Dong Fang Hotel Embraces the Open Door
The two years leading up to 1979 saw various experiments introduced at the Dong Fang Hotel aimed at better serving the overseas visitors to the Canton Trade Fair.
Some lasted longer than others, like the hamburger stand in the Old Wing lobby area, which came and went rather quickly for reasons unknown to me to this day.
At one of the Fairs in 1978, my colleague and I arrived in the late afternoon, checked into the hotel, completed all the various registration forms, and then went for a Chinese dinner in the hotel.
After dinner we went to a very plain reception area with glass-topped tables and wooden chairs, which was available in the evening as a meeting place for guests, offering a limited array of local drinks and snacks.
We sat, and I went to the service counter and ordered one large bottle of Qingdao beer for us to share. The price was RMB 0.90 per bottle.
The next day, following our meetings and dinner, we went back to the same place. But there had been a few subtle changes overnight.
The tables had white cotton tablecloths on top of the glass, the ceiling was festooned with some strings of tiny white lights like those used to decorate Christmas trees, and there was a small portable tape deck playing Hong Kong Canto-pop music at a very subdued volume.
We sat down and I went back to the service desk and ordered the same as the day before: one large bottle of Qingdao. The price was RMB 1.80.
I asked the same young man who’d served us the previous evening why the price had doubled overnight. He replied to me as if I had asked quite a dumb question, ignoring the obvious new reality.
He said: “Because this is now a Ballroom.”
OK. Got it. Whatever you say.
This was another one of those moments in that pre-Open Door era that I sensed much larger changes were just around the corner, some of which were likely to have significant inflationary impact.
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