29 April ? 13.5 hours later ? a mere middle-distance flip for us South Africans used to the 17.5-plus hour haul to get home ? and the land finally comes into view. We are flying over a country that perfectly reflects its stereotype: industrious, efficient, space saving and ingenious.
All this can be seen from overhead as we pass over a patchwork of spaces in which every spare metre is being put to optimum use. From the rigid network of rice paddies that run up to the edge of commercial and residential areas to the parklike gardens that occupy any available area. It?s clear that there is no such thing as ?usused? or ?spare? space.
That should have, but didn?t, prepare me for my hotel room.
After a comforting drive on the left hand side of the road (see, feeling right at home), with the help of a cellphone integrated GPS system, we finally dropped off our 200 pounds of luggage at the office and checked into the hotel.
After comparing my lot with colleagues in single rooms, I realize I have even less to complain about, but my issues with my twin room are not so much the space. (What can one say when you have to relocate the directory of services from a tiny desktop drawer just so you can stow your socks?)
No, it?s not so much that my shoes have to live under the bedside desk because there is nowhere else for them to be, or that the hotel safe is doubling as a perfectly good storage space for my underwear. It?s the drab and rundown nature of a room that costs upwards of US$250.00 a night.
My carpets are a tale of something. I try not to think of it too much and make the most use of the in-room slippers provided by the hotel. I traverse the mottled stains in this plastic pair; passing over curious and multitudinous blotches in varying shades of browns and blacks and greys and greens.
The slippers are supposed to be for use in the bathroom only. But frankly, the bathroom could be a shrine to cleanliness and I?m quite happy walking barefoot there, it?s the residues in the carpet that I need protection from!
The bathroom holds its own delights, predictably in the form of the toilet, where I waste no time trying out the varying temperature settings of the toilet seat. (Later I discover that our toilets are waaay behind in the types of functions that are available, including my personal favourite so far: a music button that plays the sounds of a flushing toilet to obscure any sound that might otherwise be heard.)
But there?s no time for more as I have to head off to a meeting, a mere hour after landing. After the meeting we?re asleep on our feet and head to the only nearby restaurant without a line ? not a guarantee for great dining. It?s Chinese, it?s hot, and that?s all we need.
I get to try out one of those cool vending machines for one of the many isotonic enhanced waters, and drop by the convenience shop for some chocolate covered puffed maize for dessert. Okay, I admit it, the cute rabbit graphic sold me. Then it?s lights out.