I looked back and was thankful.
11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012 48 °C
Turpan, August 15th 2012
As I exited Turpan Railway Station, one word I felt: chaos. Kunming Railway Station, Chengdu, Wuhan, Xi'An, Jiayuguan... none has been like this. A bunch of drivers approached me. I handed a piece of paper with the address of Grand Turpan Hotel. They soon understood I wasn't Chinese, meaning not a local. 2 drivers stayed next to me while the others returned to hunt for passengers.
One of the drivers said, "20 yuan."
I was surprised. That's pretty cheap for I know the railway station in Turpan is far away from the center of the city. Ah, maybe in Xinjiang living cost is lower than in other places in China, I thought. No wonder the railway station looks shabby. So without bargaining, I got into the car.
The other driver seemed displeased with my driver, but my driver smiled with victory. Then he walked away leaving me sitting in the car. Why doesn't he go behind the wheel? What is he doing? Announcing his victory to his friends? I waited and waited.
To passengers coming out of the station my driver shouted "Grand Turpan Hotel" in Mandarin, but no one turned to him. Why is he still making offers? Is he waiting until the car is fully occupied? How long would it take? What if there aren't passengers going my direction? The most thing I was worried about was time. My train had already been delayed for 2 hours. And then the ride itself took longer than it should be. I was afraid I wouldn't have enough time to finish all the places intended in my itinerary.
When my driver came over, I asked him what we were waiting for. He couldn't speak English at all but understood what I meant. He explained to me in Mandarin that 20 yuan is for one person fare. There should be 4 passengers in the car, because the whole car is 80 yuan. Knowing how far the station is to city center and having been in several places in China, I fully understand that 80 yuan is a reasonable price. But, he didn't tell me that 20 yuan was a 1-person fare and that I would have to wait for other passengers. I didn't like that. I always hate it when people keep something from me in order to pursue me to one's desire. If he had told me in the beginning, I would have accept it for 80 yuan anyway. Aaarrrgh.
I told him that but instead of responding or immediately starting the engine, he picked up his cellphone. "English, English," he said while pointing on his cellphone.
He talked over the phone and then handed it over to me. It turned out he had asked his friend to interpret for us. I told that guy that I felt trapped, cheated. He explained to me about the 20 yuan and 80 yuan fare. I told him that I understood the driver's Mandarin. But even in Mandarin, I'm one hundred percent sure that he didn't tell me that I would have to wait for other passengers. He didn't mention 80 yuan at all.
"Okay, I take it for 80 yuan. Tell him to drive now." I returned the cellphone to my driver.
They talked and talked, and then he handed his cellphone over to me again. "What is it again?!" I felt irritated. I've already accepted to pay 80 yuan for the whole car without bargaining and what's the matter now?
The guy over the phone told me that my driver can give me a discount if I'd take a city tour with him which would cost... I didn't listen. Actually before I got into the car, I had already planned to ask him about that. But once one fools, cheats, or traps me, I'll never trust that person again.
"When you said 20 yuan, you already had something behind. Now you are offering me another thing. How can I trust that you don't have something in behind again?"
That guy said nothing. I handed the cellphone back, they talked awhile, and my driver started the engine.
Really, really, it was far far away. Mountain dunes lined up on my left and right, similar to the ones I saw from the train this morning but less stunning because the sun was too high already. "Oh my," I thought to myself. "This is farther than from Wuchang Railway Station to my hotel in Wuhan which I paid 75 yuan." However, the desert breeze couldn't wipe away my feeling of being cheated.
In front of Grand Turpan Hotel my driver helped me get my suitcase out. "I'm sorry," he said.
Because of pride, I responded nothing to his apology.
I didn't realize that at that time I was making a big turning point in my Silk Road journey on China. Had the driver be truthful to me, I would have hired him to drive my to the places I intended to go, because many have suggested to just rent a car while in Turpan. If he had been my tour driver, my next posts would be a very different story. Follow me.