I’m a bit behind, but there is a good reason for that. That’s coming up soon.
Vickie and I had another wonderful supper with Thomas Tiang and his business partner, Charles on Saturday night. I do love the way business suppers are done here. The upper tier hotel restaurants have private dining rooms, and the food is just brought in and put on the lazy susan (suzchuan?). You just take a bite or two from each dish and keep rolling it around the table. Charles has a great sense of humor, and the conversation was peppered with laughter and jokes mostly directed towards me, but always in a friendly way – the way the guys at work and my other friends poke and jab me.
After supper, we met the owner of the Yiwu Budgetel, Mr. Wong, and went to visit his hotel. Now, from what I’ve gathered, there are 3 levels of hotel in China – 5 star, 3 star, and business. The Kingdom (where we’re staying) ranks as a 5 star. The new America’s Best Inn & Suites ranks as a 3 star, and the Budgetel ranks (with apologies to us from Thomas!!) as a business hotel. There doesn’t seem to be the kind of hotel one might find at an interstate exit ramp, which is what the vast majority of the American hotel brands are.
The Yiwu Budgetel is every bit as luxurious as the Kingdom, and even more modern. The decor is contemporary but comfortable, and the amenities packages in each room include soap and shampoo, and also toothbrush, tooth paste, razor, “mitt for scrubbing”, and yes, condoms. We were very happy with the hotel, and the staff – all of whom were gregarious, friendly, and, dare I say it, attractive.
Mr. Wong took everyone, including his staff, to a massage — palace is the best way to describe it, and there I got the most painful and wonderful massage of my life. There was NOTHING sexy about it, but it was very sensual. My feet were washed in hot scented water, then given a deep tissue massage – just my feet! It hurt, but it felt good. I also had a bag of very hot river rocks rolled across my back (hence the title of this entry). At some time around midnight, I walked like a noodle to my hotel room – and that’s when the next very bad day began.
I was awakened sometime early in the a.m. by an unmistakable message from my stomach, and an urgency to get out of bed and into the bathroom. This went on every 45 minutes or so until 6am when I had finally “given all I could give”. I went back to sleep for a few uneventful hours then took a shower and met Thomas in the lobby for a day trip to visit the famous West Lake in Hangzhou. I should have stayed at the hotel, true, but I really wanted to see more of China, and I didn’t want to appear like some weak American. I was, in my wife’s words, stubborn.
I was low on energy, but I didn’t have any serious bouts of my illness. At a restaurant in Hangzhou I went to the toilet to discover something I had NOT read in the guidebooks, and was not shared with me by Brian Garrett or my brother David, both of whom have lots of experience travelling in China. The publilc toilet stalls do not have “thrones”. They have a glorified hole in the floor, over which I am supposed to squat. In addition, they don’t have toilet paper – which explains the ubiqutious packages of tissues given at every restaurant! In my condition, squatting over a hole in the floor was not a good idea. It was, in fact, a very bad idea. On the upside, the handicapped stalls are equipped exactly as I would hope, and need. I just had to wait for the German tourist to finish his business before I could begin mine.
I didn’t eat much lunch. A bit of broth, some rice, some fruit juice. China is big on fruit juice. The water is unsuitable for drinking, and ice is uncommon, but a pitcher of fresh squeezed apple juice was placed next to me, and it was delicious.
We went to the top of the Leifeng Tower for beautiful views of West Lake, and some interesting Chinese history. Then we rode across the lake in a hand paddled boat – all the while I felt “okay”. But there was still one more stop to make. Our tour guides – Thomas, David, Jim, and Nancy – wanted to take us to the open air street market where we could buy trinkets and souveniers for the folks back at home. I soldiered through for about 45 minutes, then had to return to the van to nap. When everyone returned 2 hours later, the real trouble started.
The small details don’t matter. I’ll cut to the chase. While looking for a place everyone could take a bathroom break before hitting the road back to Yiwu, I hurled… 5 rounds of whatever was in my stomach right into the gutters of Hangzhou. So much for a bathroom. I washed my mouth out with some water, crawled back into the van and slipped into a feverish sleep. About half way home I woke with another sense of intestinal urgency and fever.
There’s nothing like being half way down an interstate embankment covered in thorn bushes with your pants around your knees trying hard to not soil yourself.
Yes, I made it back to the hotel with no further incident, and I welcomed the familiarty of a Western style bathroom – complete with toothbrush and mouthwash and a cold tile floor.
I spent today sleeping while Vickie hit the commodities markets with one of the girls from the Budgetel. I’ve had some toast and orange juice and more water than I’ve every had before (it is in bottles in the hotel room). I hope I feel better by tomorrow, because if I don’t, the 20+ hour trip home will be even less enjoyable.