Saturday, May 7, 2011

Encounters with locals

"He turned corners, choosing the narrowest unlighted lanes, and then we stayed on dirt roads. I suspected he was going to rob me, and when we came to the darkest part of a bumpy track- we were in the courty now - and he pulled over and switched off the lights, I was certain he was a con man: his next move would be to stick a knife in my ribs..." from the Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux.
at Kathmandu International Airport

It seems that no travel tale is complete without an encounter with locals trying to cheat you. Although nothing as scary as Paul Theroux's experience, I had encountered a con trishaw driver in Chiangmai, who tried to drive me to somewhere desserted for massage, travel vans who try to over charge ridiculously at Ho Chi Minh, taxi drivers who had "better" hotels to recommend than what we originally booked in Danang. The worst was probably at Kota Tinggi where the taxi driver drove me to a factory when I told him to go to a temple.

In a more recent trip, an overly zealous local at Kathmandu Airport volunteered to contact my travel agent who was no where to be found at the airport. A short conversation over the phone in Nepali language and he has it settled, "Your travel agent will be here shortly. Please wait for a while." I was sceptical, did he really called our agent? Would he get his own guy to come pick us up and try to get us stay in some other hotel, sign up a sightseeing package with him, etc? Fortunately, nothing like this happen. Our agent came, and he demanded for S$20 as tips. We gave him a S$2 note and our driver drove us off to our hotel.
the Eyes that appear on many stupas in Nepal

It was an unpleasant start but for the rest of the trip, things were not as bad. In fact, we met many nice locals. In Pokhara, a family invited us for dinner on their New Year Eve; in Lumbini, a hotel manager escorted us to the airport and helped us settle our lost air ticket from Lumbini to Kathmandu; in Kathmandu, a monk we met at Boudhanath subsequently helped us find accomodation in the temple as I forgot to book our last night's lodging. Such pleasant surprises!

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