This weekend I’ve been traipsing around Shanghai. I was here in the late 80’s, about 25 years ago, and it’s changed substantially. Back then it was a maze of bicycles, now replaced by highways. And a lot more tall buildings. It’s a 21st century city. Last weekend I was doing the same in Dubai, another 21st century city.
It was good to take GV, her first time back (to Dubai) since we lived there more than 13 years ago. The city has grown and changed substantially. But it’s also very much the same. It’s a mirage. A city built in a desert. Like Las Vegas without the gambling but with a sea. It’s glitzy and dusty. It’s a city that was a business hub now turned tourist hub. The invisible (and inevitable) effects of (rapid) density lies just below the mirage line. Don’t look too deeply and everything is impressive.
This trip is all about developing options, a subject touched on a couple of posts ago. Usually, I do a fairly good job of picking and booking hotels online, selecting a convenient location and the right amenities. This time I messed up on one important point. In both Dubai and Shanghai, 21st century cities, unless you had an ethernet device or paid a ridiculous price, you were not able to take advantage of in-room internet. Don’t know how I missed that, twice.
The hotels in both cities offer free “wired” internet in the rooms. But if you travel with 21st century devices, you are out of luck. The hotel in Dubai did have wifi available, but at almost 1/2 of the daily room rate. You could however, hang out in the lobby for free wifi, even if you were not staying there. But if you were a paying customer, forget it. In other words, we have free internet if you travel with 20th century laptops and anyone can use wifi in our lobby, but if you are staying with us and have modern, up-to-date wifi devices like mac air, tablets and smart phones and want to use wifi in your room, then we are going to gouge you but good.
In our Shanghai hotel, they also have the room wired. If you want wifi though, too bad. It’s not available at any price. Wifi is available for free in many parts of the city on the street level. But stay in this particular hotel and wifi is not provided.
Two of the most modern cities in the world and I picked hotels with a 20th century communication mindset. How did I let that happen?
In between these two cities though, we stayed in a village town a couple of hours from Shanghai. We were booked into a government hotel, not available to foreigners unless you have a connection. Guess I was lucky to have that connection. The hotel was massive and elegant. Our room was larger than our NYC apartment. And they had wifi. Free and fast. No password. The place is a new, grand 5-star hotel surrounded by a large lake and park — for government officials.
Anyhow, for every communication challenge there is a solution. Yesterday I stopped at an Apple store and picked up an airport express. Our room went from wired to instant in-room high-speed wifi. Moral of the post: if you are booking a hotel and traveling device thin, don’t forget to check that the room has high speed “wifi”, not just internet. Or, bring your own router.
And,….unless you have a method for cracking China’s media blocks, all the internet in the world won’t help you upload your post on time.