As a Canadian, we (myself and Rebecca) believe in the goodness of people and generally I don't think twice to trust another person. Unfortunately, my trust threshold was gone way down.
I understand that as a traveler and a foreigner, we always have to be aware or on guard of our own selves. It is really unfortunate that this trip has made me loose my trust on other individuals.
We have travel to lots of countries where locals seem to be in the look out for "stupid" tourists. They seem to want to scam you at every opportunity. Sometimes the scams are very simple but other times they can get quite intricate. People will lie, cheat, flatter or use any tactic to get their hands on your money.
Some of the examples that I will mention seem to be in less developed or poorer countries. These people resource to everything even unethical techniques to make a living.
In Peru we had tour agencies telling us some of the things that the excursion included but it was untrue. In one case we did a 3 day hike to the Colca Canyon. The tour agency confirm to us that the guide was bilingual. That was not the case. If it was just me it wouldn't have been a problem (I am fluent in Spanish) but Rebecca is at a beginner level so she missed out in a lot because my translation didn't give the same effect.
Moroccan cities are very difficult to navigate, especially the Medina. When you got lost and it happens very often, locals approach you with the intent of helping you get to your destination. If you decline this local will say that they are not a guide and they don't want money. You agree to follow them and they take you in circles to make the journey seem extra long. And when you get to your destination, what you thought was a nice local turns around and requests money for their services.
So what has brought these feelings on and made me write this blog? Our recent event in Shanghai, China.
Before coming to China we have heard numerous times about the infamous "Tea Ceremony" scam. This scam consist of locals inviting you to a tea with a real tea master. At the end of the show you are slapped with a bill of astronomical value. They usually employ big guys to collect if you refuse to pay.
As we were walking around and looking at a map in People's Park a young couple claiming to be tourist from a different city approached us. We engaged in a very nice conversation for a while. They were so nice and easy to get along with. They really seem genuine. As the conversation was evolving the girl told us about a tea festival and offer us to join them for a tea showing. At that point my heart stopped. I really felt crushed inside after knowing a out the scam. I really felt a connection with these people but it was all a lie.
We know that as backpackers, these situations come with the territory. Yes, you have to be aware but you so want to believe in the good of mankind. Having to deal with events like theses make you lose that trust to the point that you don't trust anyone, even the nice people we've met. This trip has taught us many hard lessons. Despite everything we try to give people a chance.
If you would like to add your experience or have any comments please added to the comment section on this post.
White people are famous in China! I feel like a celebrity here. Chinese people take photos of us as we walk around and even stop us to take photos with us. I think we'll have to start charging for every photo to finance our travels.
We crossed the Chinese border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen with hopes of catching a train to the city of Guilin. No luck. All the tickets were sold out with availability for the next day. Now we had to find a place to crash for the night.
We went to a travel agency and asked for the nearest hotel. This is where the fun begins: we were offered a five-star hotel and they were having a promotion, only $50 for the night. We decided to indulge! When we arrived at the hotel we got a free room upgrade.
The next 24 hours involved swimming, parading our room in bathrobes and getting full body massages. We only left the hotel to eat. We went to a restaurant that had pigeon on the menu and we were curious. The plate came beautifully presented with its little head displayed in the middle, eyes and beak intact. And yes, the little buggers are very tasty.
It was time to leave luxury behind and return to backpacker mode. Guilin has beautiful scenery with the Li river and incredible mountains that just rise straight from the ground. Many of the mountains have fascinating shapes including one that looks like a camel and more famously, one that looks like an elephant dipping its trunk into the water.
We spent our days exploring the various parks and caves. We were exploring Seven-Star Scenic park when we came upon a stairway going up a mountain. We climbed and climbed when all of a sudden we were surrounded by wild monkeys. There were so many and lots of babies. They were too cute playing with each other.
Guilin is a gateway to see many scenic areas and we chose to go to a town called Yangzhuo. Immediately upon arrival we hopped onto bicycles to explore the area. We took a wrong turn and found a small courtyard just as it started to rain. We parked the bikes and took refuge under a tree. Two small boys from one of the houses came out to "play" in the rain (really, they came to see us). When it started pouring one of the kids ran to grab us an umbrella. Then the kids started picking some small fruits off a tree and came to offer us some. Even though we couldn't communicate with the boys, their kindness was very heatwarming.
The same night we boarded a small bamboo raft to watch cormorant fishing. It's amazing to see how fishermen use these birds to catch fish. The end was a little "touristy" when we each posed for pictures with the birds and the old fisherman. Nevertheless, pretty cool.
The highlight of the trip was catching a bamboo raft on the Li river. The scenery is amazing and we even saw the view that is on the back of the 20 yuan bill.
The only bad thing is that the tour wasn't very organized and in the end we had to provide some of our own transportation. One of the buses we had to take didn't have any more seats but that's not a problem in China. Instead we had to sit on little plastic stools in the middle of the aisle.
Anyways, for all those booking a tour in China get as much information as possible! Oh, and make sure to know the name of the place you booked the tour from, it could help.
I am sitting down in front of the computer and I don't really know what to write about our stay in Hong Kong. We really didn't do much sightseeing.
So what did we do there for 4 days? We window shopped! Yes, we are looking for a new camera; to be more specific a Nikon D90 Kit with the 18-105mm lens. I think we visited every single store looking for the best price. As we found out from doing some research is that buying a camera in Hong Kong is not a simple task. There are lots of scammers out there that you have to be careful.
So did we buy the camera? Nope. We didn't make up our minds yet. One of the first places that we went is called "Happy Rich Audio and Video" and it had the lowest price from all of them. The problem is that their price was about CAD$300 cheaper! Now, if I was in Canada, I would not think twice about buying the camera. But we just heard too many stories about cameras either being refurbished or getting some of the parts changed for fakes.
We decided to wait a bit. As we are going back to Hong Kong on our return from China, we have time to think about it. I still think that if we go to another store that was more expensive it is still cheaper than buying it back in Canada. I still don't trust that store with the lower price.
To change subjects, we did do some sightseeing. We went to Victoria's Peak. To get there you can either walk (not recommended) take a vehicle or as we did take the Tram. It is a nice experience going up as you get to see the whole city. It is also pretty incredible when the tram gets to a pretty steep angle.
One of the neat things about Hong Kong is that the Government offers some free activities. And we love FREE activities. So we signed up for a morning class of Tai Chi. It was great. I have seen it before but never tried it. I might pick it up once I get back to Winnipeg. Other classes include: Tea Appreciation, Feng shui and a Chinese Cake Making class. On topic of FREE things, six museums are free on Wednesdays. We checked out the Hong Kong History Museum which was nice to get our facts about this territory.
One of the most touristic things that we did is take a Harbor tour on the last remaining Junk in Hong Kong. You read that right, it is called Junk and it is a type of boat. You get great views of the coast line but pray that it doesn't start pouring rain like it did to us.
On our last day we took a 30 minute ferry ride to the island of Lamma. There were nice fisher villages but not exactly what we expected. We thought it would be a little less urbanized. The beach is nice and the water was warm but the view is ruined by the huge coal power plant on the side. Oh well, it was a nice break from the big city. Rebecca will remember her time in this island for a while. We were hiking down a path when she started screaming. Apparently a hand-size spider was in front of her face. She did not appreciated that. A local later told us that does spiders are and I quote "not good". I am assuming that they are poisonous.
Mmm, I thought I didn't have anything to say but at the end I think I wrote down a lot. Until next time.