After a 3.5 hr flight from Xi’an, I arrived at Urumqi airport and had to find my way to my hotel. There were no hostels in Urumqi, only business hotels of which I found the cheapest one that accommodated foreigners (of which there weren’t many), a $15/night spot called “Bestay Hotel”, which I assume was a combination of “best” and “stay”. It sounded promising. Anyway, as I couldn’t read any bus stop routes posted nor could I figure out how to ask those around me how to get to my particular hotel, I decided to hop on a random bus that supposedly would go toward downtown Urumqi. The problem is taking a bus when one isn’t familiar with the layout of a city is not knowing when or where to get off. I just figured once I reached what looked like a “downtown area”, I’d get off and take it from there. Fortunately, I heard the automated announcement system saying “Hongshan” (meaning Red Mountain) which was the district my hotel was located so I decided to get off then.
At this point, there’s always the issue of orientation and figuring out which direction to walk in. Once a friendly passerby who spoke a bit of English helped me figure out which way to walk toward, I started walking. It was getting dark. I had the hotel’s address in both Chinese and English. I had a Google Maps screenshot of its pinned location, provided on the Booking.com page. It was supposed to be located just outside “People’s Park”. I managed to navigate myself to the pinned location. However, once I got there, there was no sign of any buildings that would be a hotel. I walked back and forth on that street. All that was there was some kind of entrance to the park. I concluded that the screenshot I had, which the hotel provided, was inaccurate.
It was now dark. I was tired and slightly frustrated at being a little lost but having been in similar positions in the past, I took a deep breath and started looking around for people to have a look at my screenshot and see if the Chinese words on it could help them point me to the right direction. A friendly Chinese couple walking by read the address (in Chinese) and told me I was in the wrong location and directed me to go back where I came from. The pinned location wasn’t even on the correct street. Thanks “Best Stay” hotel.
Once I turned the corner onto the correct street, I looked around for a sign with the words “Bestay Hotel” but didn’t see any neon signs or bright lights with the name. (I just hoped it wasn’t written in Chinese. You never know…) I asked people on that street and one security guard working a parking lot booth pointed me at a slightly run-down looking building nearby that had construction work being done outside.
Guess I now know why it was $15/night.
Once I got closer, I saw a small sign stating “Bestay Hotel” with an arrow pointing at a fluorescent-lit entrance. There was a set of stairs going up and another set going down, which next to it, had pictures and signs indicating some kind of karaoke bar. There were some people hanging outside smoking and a few going downstairs. I walked upstairs and sure enough, there was Bestay Hotel. There was also a metal detector I had to go through which didn’t work nor did the security guard posted next to it bother to look at whoever was walking in and out. (I’ll later find out that in Xinjiang, it is mandatory for hotels to install these metal detectors at entrances/exits and have security posted but most places don’t actually care to enforce its actual use and it was done more for show and to appease authorities.)
Although most places in the world require a guest to provide their passports to be photocopied, I noticed that this place (and as I later found out, all accommodation that hosts foreigners in Xinjiang) had to fill in information on a special web portal. I guess the Chinese government has to keep tabs on us.
I checked in and went to find my room. The halls were dark and had a musty, dirty-and-wet-carpet smell but for $15/night vs $30-40 at other business hotels, I didn’t care and was surprised to find my room being clean, presentable, and in a way, cozy. It had a small TV, a toilet, a place to shower, a sink to wash up. I was content. Maybe “Bestay” isn’t the best but it definitely was a “DecentAffordableStay”.