Uploading pictures seems to be a problem at the moment, so here’s a story.
On day 2 in China, Craig and I decided to check out Wangfujing Street, part of Jinbao Street. Here we could find the famous night market and general souvenir tat you’d see in any big city. The market opens at 17:30, we left at 15:30 so we had some time to kill. As we were making a slow walk along a main street, we were approached by two late teens, Uni looking students. They asked us if we were from England, we said yes and complimented them on how well they spoke English. They said they had studied at Uni and were now concentrating on art. They happened to be going to their art exhibition they had going that day and wondered if we wanted to take a look. Knowing we still had 2 hours before the market opened, we decided to take a look at their art work. They lead us a little further and eventually into a building which could easily pass for an exhibition. Security guard at the door, travel agencies and so on. It looked legit. We got into the room where dozens of pieces of artwork were displayed, typical Chinese hanging art, the stuff glued to bamboo and stuck to silk. They told us how they had to go on location during 4 different seasons to get the best shots of the place which happened to be the Great Wall, and some waterfall. Craig and I thought they would be great gifts for someone at home considering we had met the artists (each had their own ‘unique stamp’) and they had told us all about the paintings. They were also just small enough to fit into our backpacks.
We paid 100yuan each, about £10 or so. As I handed over the money he gave it straight to the guy sitting at his computer, they said all money they make from the exhibition had to go to their teacher/tutor…
I became suspicious but not enough to question it yet. Before we left he helped arrange a Great Wall tour for us (which turned out to be amazing and at a discounted rate, but that’s another story) at a ‘student’ discount. As he got his ‘student’ card out I noticed the name on it was western (something like Terry, easier for tourists to pronounce I guess) and he had the heading ‘TRANSLATOR’ so clearly it wasn’t his student card, but a business card. He assured us it was a student card. Again alarm bells started ringing, but very faintly…
We said goodbye and left. As we got out I looked at the building and said to Craig, “it doesn’t look very studenty does it?” we carried on and found the market. As we were browsing we came across a guy selling paintings. “150 yuan!” he shouted to us. We quickly looked at his stuff just out of interest, and in the corner spotted the same painting we had just bought from the students…I had that horrible sinking feeling along with butterflies in my stomach, had we just been scammed!? I thought we were brighter than that. Quickly we found a quiet spot and opened up the rolled up painting and quickly discovered they had been legitimately painted, but onto a printing, rushed and inaccurate.
We headed straight back to the ‘exhibition’ and luckily found the two fools standing by the entrance of the lift. Not wanting to cause a stir I told them we were very sorry but we were disappointed to find exactly the same paintings in the market. They refunded us straight away.
I think we were extremely lucky that they had decided to stick around for a while, any later and we would have never found them again.
A lucky escape.
Happy we had our money back we relaxed a bit and continued back to the market, determined to try scorpion or some other weird insect on a stick! As we were walking we were approached by two attractive girls, about our age. They asked us if we spoke English, where we were from and where we were going etc, and eventually offered to show us around the market. Great we thought, some locals to show us around. They told us about traditions of the market, what’s good to eat, what’s not and even bought some scorpion for us to sample. After a while they asked if we wanted to get a drink with them, who wouldn’t?
Part 2 to follow!