I don't want to be a tour guide

Publié le par chrislzh

Why don't I want to be a tour guide? Well, it's ok when you have a small group of maybe five or six, perhaps, because then decision making and keeping the group together are relatively easy. But when you have 12 triathletes and coaches and other staff and hangers on...... Bloody hell.

A couple of months ago at the Kiwi Club I met one of the coaches of the New Zealand triathlon team. We got to talking, I got to boasting about how I could show him around Beijing, he believed me. The team was back in Beijing for the triathlon that was held up by the Ming Tombs in Changping over the weekend. They had yesterday free for shopping and whatever else. They're leaving about now (8:30ish), assuming all is going according to plan.

So I met them at the Silk Market/秀水/Tourist Hell at two yesterday afternoon. After everybody was got together I took them down to the subway and out to Xidan. Why Xidan? Because it's not tourist hell. You're allowed to actually move and think and breathe for yourself and choose what you want to buy. And it has everything from fancy-arse department stores to cheap-and-cheerful markets. But did that please everybody? Well, some, yes, but others wanted fancy fake labels like at Tourist Hell. One was disappointed by the lack of DVDs. They wanted to go back to Tourist Hell.

Well, I sent some of them off with instructions to get off the subway at stop 121 (Yong'an Li), and took a few others to Tiananmen Square for the obligatory photos. That saw me juggling a plethora of digital cameras trying to make sure they all got the photos they wanted. Then I took them back to Tourist Hell to meet up the others.

Well, eventually we came up with a plan for dinner and got everybody together.... And then one took off for DVD shopping. But we managed to get everybody into taxis and heading in the right direction.

And then the taxi drivers fucked up. Somehow my instructions to go to 光华路西口 morphed into "any random spot along Guanghua Lu". Alright, so my instructions weren't the best, but there's kind of a desperate lack of landmarks in that area. Perhaps I should've told them to go to the International Post Office or just chosen a more convenient place. Whatever, there I was in the last taxi stopping and telling people to get back in their taxis and keep going straight until I decided fuck it, got out and walked the rest of the way.

But the restaurant was too smoky for the athletes. So we walked back down Guanghua Lu looking for somewhere more suitable. We settled on some ridiculously over-priced Cantonese place. Amazing, if we're going to be paying that much money and there doesn't seem to be any more customers, you'd think they could cook a little quicker.

Anyway, we got dinner and some beer and whatever other stuff people wanted to drink, and I got it all for free (that was the only payment for my services) and then I got the staff to line up four taxis and they went back to their hotel.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining about the triathletes. Actually, hanging out with them was pretty cool. The hassle was not really knowing what everybody wanted and yet trying to keep them all happy. Xidan didn't go down to well with them, unfortunately. Dinner seemed to please everybody, although the process of getting there was a pain in the arse for all of us.

So, I don't want to be a tour guide. It's not about the people involved. It's trying to keep a large group together and happy is more hassle than I can be arsed with. But I'll probably keep doing this informal guide/translator thing I've been doing for various friends and contacts off and on over the years and I'll probably keep getting free beers and meals for my troubles, but what the hell, despite the hassle of taking people through tourist hellholes like Xiushui and trying to find the stuff they want it's usually fun hanging out with them.

And even though yesterday was tiring and frustrating in some ways, it was fun hanging out with these guys and watching them do their last-ditch tourist thing before they headed home.

Publié dans chrislzh

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