Scammed In China!
My friends and I walked out of the ‘Forbidden City’, on a scorching hot day and were on our way to find an Indian restaurant, some 6 kilometers away. We walked for 10 minutes and finally spotted a taxi. My friend waived, signaling the taxi to stop and we hopped into the car. The taxi driver hurried us in, while mentioning that there were police standing behind and he wasn't allowed to stop here. We settled in, and showed him the address that we wanted to go to.
“40 Yuan!”, he said, looking at me.
I told him that we would pay him according to the meter, to which he refused. We tried to bargain a little, to which he quickly agreed and fixed our price for 20 Yuan. It was surprising that he quickly cut down his price by half, but we were too drained out after a long day to put much thought into it. The driver asked us to pay him the money prior to the start of our journey, to which we refused firmly.
After a lot of arguments, we gave up and got out of the car. I told him that I would report him to the police, to which he just mocked me and laughed.
I was so furious at him that I banged the door of his car really hard, as he drove off in the other direction.
We kept walking back and fort on the road for another 30 minutes, in the hope to find another taxi, a decent one this time. We were extremely tired after walking through the entirely disappointing Forbidden City, that we were in no condition to walk all the way to the restaurant.
So we decided to walk in the direction of our destination, in the hope to find a taxi.
Luckily, after another 15 minutes of walking, we managed to stop one and quickly hopped into it. He agreed to take us to our destination and we fixed a price of 20 Yuan. I sat on the passenger seat, while my friends sat at the back, finally being able to relax and exhale in desperation.
The driver started driving, and about a minute later handed me 80 Yuan, requesting me to pay him a note of 100 Yuan. I denied at first, telling him that we would pay him at the end of our journey, put he was adamant on his request. Highly frustrated and tired, we decided to pay him and handed over a 100 Yuan note.
(you need to pay attention to this part)
He took the note, checked it against a blue light on his rear-view mirror and returned it to us, saying it was not good and that we would have to give him another note. So taking back the previous note, we handed him a second 100 Yuan note, to which he also held in his hand, and then rejected it asking us for another note. Being super confused at the situation, we handed him our 3rd 100 Yuan note, which he took and returned it right back. My friend was now sitting on the back seat, holding 3, 100 Yuan notes, with a terrible expression on her face. The driver turned behind and started pointing at one of our notes and demanded for it in a raised-panicky voice. His sudden change in behavior frightened the heck out of us and we decided to pay back his 80 Yuan and ran out of the car.
I swear I have never had such a dreadful experience with a taxi driver before. We were panicked, confused and frightened, all at the same time.
All we did was just stand on the sidewalk and stare at each other, trying to recollect what had just happened.
As we managed to get our heads in place, we decided to give up on taxis completely, and would just hop onto the nearest metro station. I personally would have even preferred to walk all the way, than have to sit in another taxi again.
After walking for about 20 minutes and asking around for directions, we found our metro station and took a train heading directly to the restaurant.
All this trouble for food….. what was wrong with us?!
So well after some more walking, and a few phone calls, we finally managed to locate the restaurant. If you might just want to know, the name of the restaurant is ‘Ganges’ and is in North Sanlitun, Beijing.
The restaurant claims to be one of the best Indian food joints in Beijing.
If I was back in India, and ‘Ganges’ happened to open up in my town, I wouldn't have bothered to spend much money on their food. But after being in China for about 2 weeks, and being forced to eat traditional Chinese dishes, which are nothing but boiled meat and veggies with excess of soup, noodles and oil, my taste buds were craving for something Indian. Having walked for more than 2 hours searching for this restaurant, even a bite of their Chicken Biryani tasted like heaven to me. Probably better than that!.
So, we were here in the restaurant, waiting for our food to arrive, when the manager of the restaurant walked to us, in the hopes to catch up on some talks about India. He shared with us a few stories about how tourists get cheated in this city, and how we need to be careful about it. It is when he told us about taxi drivers who very cunningly cheat the tourists by secretively switching their customer’s genuine currency with fake ones.
My friends and me just gazed at each other, and we knew we were all thinking about the same thing. The manager’s story was very similar to our situation with our taxi driver a few hours ago.
So… Did we get cheated by him?
The whole situation was difficult to digest. Honestly, I was a little scared about how I would be spending my next 5 months in this scamming city.
We left the restaurant after a great meal, and headed home, via the subway.
I could not stop myself from thinking over and over about how we got cheated by a taxi driver and how could I have not spotted him exchanging the money, while sitting right next to him.
Honestly, hats off to his quick hand skills.
On getting home, we quickly googled about Taxi scams in Beijing, and found hundreds of similar stories, where taxi drivers had exchanged genuine currency with fake ones.
I actually laughed, now knowing that we were not the only dumb ones there to be scammed. Haha! So, on checking my friend’s currency, we found 3 fake 100 Yuan notes (approximately $47).
Well, there was nothing we could do about it now, but at least we had some almost genuine looking notes as souvenirs and a funny story to tell in the future!
I had learnt my lesson and I knew I will have similar dreadful experiences in the future. I wasn't living with my parents anymore, which meant I will have to take care of myself, alone!
I did some further research about some other common scams in Beijing, and am now aware of the do’s and don’ts of this city.
Honestly, its not a bad place to live in (for a few months). If you can get past the adulterated fruits and vegetables and milk and eggs… you might actually be able to survive in this city.
P.S I still take a taxi to work sometimes, but I always click a picture of his license number on the dashboard, just so that he knows,