I headed to the bus station, because, like an idiot, that’s where I assumed one would pick up the bus. The clerk at the bus station explained the buses to Yongshuo left from near the train station. So I walked to the train station—or where it was according to Google Maps—only to find…hotels, stores, an 8-way intersection. But no train station.
I always believed a train station isn’t the sort of thing you can easily hide. I mean, it has tracks. And trains. And a station. And while I’m pondering this, out of nowhere a random woman comes up to me and asks, “Bus to Yangshuo?”
Now every piece of official literature I’ve read warns travelers that Yangshuo is inhabited by nothing but scoundrels, scalawags, pickpockets, and thieves, and is one of the most beautiful places on earth ,enjoy you’re [sic] stay!
Wikitravel even warns that ‘touts’ will board on the bus before it gets to Yongshuo claiming to be from whichever hotel you booked and drive you to their hotel instead. And bus drivers are complicit with this scam. So I was already on high alert. I wasn’t falling for this, whatever it was.
I asked the price. She said 18 rmb ($3). I wrote it on my phone to be sure she didn’t mean 80 or 180. No, 18. She said something into her walkie-talkie, miraculously pulled a stool out of thin air for me to sit on, and said it would be about five minutes.
Nothing about this sounded kosher to me, and this coming from a guy who served hot-bacon salad dressing at his bar mitzvah.
I boarded the bus.
I paid 18 rmb.
It took me to Yangshuo.
So is that how things work in China? Seemingly innocent tourists who ask you to take their picture turn out to be highly-skilled, Oscar©-worthy scam artists while strangers who randomly approach you on street corners turn out to be helpful bus line representatives?
I am far from understanding this great country. Maybe Yangshuo will hold the key.