Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Yangtze River Cruise + the concept of Tourismo Jackola

The Cruise

Our scheduled river boat cruise along the Yangtze was akin to being in jail, with an annoying cell mate, but worse food.
Given the choice between being pampered on a luxury cruise liner, and unearthing ancient treasure in unexplored ruins, getting shot at by poison darts, dodging boulders, and having poisonous snakes attempting to fang us (I hate snakes), I am going to Indiana Jones it every time. The cruise was BORING.

The Yangtze river dam
I admit, the scenery of the rural Yangtze Three Gorges valley was nice, but we were stuck on the boat nearly the entire time. We departed the boat but one time a day, and only once did we touch land. (the other times smaller boats)

Scenery on the Yangtze river
However, the local tour guides were fascinated by the good looking Americans.
How do I say, “You are very pretty,” I asked.
“Ni hem piaoliang,” she answered.
How do you say, “Give me a kiss,” asked Andrew.
“Gaewoo bazhang,” she answered, giggling incessantly, unable to control herself. Drew puffed his chest out, the proud rooster among his hens. Using his new arsenal of knowledge, Drew became increasingly perplexed that the reaction to Don Juan's request would be merely surprised and amused Chinese girls. Eventually our guide took pity, and gave us the correct translation: “Slap me.”
Sadly, no one had obliged him.

Drew and our head guide Kathy. 
Other useful Chinese phrases-
“Wo shi lao-hu.” – (I am a tiger) -- courtesy of yours truly who would trade places with Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes anyday.
“Wo I ni. (I love you) -- can be used to embarrass one’s waitress any time.
Me, unshaven, in a hat normally reserved for Chinese peasants, and  Sir Andrew Stern
The one time we were able to touch dry land we went to an old Buddhist temple, and boy do these temples demonstrate the glaring difference between Indian, Thai, and Chinese culture.
Everywhere in the Chinese Buddhist Temples were statues of angry looking warriors as opposed to a restive, contemplative Buddah of Indian temples, and statues of mirthful looking defenders in Thailand.  China has been sending the world a clear message for centuries: "Don’t mess with us."
Turismo Jackola

And one event you certianly don't want to compete against the Chinese in is negotiation. There is a law in China named "Tursimo Jackola" (literally: Jack The Tourist), which states, and I quote from Chinese constitution: “When you see a tourist, especially one with one white skin, the first price you quote for whatever you are selling must be a price that only a complete moron would pay. Double this price if American.”
This how Andrew ended up paying $12 for a Coke.

You see, as we had chosen to get some exercise and walk the 500 stairs up to the Buddhist monastery, and everyone else on our cruise had taken the chair lift, we got back a little early. Andrew descended the mountain before I did, and I arrived to find that a tiny little old lady had invoked Tourismo Jackola and jacked Drew. She offered me a soda at the same price, to which I visibly recoiled. She hid her head in shame.
“Sorry, sorry,” she apologized.
“Tourismo Jackola?” I asked, as she look down ashamed, gently nodding her head.

This is the reality in China. Every single person tries to rip you off. It’s an economic jungle.
In a way it reminds me of India. (which is like venturing to an entirely different planet) You can unsuccessfully try to fight the reality, wishing it were different, or you can have fun and play inside the reality. Thus, I decided to become a Chinese merchant.
“Come come, cheap cheap,” I urged a passing group of tourists as I grabbed a bottle of soda. “Pepsi, only 100 yuan ($13),” I chanted, chasing after the laughing group. Using my poker player instincts I focused in on the one I thought was the biggest sucker. (He looked like Drew)
“Look, look, lower price, only 90 yuan. For you only.”
“No thanks,” he murmured trying to walk forward.
“Okay, okay, 70 yuan,” offering him the bargain price of $10.
“Sorry,” he continued on. 
“60 yuan! 60 yuan! But only because you have nice face.”
“50 yuan,” he answered. ($7)
But I had to adhere to the law. “Too cheap. 55 yuan.”

If I tried this in America, I’d end up in jail. If I stuck around China, they’d probably throw a state banquet in my honor.

To the delight of the Chinese vendors, I entertained them by determinedly chasing after the next four passing tourists groups, doggedly trying to get them to buy products ranging from soda to onions (which I juggled for the tourists hoping this would close the sale) I built up quite a thirst, and went back to the little old lady whose products I was trying to hawk and offered to purchase a soda.
“How much?” I queried.
“100 yuan,” she answered with a straight face.

How can I get mad? It’s the law.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your kind comments on our blog. We're sorry to hear about your experiences in China. I agree that they seem to find every opportunity to make a fast buck outta us, but what can we do? After a while, we figured it would be better to roll with it than to spoil the trip because of it.



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