Hello, Hangzhou!

On December 12, 2022, I got on a plane (for the first time since January 2020) to fly from Singapore to Hangzhou, China, where I will be working at Zhejiang Lab.

I quarantined comfortably for 5 full days in central Hangzhou at the Merchant Marco Hotel. See below for photos of the hotel and the 17 meals I ate while I was there.

What was the hotel like?

It seemed to be undergoing renovation. The walls where we entered (not through the lobby) were boarded up, and the carpet in the hallways had been removed. Apart from that, it seemed like a normal, comfortable business hotel.

I was grateful for blue skies and sunshine streaming through the window.
At night, the building on the left had lights that moved upwards. Pretty cool. The one on the right is a hospital. Which you would know if you could read Chinese characters.

Apparently there’s a member program for this hotel:

Unlimited wonderful you can reward.

I enjoyed reading the Chinese/English signs in the room. The English was understandable, but amusing. (I don’t yet know enough to understand the Chinese.)

(This is pretty good, but “all” and “already” are redundant.)
(I think we would just say “to prevent insects from entering”.)

What was the food like?

Honestly, in a way I wish I’d liked it less. I ate almost everything, which means I ate too much!

On Monday the 12th, we arrived in the evening. They gave us a snack bag with some instant noodles in it.

On the other days, hot meals would be deposited on a plastic stool in the hallway and announced by a knock on the door. But I could hear the cart coming loudly down the hall long before the knock. Moreover, every time someone on the floor opened a room door, a sensor would be triggered and there would be several loud beeps, since of course we weren’t supposed to go out.

These were my meals on Tuesday:

Wow, salad…

These were my meals on Wednesday:

These were my meals on Thursday:

These were my meals on Friday:

These were my meals on Saturday:

It amuses me no end that the fruit of the day on Saturday was a cucumber. XD

This was breakfast on Sunday before I left the hotel:

I have to admit I didn’t eat all the rice porridge. Also, I skipped some of the meat items that were too bony or sticky-looking. I ate a couple of the shrimp but decided I was too squeamish to bother to continue removing the heads, legs, and tails. The rice and vegetables were lovely; I did not encounter any fish. The hotel offered some room service items (including Starbucks coffee) for an extra fee, and they said they’re able to customize the meals for those with dietary restrictions. The default food was fine for me, so I didn’t bother trying to add or substitute anything.

Still, I’m really glad I brought my own packets of instant coffee. Neither coffee nor tea was provided, only a yogurt drink at breakfast. The room contained two bottles of water and a kettle. The bathroom sink had an extra tap which I assume was water treated for drinking; tap water in China is generally not safe to drink. I boiled the water from the extra tap anyway; warm water is nice to drink in winter.

What were your overall impressions?

My stay was comfortable, relaxing, even luxurious by some standards… I had heat, hot water and more food than I needed, plus internet access, LOL. But being confined in a room even for only a few days made me feel strangely helpless. Or inert, maybe. Exiting the hotel felt surreal, perhaps mostly because I was exiting into a foreign country at a colder temperature than Singapore ever reaches, but at least partly because I felt like an escaping criminal, despite having been given official permission to leave.

Oh and I learned that I really like these spicy, crunchy pickles, which were served as part of breakfast.

I think they’re made from daikon radish. I would totally eat this every day!