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Published: August 8th 2015
After looking up the best way to get to our next stop; Zhangjiajie from Yangshuo, the plan was to catch a bus to Guilin where we would board our 4 hour bullet train to Changsha (the bullet train would shave hours off our journey!!) then catch the subway and walk a little before catching another 4hr bus from Changsha West bus station to Zhangjiajie. Easy...once we got our head around it. We imagined the whole journey would actually be pretty straight forward looking at our trains and connections. Oh how wrong we were...
Having been told the train stations are like airports in China with long queues for various things like having to collect tickets, putting your bags through x-ray scanners etc we decided we ought to get there an hour early. However what was meant to be an hour bus journey was more like 2 hours so when we arrived in Guilin, we hurriedly found the train station that was a 15 minute hot sweaty shuffle away from the bus station. I use the word shuffle as we wanted to run but as the ground was wet from rain and stupidly tiled all over we would have had a
death wish if we ran. Plus P has already had 2 recent incidents with her back in Indonesia, a bit of caution was needed here.
Safely arriving at the station we needed to collect the tickets we had ordered online, so we needed to go to the ticket office but we just couldn't find it. We had 15 minutes before our train left. Sweating and panicking we asked a few locals the same question over and over again but ended up confusing them by asking where the tourism info centre was. Doh! As soon as one women asked if we meant "shoupiaochu" (ticket office) we knew where we had gone wrong. Rookie mistake.
After getting that straight, we easily found the ticket office and there was only a short queue. 10 minutes till our train. Hurry hurry hurry. We rushed through the many surprisingly short queues (probably our quickest time ever for China), put our bags through the scanners, showed our passport to two hundred people at various checkpoints (maybe a slight overexaggeration) and we made it. We caught our train with literally a minute to spare. Phew. Luck was with us. For now.
These trains are
no way near the prices we've been used to paying in South East Asia, so we couldn't afford to miss this one. It cost 181 yuan each thats £19 each for a 4 hour ride. Painful for only part of a complete journey. It was nice however just watching local life sat in our seats. Watching the many people loudly chomping on their shelled nuts (throwing the shells everywhere), being amazed at how loudly 2 people sitting next to each other had to speak. We sometimes debated amongst ourselves whether people were arguing or simply chatting. It was hard to tell. Plus Chris had read that speaking loudly is a sign of valued friendship. If the percieved friend does the reciprocate the loudness the frienship is unlikely to continue.
After the short train ride we got out at the station and looked around for the subway station, we were approached by man showing us some taxi type of licence and a bus business card. He told us for a certain fare he could take us to the bus station and include the ticket price to Zhangjiajie all for one price. After some negotiation we agreed a good price, after-all,
this is how we got to Yangshuo from the Shenzhen/Hong Kong Border.
Like purchasing our bus tickets to Guilin and collecting our train tickets, this conversation was all in Mandarin. Rather happy with ourselves we went along with him until he took us to his car. We expected a minibus, but I guess we were the only westerners on the train and in the station. Who else was there to pick up? We were both aware that things work differently here and since he would save us some effort for a good price we would go with him.
5 minutes into the journey we were slightly confused. We did not understand what he was saying apart from the journey would take 40 minutes. Bearing in mind we had read it should take 10 minutes online, we thought there had been some miscommunication as it was not as far as he was saying, so we asked to go back to the station. He was not happy with this and said it was not too far slightly raising his voice. The more we tried to the explain the more his tone became agressive, we decided to carry on to the
station as agreed as we had no idea what he was saying and vice versa. 10 minutes later we arrived. Clearly not 40 minutes then was it?
He asked for the 250 yuan but we said we wanted our bus tickets first (as agreed). This is where he started to become more hostile. He gave us some faded pieces of paper stuck together with some amounts on that came to a total of 24 yuan and said these were our bus tickets. Was he having a laugh. This was certainly not our tickets nor would it cover the costs of our tickets.
