How to Avoid Police Scams in China

How to Avoid Police Scams in China

There are many scams in China, from huge entrance fees to not allowing foreigners to stay in particular hotels. Luckily for us, when the police got involved there was a friendly Monk to the rescue… Without a doubt this area was one of the hardest places to travel in western China for us.

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The drive from Litang to Xinlong was supposed to take 5 hours, so imagine our surprise when we are ousted from our vehicle after only 3. ‘Where, town?’ We demand. The driver points to the left of the fork. ‘But how, far?’ He does not understand this despite our hand width progressively increasing in size. Our visible contempt meant that several seconds later he withdrew his request for the money we promised. Within minutes of marching, head high from our steadfast commitment to not being ripped off we bump face first into the ‘not accessible by car’ part of Xinlong. The wave of guilt at our frustration towards the honest Mr suit-jacket-over-jeans is intense. Prue shrugs it off by thinking about the many ways in which we have been cheated in the past few days. As for myself, well I carry 100yuan in my hand in case we should cross paths again and it seems we have once again been hitchhiking in China.
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While searching for accommodation in Xinlong we are sent on a wild goose chase by locals before entering a huge complex and a fantastic looking hotel. The lobby is lush and we worry about our funding until we are told one bed is 30yuan, cheap as.

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When shown to our room I experience something new, the hotel dilapidates before my eyes as I ascend. With every step a year of use compresses the carpets, dampens the ceilings and peels at the walls. By the second floor we are practically pacing within a ruin. The only redeeming feature was a clean and comfy bed. We agree to stay one night but that is before Prue uses the bathroom. She growls as she notices fluid leaking from the ceiling onto her hair. Despite having a week of space and luxury we are already on the edge of exploding at the filthy side of China.

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Leaving the ruin to enjoying the sights of the small staggered town we notice a patchwork pattern of prayer flags swaying on the hillside and marvel at the hundreds of steps paving the way to the monastery. Wondering across the river places us straight into the hands of some local time-wasters, the honorary Police force. We have already eaten (there are as many tasty noodle restaurants as there are mini van drivers) and have checked into accommodation yet now it is deemed necessary for us to have our arrival noted and approved.
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Police Scams in China, places to travel in western China
Xinlong police station.
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The sun is setting and with it, the opportunity for travel photography but there is no sign of our release. Instead the four uniformed officers clamber around our passports unable to recognise their own visa. Then they stumble upon one which is out of date, it is a pretty big deal to have ‘illegal aliens’ and writing the few required details takes 20 minutes. Soon after it is announced that a specialist ‘identifier of different people’ has been summoned to solve the case. We are thinking that this could be one of the worst scams in China but remain tight lipped while this specialist analyses, decodes and extracts the information tied within the pages of our documents. Information such as date of birth and date of entry into China. Then she turns her sharp eyes and unsmiling face upon us and declares ‘you must stay at designated foreigner hotel.’ We insist that we are not repacking, relocating and increasing our expenses due to her staffs inadequacies (or something a little less profound like ‘No we shall not’).
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Police scams in China, places to travel in western China
It is apparently very useful to have your toilet/ waste disposal at your windows edge.
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‘Take me to your place’ she snaps while pointing outside. We are marched to our hotel with every feel of being under arrest but for the absence of of handcuffs (thankfully I could use my camera). Everyone turns to stare at this two alien, one specialist and two policeman entourage. We reach the palace-like lobby of our hotel and our specialist loudly undermines our receptionist and declares our current accommodation to be insecure and unfit (I would have agreed on the carpets being replaced). Her booming voice echoes off the lobby walls as she rants that ‘you cannot stay in this hotel, you must stay at foreigner…’ but a sudden flash of red halts her in her tracks. A young monk twirls around and with outstretched arms demands ‘Why? what is the problem? There is nice people here, are you calling us all thieves?’ A few silent seconds later and it becomes apparent that the Monk coming to our rescue had deflated most of the actual reasons why. We detect a faint ‘next time you will stay foreigner hotel’ before our specialist slips away.
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It was thrilling to witness, first hand, the levied status which a Monk has in society. Apart from reduced travel fees, an aura that commands respect and brand spanking new watches that is.
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Monks are great people to meet on the road, at a 5000m pass they even tuck us in for the night!
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Return to our guide: Places to Travel in Western China

 

 

Written by

Rebecca Mayoll is a ‘just turned 30’ freelance writer and photographer from England. She is the co-founder and author of straightondetour.com, a travel website with the mantra ‘find your own adventure.’ Promoting adventurous destinations, independent travel and giving a humorous insight to the World of travel is what Becky does best.

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Hi we're Prue and Becks, travel writers and photographers who have been travelling the world together since 2012. Without taking ourselves too seriously, we divulge the lesser known, out of the way places and give you the tools to replicate it. Want to know more? Click on our pic.