Before arriving in China, I had anticipated the lodging situation to be quite similar to my lodging experiences in Europe: cheap hostels with small rooms, even smaller beds, a bunch of foreign travelers, but still a temporary place you could call home for a few days. Lodging in China turned out to be just like staying in Europe, except for some minor, very unique details.
The hostel in Beijing, the King’s Joy International Hostel, was located one block south of Tiananmen Square in the heart of the city. A 6-story former hotel, the rooms were surprisingly spacious, each with their own bathroom, though each door seemed to be built for a 5’-6” tall man with narrow shoulders. The beds were small, but my feet did not overhang the edge like they did in Europe. I did have to duck and turn my shoulders sideways to walk through the bathroom door, but the rooms were overall very comfortable. One situation that fascinated me was the hostel’s definition of “air conditioning”. When the AC was on, the room was humid and my skin was sticky with perspiration. When the AC was off, the room was hot and sweat was constantly running down my face, during the day and at night. The hostel served a $4 dollar breakfast every morning that was delicious, but half of the dishes that I ate for breakfast I had no idea what they were. Luckily, my stomach never had any issues. Overall, King’s Joy was a pleasant hostel.
In Shanghai my classmates and I stayed at the Blue Mountain Youth Hostel. Located a couple neighborhoods outside of downtown Shanghai, Blue Mountain was surrounded by residential blocks that provided us a small snapshot of middle-class housing in Shanghai. All four of us students were in a small room with two bunk beds and a very powerful air conditioner (a nice contrast to our experience at the King’s Joy hostel). In this hostel we had communal bathrooms with toilets that consisted of a hole in the floor that could be flushed and nearby sinks that were open to the hallway. This setup actually enriched the experience as it was fun dodging other travelers walk past me in the hallway as I brushed my teeth. Despite the lack of serving breakfast in the morning, the Blue Mountain Youth hostel was about equivalent to Beijing’s hostel experience (the air conditioner was a huge bonus!).
It was in Datong that we had our only “hotel” experience during the trip. While in the city we staying in the Haohai International Hotel. This was my first experience staying in a hotel room without a window. While my room just had a blank wall where a window typically is in a standard room, my classmates had window frames in their rooms with a back-lit painting of a Chinese landscape. The bathroom was completely tile, but there was no “tub” to the shower, so every time I showered water would simply go everywhere and eventually dissipate into one of two drains in opposite corners of the bathroom. We had room service that would clean our rooms daily and leave us a small plate of two plums, three cherry tomatoes and one apple after every visit, a true testament to Chinese hospitality. The hotel also served breakfast every morning, which was also delicious, but I still didn’t know what half the items on my plate were.
Considering my physical build and my past traveling adventures, I consider my lodging experiences in China to be one of the better parts of my trip. Despite the tiny door frames, inefficient air conditioners and floor toilets, I had enjoyable meals, excellent room service and my feet never hung off the edge of any of the beds.