Before I arrived in Beijing, my mother told me to personally contact her friend in order for me to set up my reservation at this hotel. This was the hotel my mother always stays in when she is in Beijing. When I called Mr. Chen and he said to me "just call when you arrive and I will arrange it for you." Naturally, to me, this meant that I would be meeting him when I got to the hotel so he can arrange a reservation for me.
I traveled to Beijing from Shanghai by train. During the 11 hour trip, all the while sitting straight up, I listened to the same 100 songs saved onto my Blackberry on repeat and read a book. Once I finally got to Beijing, I was picked up by another one of my mother's friends (my mother has many friends). It was raining and the cab ride to the hotel was dreary. When I stepped out of the cab, however, and looked at the Xinjiang Hotel in all its glory, I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. This, I could definitely get used to.
Figure 1: The lobby
I was infinitely more excited because, call me spoiled, but I was more used to staying in a place like this versus a hole-in-the-wall, dirty hostel or motel. And to add the cherry on top, I was going to be able to stay at this hotel for free because of my mother's friend, Mr. Chen.
As I step into the lobby, I immediately go to the front desk and ask for Mr. Chen. The young girl behind the counter was confused and did not know what I was talking about, but after I made a call to Mr. Chen, I was told to go out the back door of the lobby and go to the building behind the hotel. At this point, I was fairly confused but did what I was told and trekked out into the pouring rain towards the shoddy little building hidden behind the bigger building of the hotel.
Once I arrived inside the smaller building, I saw a reception desk and a designated waiting area. The girl at the reception desk was helping someone else, and I noticed it was a Uyghur person. Uyghurs are an ethnic minority in China, and reside mostly in the Xinjiang Province. Once the Uyghur person left to his room, I went to the desk and asked about my room. I was then given the key to a room on the 3rd floor of this shoddy building. Once I got into the room, I was shocked. This was a low-grade Motel 6 type of hotel and the internet connection cost 30RMB an hour. My mother's friend who picked me up from the train station told me "be careful. The Uyghur people are sometimes notorious for their drunken debauchery, and may be rowdy at night. Don't open the door if someone knocks."
This scared the living daylights out of me. I could not understand why I was forced to stay in this shoddy building when, about 100 yards away, was a 4-star hotel. I could not help but go back to the reception area to ask the question burning in my mind.
Me: "Why do I have to stay here? Why can't I stay in the other hotel?"
Receptionist: "Oh, that building is for foreigners. Only native Chinese people can stay in this building."
Wait, what? Was this lady seriously trying to tell me that the 4-star hotel is reserved for foreigners and this shoddy little poor-man's Motel 6 was for native Chinese? I was even more confused than ever.
After I returned the room (there was no way I was going to stay there another minute), I decided to call a cab and crash with my friend who had an amazing apartment by Tiananmen Square.
And the new question that was burned into my mind was: Why is it that Chinese people treat foreigners better than they treat each other? What is it about foreigners that they are not allowed to stay in the shoddy back building of the 4-star hotel?