Entrepreneurship revisited, back on the tourist trail in Dunhuang.
The bus to Dunhuang, the site of China’s most famous Buddhist caves, was different from the buses we had taken so far. This was a long-distance bus, relatively spacious, and with numbered seats, although Chinese are clearly not used to that, and it took some convincing to get them out of our seats. Despite the bus being long-distance, it would still pick up additional passengers at every possible village and junction, and soon we appreciated insisting on our numbered seats, as the rest of the bus quickly filled up. However, the further west we came, the less frequent the stops became, simply because there was less and less to stop for in the barren desert.
A little town in an oasis was selected for lunch, but the stench from the public toilet dominated the entire square, and killed any appetite. Now we were approaching a more touristic area again, and the first hotel tout from Dunhuang, still two hours by bus, started pestering us during the lunch stop. She offered us the cheapest rooms in town, unseen, and that was guaranteed! When we told her that we planned to stay in the most upmarket hotel in town, she quickly changed tactics, and offered us her hotel’s most luxurious room, for about ten times the price she initially mentioned. Most likely, we were still talking about the same room. No lack of entrepreneurial skills here! And the hotel tout was only the first taste of it. Taxi drivers would refuse to use their meters, and came up with outrageous quotes for a trip to a spot less than 5 km outside town, outrageous being fifty dollars, or thirty, there was no agreed fee, they would ask whatever they expected to get away with. Prices of beer, kebabs and souvenirs were also significantly inflated, but proved highly negotiable.
Continue: Dunhuang (1)