Dunhuang -- Tue, Aug 9, 2005
Today we spent the day in Dunhuang -- famous for its sand dunes and incredible landscape. We decided to have some fun and rented a jeep to take us deep into the desert; dreams of getting stranded in the desert should begin...
As we headed to the shop to get supplies, the Jeep promptly stalled -- a sure foreboding of what was to come. But he hoped out -- took some newspaper, lit it on fire, through it into the engine, and we were off again.... how's that for a starter.
We went for about two hours, through desert graves, barren desert, dunes -- only with about 10 stops to adjust this gasket or that lever... but I started to become at ease because our driver seemed to know how to solve all -- a regular McGuiver. Then, just before he was going to let me drive (thank goodness I didn't), something blew and a gushing noise flowed up from the bottom of the car. We all jumped out of the car and took a look at a pool of oil sinking into the desert sands -- we weren't going anywhere...
We were in the middle of the desert -- luckily with plenty of water, but with little shade unfortunately. It was about noon and there were few places to hide and under the car was off limits. Two hours (!) later, a car came to pick us up and atthis point we weren't too happy. (I was actually kind of liking all of this -- but did expect to get my money back).
We mentioned that we wanted a refund and it was time to "go to the office". What proceeded was 3 hours of talking to this guy, his brother, his assistant, her secretatary, their cousin, the manager of the manager, the president but not the real one, his aunt, and her long lost twin. Why... not really sure... Fang Wen Guang and Wen Ray's repsonse "this is china. this is how we do it".
The first response to our request for a refund was that we should pay for the broken jeep -- WTF... Then came threats of calling the police because we were in an area that is forbidden for foreigners (but didn't they take us there...). Then saying they would give the money back if we wrote a letter saying we would drop the issue and then renegging and only offering part of the money...
Luckily this place also ran a motorglider business to take flights over Dunhuang. I actually really wanted to do this -- so we finally said -- how about you take all three of us on flights and we will call it even. These were flights that they charge more for than we paid for the Jeep in the first place.
At this point, I think they were sick of this whole process too and they took it. That's win-win; sort of; we got some great flights over Dunhuang and then our driver took us out on an ATV to see the sunset (he was actually a really good guy).
So what is the secret to Chinese negotations: I haven't a clue...