to the other side of the door. Bing... a key lock hooked up nicely, both on the door and door frame. But it might not be working, I said to myself.
I stepped in and turned back to close the door. Click, I turned the lock. Bing... locked.
The conclusion? All rooms are the same? This one is not. Just had been repair within minutes? The paint on the nut reflects the opposite. (Thanks to years of working experience in a manufacturing company.)
Dear fellow travelers, don't hesitate to adventure into an argument, especially when it comes to safety matters. I'm not suggesting the hotel had had a scheme on me. Maybe they just wanted to sell to me, a solo cute female, the room that other guest would reject. I am suggesting you to secure your own security as much as you can. This story can happen in any country, any hotel.