BUBBLES this is what i come back to

by bezzle

I came back from watching the tennis to find my post wiped I am hopping mad

Anyway I came back from China today and it’s great to be back home

Fresh air I missed you so much

Anyway I was going to talk about the tour I went on and stuff but really it was quite unremarkable except for it made our entire family realise how gullible and how much of a big spender my mum can get, it’s quite terrifying.  It was nice having good meals and five star accommodation every day for six days for a minimal price per person.  The catch is that they spend a significant amount of effort and time each day trying to persuade you to buy the area’s specialties – pearls, silk sheets, jade, high class tea – and although we did get to go to some tourist sites, the whole underlying pressure and urging to spend ruined the whole mood of the tour and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  Even if you think you can resist their sells, it’s still a waste of time and you’re probably better off paying for an upfront tour.

I did manage to get used to squat toilets because they were basically the only toilets we had while travelling about.

IF YOU EVER GO TO CHINA BRING LOTS OF PACKAGED TISSUES WITH YOU

Public toilets and lower class restaurants don’t supply toilet paper/tissues and you would be up the creek with a full bladder and lots of germs if you don’t bring some yourself.

The last day on tour we spent in Shanghai and it was the worst day because the tour guide dropped us off at this place that reeked of a scam.  It’s a long and hard to convey story but I’ll try anyway:

The bus pulls into the front of a store on the main street.  The store is painted a bland pink, there is only one window and it has a screen with fake bamboo (i.e. you couldn’t see into the store apart from the door area).  The parking lot is basically a few parking spaces in front of the store.  Previously the stores we visited were quite high class places or factories (obviously so the exorbitant prices seemed more credible) so it gave a different impression, but not that I really cared at that moment.

We enter the store, and an employee in a suite introduces himself as our guide to the store which is a jewellery store; this fits in with what we experienced so far.  (Incidentally, he was pretty hot.) He took us upstairs and directed us into a conference room where some workers gave us tea and our guide started a powerpoint presentation about characteristics of jade.  All is normal.

Until a worker opens the door and interrupts, saying that the boss (owner) is here and wishes to talk to the tourists.  Not long after, a man walks in and he looks just a like a rich businessman: casual clothes like he’s off to play golf, middle aged and with a clear and glowing complexion – not like he was pregnant, but you know in Chinese, the 面色? you could tell he was healthy and rich.

He immediately asks the guide his name, and gives him a 500 yuan payrise, to which our guide thanks him, totally flustered, and exits the room.  The boss spoke slowly and haltingly in occasionally-wrong-toned Mandarin, and explains he is from Thailand.

(A bit of context here before I continue.  Our entire tour group of 42 people were all from Canada or Australia and spoke Cantonese.)

He goes on to tell us a bit of his life story, telling us that his parents/grandparents were originally from China, and his paternal grandfather was saved by some Cantonese person, hence he considers all Cantonese people his 恩人, and that he is lucky to have met us because he just happened to be there that day.  He goes on to tell us nice fluffy stories about his relationship with his parents, and that some old woman that was sitting at the table near him looked like his teacher.  It was quite disarming how he managed to work everyone up; he would address everyone collectively as 阿哥 阿姐 and he would rouse the group and pause and everyone would clap.  I’m not sure if people were actually enthusiastic or humouring him, it was probably both.  In particular, there was this one father who sat right in front of the boss who was very keen, and when the boss mentioned possibly expanding into Canada or Australia, the father offered to invest if he came to Sydney.

The time in the conference room with the boss was basically him working on our sympathies – giving the employee a pay rise, painting us as people he highly viewed and himself as one with strong filial piety and Chinese pride (he said he’d support China if we went to war with Japan over the Senkaku Islands…not that that’s a rare sympathy in China though…) – and trying to win our trust.

He then took us to one of the viewing rooms, while stopping along the way at one of the cabinets in the main room to award a piece of jade to the woman he said looked like his teacher, and then promised a same piece to everyone in the tour group.  One of the workers then protested that the jade costed 700 yuan each, to which the boss retorted that she couldn’t question the boss’ decisions.

In the viewing room, he soon works himself into a salesman’s manner, and like magic his Mandarin becomes incredibly fluent and accurate like he’s been born and raised in China.  He starts off by saying that he recommends we not buy from his store because everything is overpriced, yet later on gives everyone 90% off discounts and gives thorough descriptions and suggestions for his goods.  Most of the kids had gone to another room so they didn’t have to stand around and listen to the boss’ spiel; fifteen minutes in I was ready to leave (I stayed to prevent my mum making poor financial decisions) and as I made to leave the room, the boss (with a sheen of sweat on his forehead and spitting with every word) noticed and said that the people leaving were doing so because they had 问心有愧 (a guilty conscience).  That was pretty much the last straw for me, and I left to join the other kids because I couldn’t stand him anymore – it wasn’t that it was screaming scam to me (although his recipes with jade sounded ridiculous to say the least) but the atmosphere was akin to brainwashing and it was really uncomfortable.

Later on, as most of us drifted outside to get back on the bus, we realised the tour guide had dumped us there and left mysteriously, and that some adults were still in there, sucked in by the incredible bargains and the boss’ sweet words.  One woman, the wife of the enthusiastic man, was frantically calling him, worried that he’d spend all their money on jewellery.  Some kids came out with the free jade that the boss promised, and others ran in to get theirs, but I didn’t because that place gave me the creeps, and so would the free jade, real or not.

Anyway that’s the story and the store’s called Pu He I can’t remember the actual characters but if your parents ever take you on the Jiangnan tour and they drop you off at that place be on your guard and for heaven’s sake don’t get tempted to buy things there.

I have more things to say but it is midnight and I need to sleep off jet lag so nightio and I’ll edit this tomorrow.

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