June 13, 2004

more tourister 3000

this would have been entitled tourister 2000 (which i personally think sounds better), but times have changed, centuries have passed, and upgrades have been released. so i'm making an active effort to keep with the times.

even though i was really tired today from hiking yesterday i met up with fintan and sean to see the biggest tourist attraction in beijing (at least according to my lp tour guide.) No it's not the forbidden city but the summer palace.

it was a blazingly hot and humid day (again) and apparently this was the place royalty went to when they wanted to escape the heat. unfortunately, in my not so humble opinion it offered a absolutely no respite from stifling atmosphere.
since all of us were pretty worn, we weren't really driven to make the full rounds of the park and see everything. we spent a considerable amount of time just wandering through through the forested areas. the abundant stairs to the assorted temples were greeted with sighs and groans. after wandering around the north side and finally seeing cixi's famed marble boat, we took a short ride across one of the lakes in the palace. during this ride the humidity finally hit 100% and it started to rain. this managed to clean up the air and cool things down a little bit.
we wandered around a bit and marveling at the prolific writings of quing long (which could be found on every temple, sculpture, and paining imaginable) we finally decided to leave and head to Sichahai/Houhai.
now comes the part where i got pissed. i got scammed for about five bucks. i really shouldn't get upset, but i did. we got a taxi from outside the summer palace. it had a 1.20 yuen sticker on it when we got in.
for some background, taxis in beijing come in different denominations:
- 1.20 yuen/km - basic cheap cabs
- 1.60 yuen/km - sometimes the drivers are more cluefull, sometimes they are assholes, yymv.
- 2.00 yuen/km - your living it up.
- unmarked - negotiate your rate ahead of time.
i normally take 1.20 or 1.60, whatever is available when i'm looking for a cab. this time there was a ton of cabs waiting and i took a 1.20 because it looked like the best 1.20 cab i had ever seen.
normally 1.20 and 1.60 cabs have a steel cage around the driver with bars and possibly plexiglass covering the bars. they are also really small. sometimes they have a disinfected sticker on them, but i was never able to determine if this meant that they were disinfected once at the factory after they rolled off the assembly line or at some later date.
this cab had no cage, comfy seats, and was actually a nice car. we got into the cab and the driver seemed really nice. i pointed on a map where i wanted to go and said the name in my broken chinese. he pointed to the map and showed me the best route to get there which i agreed with. it seemed like a perfectly negotiated ride.
on a side note, during any cab ride in beijing, i always use my decent sense of direction to try and make sure the cab driver isn't ripping me off and driving in circles. a couple months in a city also help with getting to know your way around town.
my frustration started about 3/4 of the way through the ride fintan pointed out that the meter was reading a really expensive price... about twice what i was expecting. then i realized that this guy had no official laminated taxi license sitting on his dash like all the other taxis normally do. a close look at the meter indicated that we were being charged 1.88 yuen/km. i looked back and the 1.20 sign was gone.
at that point i realized that when cabbies walked up to you holding the 1.20 sign trying to indicate that they had a cheap ride, what they were really telling you was that they had a removable sign that would disappear once you got in the car. (probably courtesy of his friends.)
i was really pissed. fintan and sean were trying to convince me that it wasn't worth getting upset over a few bucks, and they were right, but i was pissed regardless. i do believe that this is the first time i was aware of being ripped off in china. it's probably happened before, but at least at that time i was unaware of it.
in the end i didn't really do anything about it. i yelled at the driver a little in english and paid the stupid fee. i didn't want to start an argument in a language where i couldn't fully express my rage. of course doing this just means that the driver will keep doing this and piss of other people, which leaves me mad at myself.
to get over my anger at the driver and myself i engaged in the normal american distraction of consumption. we went to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants that has an unbelievably good mutton dish. then we went to a bar with outdoor tables to sit for a few hours, sip beers, and shoot the shit. a nice way to end the evening since we were all pretty exhausted.

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