My arrival into China was more than I had bargained for.  Even as an experienced traveller I was shocked by the images and scenes that confronted me…

I felt like I was on a movie set as I stepped off the plane into the hot, torpid air of the jet bridge.

Surrounded by everyone in full PPE gear – gowns, booties, gloves, masks, and face shields.

Where are we?   Some futuristic hell?

After living in Australia throughout much of the pandemic I was clearly in the wrong mindset entering China.

As with all new entrants to the country we were herded through long and partitioned hallways inside the ghost terminal that now served as the access point for the world to enter China.

We were processed through checkpoint after checkpoint where we had out temperature taken, passports and boarding passes scanned and scrutinized over and over again before finally getting to customs and eventually baggage claim.

Another scan of our bags before boarding the bus for our quarantine hotel… our destination unknown at this point.

Once loaded the bus pulled onto the freeway heading south toward the city of Guangzhou.  The bright lights of the city flashed by as we drove for almost an hour through heavy traffic before eventually arriving at the hotel.

Little did we know that this had been the easy part of our journey so far!

The true maelstrom was about to begin!

Once we had collected our bags from the underbelly of the bus, we were lined up in the car park, our temperature taken again and given a sheaf of papers and told to double mask – they provided another that we had to put over the first.

No one spoke English and we had to interpret via sign language.  This is difficult enough when you’re not exhausted and sweating, even though it was 9:30 pm it was steamy to say the least…

Next, we shuffled ourselves and bags into the back entrance of the hotel (Yanling Hotel) where they had set up a makeshift check-in.

After yet another temperature check we had to sign the check in forms (in Mandarin with no English translations) and pre-pay for our rooms.

Prior to arriving in China we had set up WeChat (a definite must have when visiting China) on our phones, but quickly realized that it would not accept Australian credit or debit cards as a payment method.

Effectively now in a country without any money, at least for the duration of our quarantine.

Awkward and stressful enough and that is without the language barrier…

Fortunately, Chris had a credit card that worked and so charged all of our rooms to that.  Whew!

Now that we had our keys we were allowed to head up to our rooms.

Luckily, we were off the bus in the first wave as we’d sat close by the door and had a choice of rooms – all three of us chose the deluxe double room.

Clearly it had been a very nice hotel pre-pandemic but was now run into the ground since it became a quarantine hotel with significant signs of wear and tear evident from the stained carpets to the unkept walls and fittings.

After living in a smoke free environment for many years, the sickly smell of cigarette smoke permeated the air we got out of the elevator onto our floor.  Growing up with my mum smoking heavily it was a blast from the past… literally!

The room was as expected with a double bed set up with desk and bathroom – much like you’d find in any hotel around the world.

After placing my card in the slot, the AC came to life and began sending a jet of cool air into the stuffy room.

Now for the paperwork which we had to complete within 2 hours of arriving at the hotel.

We had 10 QR codes that we had to scan and complete.  How hard can this be I thought to myself, as I was so looking forward to a cold shower and bed.

Famous last words!

As I scanned the first coded it brought up a page in Mandarin on WeChat…

I searched for the translation button on the form, but there wasn’t one.

Okay, let me try the second QR code… all in Mandarin.

Yep, all 10 were indecipherable.

So, I went to the quarantine group chat that had been set up for us and asked the question about translations, but all the responses were in Mandarin… now what?

The pressure now began to grow as the two-hour deadline was fast approaching.

The two-hour window came and went, and by 2:00 am I had managed to complete a couple of the easy ones with help from my travel companions.

I was done in and so showered and fell into a deep sleep.

After an interrupted and restless sleep, I woke before 5:00 am and began trying to figure out how to resolve the language issues so that I could complete my forms.

I decided to download a translation app onto my iPhone.  After a few failed apps, I finally decided on Yandex Translate.

This app allowed me to view the forms on my iPhone, which then translated the lines of words real time so I could read what information I needed to provide.

I then completed the actual form on my iPad as it was too difficult to toggle between the two apps on the one device.

Although a laborious process I was finally able to finish all the forms before lunch.

Not ideal, but at least they were done!

This was a huge weight off my shoulders and so now began my 10-days of quarantine…

Until next week


Prologue:  The Ningbo Province last night announced that for us to enter Ningbo we had to have now completed 14 days of quarantine instead of 10…. Yes, the rules change daily here in China so be prepared!