He asked where I would be staying in Nanjing, and was very concerned when I told him that I didn’t have any accommodation organised. We would be arriving in Nanjing at about 10.00pm, and he seemed convinced that I would be sleeping on the street. When it came time to make our farewells he went to talk to the first few passengers lined up at the exit door. More nervous glances were cast in my direction. When he returned he explained that these people would see to it that I get in a taxi and be taken to a hotel where they speak English.
I followed this group of people off the train, through the throng at the station, and into a dusty car park. A grey-haired businessman talked to the first taxi driver he found, and towards the end of the conversation the taxi driver looked agitated.
The taxi driver took me to a luxurious five-star hotel. There I stood at reception, my bag, pants and jacket covered in dirt from huddling in the cave to escape the storm on Tai Shan, my hair unkempt, my boots – well I could go on. I just didn’t belong in this hotel. After asking the price (prices in China are often displayed on a board behind the reception desk, but they are not the real price, for the real price you need to ask) the suited young man replied:
“Normally 8000 kwai, but because it is late you have a special half price.”
I can afford that. I thought to myself.
I entered my suite, stripped out of my sweaty, muddy clothes and stepped into the Rainforest Shower. A deluge uncannily similar to that which I had experienced on the mountain poured upon my tired body from all directions. Following this, I flicked through the 20 or so channels on the massive widescreen television. I found the American and English shows a bit silly and shallow, and so turned off the television. Then I was struck by an unnatural silence. Only the whirring of the air-conditioning, and the periodic slurping of the bar fridge broke an absolute silence. No birds cried, no insects chirped. I lay back in bed. Here I was, by myself in the lap of luxury, and I felt the loneliest I’d felt in a long time.