Shenyang Guest House

Manchuria in Dongbei

Shenyang Guest House

The small airport was closing around me as I knelt on the ground, pulling out the coat and thermals I had packed in preparation for the northeast China winter. An unassuming younger man approached me near the rotating glass door and offered to take me into the city. Worried about being cheated, I insisted on taking a look at the options available outside. I rolled more than a hundred pounds of luggage with me into the frigid night air, only to find that there were no other options at that point for getting to Shenyang. Things got worse when we couldn’t locate the hostel that I had booked. I had no option but to stay at the nearest guest house and hope that they wouldn’t swindle me too badly. I was shown to a dank and dusty room on the third floor. A toilet that didn’t flush, a shower that barely worked, worn red felt carpet that looked like it had been there since 1948, a layer of dust and moisture covering the bed sheets. My day, which had started in San Francisco, ended here—feeling cold and tired, lying fully clothed and layered, lying on dank sheets, watching the first flakes of snow beginning to fall in the orange glow of the streetlights.