He kept waving his hands around frantically saying these are the tickets whilst demanding the money. In the only Chinese we could muster we argued "real tickets first money second." He was not accepting this.
He said, we take the tickets to the ticket office after we pay him. Annoyed ourselves now, we said these are not the tickets and gave them back to him. He threw them aside. We asked him to come to the ticket office with us but he refused. He would not give us our bags from his boot and was
shouting at us for 250 yuan/£25. This was happening outside the train station and was clearly causing a scene. People already love to stare at us in China, but this commotion had everyones heads turned and people stopped to watch. He told some other people around and they confirmed we needed to give him 250 yuan in mandarin.
No way not for a 15 minute journey. No way. Not without our tickets.
We could not explain that he was trying to rip us off. He was shouting and becoming agressive. We were getting very stressed but stood our ground. P demanded our bags and he stood up to her shouting something we did not understand right in her face.
Although there was lots of things we each didn't understand we both knew he was trying to scam us but we refused to let it happen. We threatened to call the police he laughed in a hysterical manner and told us to do it.
That didn't work.
We didn't really want to call the police as they may tell us that we owe him that much due to us not being able to communicate what had
happened. He threatened to drive off with our bags unless we gave him the money. We were completely stressed not knowing what to do knowing we needed to catch our next bus before it was too late.
In the end Chris told P to buy the tickets while he waited with the guy and our locked bags the boot. Therefore he couldn't demand all the money if we had our REAL tickets and then we would only have to pay for the car journey. Off P went whilst Chris sat there with the guy and our bags locked securly in his boot. Frustratingly P did not bring enough money as the tickets were 237 yuan but she was not going to tell the taxi guy she hadn't got them. She came out the station and said she had the tickets and so the only money she would give him was 50yuan (£5). He laughed, he now wanted 200yuan waving his arms around trying to imply we have taken his time and took him on roundabouts so he wanted more. He was actually shouting & screaming at us in the street trying to intimidate us. There was no way we
were giving him £20 for a 15 minute journey.
He was the one who messed us about trying to give us fake, used vouchers not equating to 5% of the cost of our bus tickets. He was just going to take our money and drive off. Plus we later realised the amount he agreed on initially didn't even fully cover the cost of the actual bus tickets. He was trying to make money off us big time here.
Chris worn out, wanted to give in saying that our bags were worth more than £20. P however, stubborn was not letting this happen. We were however getting more and more anxious.
So between us we agreed to stop all communication with him as it was getting us stressed, P was even shaking a little. Instead we sat on the curb silently as he shouted at us in Mandarin in front of an audience. He tried to threaten us by driving off in his car further down the road. He did twice. He eventually, as we knew he would, tryed to renegotiate. He went down to 100yuan. We said nothing. 80yuan. Again nothing. In the end he agreed to
the 50yuan P was only willing to give him. The disgusting person of a man he was. He reluctantly unlocked his boot and gave us our bags in return for 50yuan. This all took place over nearly 2 hours. He got £5 for the journey and not the £30 he wanted.
We took a risk as he could have drove off with our bags. But in this commotion we took his licence number and his photo. It was tricky as our Mandarin is literally non existent except for a few words but we are in no doubt whatsoever what he was trying to do. He has clearly done this before to unassuming tourists. However this time it did not work. It wasted over a hour of his time as we would not pay him nothing more than 50yuan/£5. He was the one in the loss. We just had to catch a later bus. Maybe now he'll think twice about doing this again.
We were exhaused after this though and mainly sat quietly for the thrird part of our journey contemplating over what had happened.
Never again will we make the same mistakes. We now look back at
this day laughing at how it all turned out and can honestly say it did not change our opinion of China (which we loved). However we were from this point on very cautious of taxi drivers and had heard a similar story from some others travellers we met on the road. Beware.
Side note: The pictures on here are a random selection of other pictures taken in China. They do not relate to this blog in particular but they do offer a sneak peak in what we have coming up in the next few blogs. Enjoy.
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