China, the not so beautiful

Maybe it’s inevitable, that over a long trip some unpleasantness is bound to occur. During this long trip of a few weeks, we got a few encounters that we’d rather forget.

The one that almost jeopardized the whole trip happened in Yunnan. There we had this tour bus driver that was a little discordant with our tour guide from the first minutes. Eventually, the two got into such locked positions against each other that the bus driver asked our group to either get off his bus all together, or at the least jettison our tour guide. Through heroic intervention by the two professors, the bus finally moved on, until our tour guide was able to locate a different driver for the rest of our journey, but not before the disconnection between the two caused a local guide to be missed for some 100 kilometers. And the conflict caused reverberations long after we parted ways. Up to the point when the tour ended, our tour guide was still fighting to get a part of the prepaid bus fare refunded to her.

Our bus driver argues forcefully for the removal of our tour guide.

A second unpleasant encounter happened when our family temporarily left the university group to travel on our own, in and around the city of Chengdu. Our tour package includes cost of meals, but the food was deemed below acceptable levels by our local guide, Little Peng, who was very intent on improving it—even though we didn’t ever complain about it. So when we were on our way to Leshan to see the Giant Buddha, she let the driver take us to a restaurant which swindled us into a 1000 Yuan (about $150) fish. Through a lot of struggle we talked it down to about half price, but the experience was painful.

A third incidence happened during a terrible downpour. Agnes’ umbrella was practically destroyed by the wind, and she needed an umbrella right then and there. After she agreed on the price of 20 Yuan for two umbrellas, the seller woman took the 20 Yuan and gave her only one umbrella! Even the other vendors nearby were upset by this injustice, and voiced their indignation, the swindler would not budge. Because of the terrible weather, and being alone and away from the group, Agnes had no option but to accept the deal as it was forcibly revised. “It’s not about the money! It’s the total lack of integrity, which gave me the feeling as if I just swallowed a dead fly!” Agnes concluded when she related the story to me later.

Although we’ve run into trouble before during our trips, the number we run into in China is above average. This could be related to the length of this trip, and could also be related to the lower economical condition the people live in. Fortunately for us, these were but some small blemishes in our otherwise great travel experience, and we are not deterred.

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