Shang­hai sur­prises

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - STEPHEN JONES

TOORAK GAR­DENS, SA IN 2005 my wife and I set off for a hol­i­day to Bei­jing, Xian and Shang­hai. Our travel agent had ar­ranged for trans­fers at each air­port and the meet-and-greet driver with the Mr & Mrs Jones sign whisked us off to our quaint Bei­jing ho­tel where the main­te­nance man swung out the win­dow on a rope to fix our air-conditioning. We took in the For­bid­den City, Great Wall, Sum­mer Palace, and the old neigh­bour­hoods of hu­tongs — all won­der­ful.

Then to Xian, where we were duly met and taken to our mod­ern ho­tel and to very good mar­kets and of course the fa­mous ter­ra­cotta army of war­riors and horses — all ter­rific.

At Shang­hai air­port, we were met by a chap in an im­mac­u­late suit hold­ing the usual card; on this oc­ca­sion our name Jones was joined by McKen­zie. The driver took our bags and loaded them into a lux­u­ri­ous Lexus.

‘‘First-class ser­vice,’’ my wife mur­mured. ‘‘They know how to do it here . . . but what about the McKen­zies?’’ The driver and his iden­ti­cally dressed co-driver had no English be­tween him. ‘‘I sup­pose the McKen­zies will be OK,’’ I told her. ‘‘No doubt they have a sep­a­rate car.’’

We pulled up out­side a large of­fice block and our bags were swiftly un­loaded. ‘‘No, no,’’ I cried. ‘‘This doesn’t look like the Man­sions Ho­tel in the brochure. For a start we are sup­posed to have a view of the river.’’ Blank stares. Lots of point­ing to the of­fice block.

‘‘No,’’ I in­sisted, ‘‘we are not get­ting out of the car un­til we are at the Man­sions Ho­tel.’’

The driver made a se­ries of calls and then handed me his mo­bile phone. A voice asked me in English, ‘‘Are you McKen­zie-Jones the en­gi­neer?’’

‘‘No, just Jones the tourist,’’ I replied. ‘‘Then where is McKen­zie-Jones?’’ I told him that per­haps he was at the Man­sions Ho­tel en­joy­ing my view of the river.

‘‘OK,’’ he said. ‘‘I will get the driv­ers to take you there.’’ Ar­riv­ing at the ho­tel, the driv­ers would not re­lease our bags un­til we paid ex­tra money, which I re­sisted, re­sult­ing in a com­mo­tion of push­ing and pulling.

Out of the blue our al­lot­ted air­port meeter-and­greeter ar­rived. She calmed the driv­ers, paid them a lit­tle ex­tra, and ar­ranged for us to be up­graded to a suite. We loved Shang­hai and hope Mr McKen­zie-Jones did too. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@ theaus­tralian.com.au. Pub­lished columnists re­ceive a 35cm x 27cm x 4cm Cather­ine Manuell Lap­top Com­pen­dium ($79), which also fits iPads and in­cludes a notepad, stor­age pock­ets and pen holder. More: cather­ine manuellde­sign.com.

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