4:30 am, disembarking the train at Lizhou station. Another night of very little sleep. Pouring rain. My task? Find a bus to Guilin so I can get some rest, and a western toilet. A man is screaming ‘Guilin, Guilin, Guilin!’ like he’s screaming for help. I say ‘Guilin?’ he says ‘Guilin!’. Done. I board the bus and ask a youngster who looks like he can speak English how much the ticket will be. He says 50. I observe the others paying for their tickets, they all pay 50. The ‘Guilin, Guilin, Guilin’ man asks me for my money. I hand him a 50. He says no, pulls out two 50’s and points to them, as to imply 100. ‘100?!’ I say. That’s twice as much as anyone else has paid. There was a stand-off. I’d had just about enough of being overcharged for services and my policy was now to make it stop, and pay the market rate, not the westerner rate. I was tetchy to say the least, which gave me an advantage in negotiations, because I didn’t give a shit anymore. What is there to give a shit about when it’s pouring with rain at 4:30am? Whatever happens, I’m not paying 100 yuan for this journey. The argument went on into its 15th minute, ‘I can take this as far as it needs to go’ I thought, ‘you ain’t pocketing 50 yuan for yourself at my expense. I don’t like corruption. And I don’t like your attitude’.
I then had an idea.. ‘Look, I think I know someone who can resolve this dispute for us. She’s a great friend of mine, in fact, she’s the best. She solves problems, it’s just what she does. She’s the only one who knows me. The only one who understands me. She consoles me at night. I always massage her before she sleeps. She prefers to be referred to by her initials.. A.K. Her surname, if you’re interested, is 47. Miss A.K 47. Have you heard of her? No? Here, let me introduce you to her’. With that, I rose from my seat, the entire bus intrigued by what I was trying to say and what I was about to do. I walked to my backpack next to the driver at the front of the bus, slowly unzipped it. I reached into the bag and found my good friend smiling back at me. I spoke to her for a few minutes, stroking her in the bag as she told me not to worry, she’ll fix this dispute for me. ‘Thanks A.K, I knew you would’. I then pulled out Miss A.K from the bag, walked back over to the conniving git who was trying to exploit me, and said, ‘Here, say hello to my little friend…. Hello! Hello! Go on, say it! What’s wrong bitch, are you anti-social?! My friend is saying hello! Say hello, Ni Hao, Ni Hao! Don’t upset my friend. Please! Do not upset my friend!’ I then pointed Miss A.K’s eye into those of the conniving git. ‘Say it bitch! Say hello to my little friend’. Finally, he said it, ‘Ni Hao, Ni Hao, Ni Hao’. ‘Once would have been enough, but Miss A.K appreciates your effort, don’t you Miss? Now, how much was that ticket again?! Yo, i asked you a question bitch, how much was the ticket?! Because i believed it was 50 yuan, but you were saying 100. I’m confused, why would you say 100 if it was only 50?! Miss A.K, I’m confused. Please help me out of my confused state’. I then shuffled Miss A.K into shooting mode. Everyone was screaming. ‘Don’t worry, she doesn’t want to hurt you. That doesn’t mean she won’t though. She’s just a little erratic. She’s working on that though, you need to help her. You know how you can help her, sit the fuck down, forget about your 100 yuan, and drive this bus to Guilin’. And with that, we were on our way. I decided to keep Miss A.K on my lap as she’d been stuck in the bag for a few days and needed some air. I stroked her as I spoke to her, thanking her for her help. ‘Anytime’ she said, ‘Anytime’.
Note: Having been in China for 3 and a half weeks, I can safely proclaim the Chinese worthy of joining the Turks on the mantle of being the most hospitable and helpful people I’ve encountered in my years of travel. For every frustrating experience like the one above, there have been 10 uplifting ones.