Saturday, December 22, 2007

Waging War on the Bus Touts

Author Paul Theroux says that the Chinese have a special laugh that means "we can always fool a foreigner" and I agree with him. Especially when it comes to pricing. I was fooled, paying 20 Yuan bus fair to Yangshou, after which I saw the locals handing over various smaller amounts, none more than 10 Y. I went to the front of the bus and threw a fit, to no avail. The touts had run off with my extra money. I decided to declare war on the Yangshou/Guilin bus line.

My next ride between the cities, I handed over 10 Y without asking the price. The lady demanded 15 and I refused, waving her on to collect from the other passengers. She gave my ten back contemptuously and began collecting fares from other passengers. They all had 10 ready, she would say something to them, and then they gave her 15. I knew that tricky woman was saying "just give me 15, I'll give you 5 back later. There are foreigners on the bus I need to fool." All that was missing was the laugh. She came back for my money, telling me it was express bus (it was not). What could I do? Reluctantly I handed over 15. Sure enough, throughout the bus ride when she thought I was not looking, she sneakily handed a bill back to each of the locals who had overpaid! All that for an extra 5 Yuan! I went to the front of the bus and threw a fit, to no avail (this is starting to sound familiar).

My final ride, determined to pay the local price, I armed myself with a 10 Yuan note. Having waved down the bus to Guilin on the road, I waved the bill around, refusing to get on until the bus conductor said OK. Finally, vindication! I paid the same fare the locals paid. All this to save 5 Yuan!

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