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The Passport Befuddlement: Just because it’s an international hotel doesn’t mean they’ve ever seen a foreigner

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On the Road Again

After a fabulous first day of our bike tour to the mountains of Hainan (海南- an island off the southernmost coast of China) we ended in the small city of Nadazhen (那大镇) riding to the far side of the city before scouring us a hotel for a much needed shower and some sleep.  We rode up to a nice looking hotel, of which I can’t remember the exact name, but was called “(insert name here) International Hotel” the name of which to me implied that it was either frequented by foreigners, business travelers, or something of the like, would you agree?  If you do, then we are in the same boat, and let me tell you, it is a sinking ship.  They had absolutely no idea what to do with foreigners.

Our check in went something like this (spoken in Chinese of course):

Me: “Do you have a room available?”

Receptionist: “Yes, what kind of room would you like?”  She points to the board on the wall with each type of room and their prices.

Me: “A double room.”

Receptionist: “Ok, may I see your identification?”

Me: Hands her our passports

Receptionist:  Looks at passports in a befuddled manner and says, “No, I need to see your identification.” and proceeds to write down the characters for the word identification.

Thinking maybe I misunderstood what she was saying, I looked up the word in the dictionary on my phone, and it was indeed the word for ID.

Me: “Our passports are our IDs.”

Typical Chinese Town
A typical Chinese town

The two receptionists exchange confused looks.  At this point Justin and I exchange similar looks of “Holy sh*t, they have clearly never seen a passport before…and this is supposed to be an international hotel.”  The receptionists put our information into the computer and handed us our room key, then explained to me the fact that they will have to have the police come here to verify our information.  At this point I’m thinking they’ve probably never even seen a foreigner in this town before, let alone at this hotel.  Apparently we all just come to Hainan to go to Sanya ( 三亚 – the popular resort/beach area) and nowhere else.  The road less traveled has certainly got some interesting pit stops along the way.

While Justin went up to the room, I ventured down the road in search of the ultimate ice cold thirst quenching soda.  Upon my return, a police officer stood at the front desk waiting for me.  I really had no idea what to expect, but we had nothing to hide so I just walked up and said hi to see what he needed from me.  We started talking, and he asked me questions like was I here traveling, is my husband here with me, where are you going in Hainan etc., and the more I told him about our trip here riding our bike, the more fascinated he was, and it turned out, he was a super nice super cool guy just doing his job, and helping the very confused receptionist ladies figure out what to do with us those foreign objects we call passports.  He asked to come up to our room to meet Justin, but was more than happy to wait 5 minutes when I told him Justin was taking a shower.  Indeed, five minutes later he came up to our room, said hi to Justin, looked at our passports to confirm that we did in fact match our pictures, took a glance around the room, and then thanked me profusely for letting him come talk to us and wished us a great rest of our trip.  He was just about the nicest and most enthusiastic police officer I have ever met, and to be honest it probably completely made his day, heck most likely even his week to get to talk to a foreigner.

The hotel itself turned out to be super nice (which is surprising for a relatively cheap Chinese hotel) and we had a fabulous relaxing evening that left us refreshed for our next day of riding.

The takeaways:

  1. Don’t judge a book by its cover (or in this case, a hotel by its name).
  2. Not everyone knows what a passport is.
  3. In general, when it comes to the police, if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about. Be friendly, cooperate, and you never know, you might end up having a nice conversation with a really cool guy you wouldn’t have otherwise met!


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