Quotidian: The Mahjong Table

When we checked in to our Yingtan hotel, we were given an “upgrade” to a suite. I say “upgrade” because while it did have two beds on separate levels which was great for parental privacy, it meant that we were located in the smoky gambling wing of the hotel right across from the “massage” parlour (where massage is just the beginning!). Every night the hotel parking lot would fill up with cadre and laoban cars—black Audi A6s, Mercedes SUVs and Landrovers with dark tinted windows—and every morning we would walk by empty suites with floors littered with cigarette butts, peanut shells, and baijiu glasses. In comparison, the maids must have loved cleaning our room! Since no one seemed to actually stay in these rooms, the suites did not have working Internet ports so we had to snake an ethernet cable across the hall from the massage parlour to get online.

According to our guides—and we had no reason not to believe them—this was the fanciest hotel in Yingtan. And indeed it was very pretty. However, it had no central heating, meaning everyone—staff and guests included—wore heavy coats throughout the day. The hotel breakfast was also quite modest, with no Western options (not even coffee!), that was strictly served between 7 and 9am (we nearly missed it a few mornings). The joys of travelling off the beaten track in China (i.e., a city of only 1M people)!

On the plus side, our room did feature an automated mahjong table. The table had two complete sets of tiles and automatically reshuffled and reset the walls for the next round. Needless to say, the table got a good workout from the kids.

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