A wake-up call from the Van Man

About a week ago, we met this guy Jimmy on the bus from Shangri-la to Daocheng. He told of us his plans to hitchhike up to Litang and Sertar. Later texting with him, I found out he had made it to Litang at least, got a ride from a Tibetan trucker, and was staying with a Tibetan monk. He texts me “Tibetan people are great.” And I go, “Yeah, I hate to generalize, but the Tibetans I’ve met are pretty cool.” After a few van trips, I’d amend that to “… except the van drivers.”

The drivers are the main system of transport between cities in the Tibetan areas around here - Shangri-la, Yubeng, Daocheng, Litang, Kangding. A lot of these routes don’t have buses, or just have one bus a day, so the van drivers transport most people. They usually each own a 7-person van.

The rides aren’t bad (the roads around here are actually really good, except Shangri-la to Daocheng) and some of the difficulties of dealing with the drivers are just because they hustle. They’ll never drive without a full car. They’ll usually add a little stool in the middle row to turn their 7-person van into an 8-person van. They drive pretty aggressively. And they will badger you mercilessly whenever you walk past a bunch of them near the bus station. “Yading? Tomorrow? Hellodoyouneedacar?”

But can’t blame em, really; like I said, they’re doing business in a tricky informal situation. Plus, they have a pretty sweet style, that could best be described as “50s bad boy.” Lots of leather jackets, sunglasses, and jeans. And amazingly voluminous hair.

So ok, really, these guys are cool; the only complaint I really have (besides the time I managed to bargain up from ¥100 to ¥150, but that’s another story) was this morning.

Last night, we arranged a ride to Kangding at 8:30am. I was very clear on this, because we repeated it about seven times, like a mantra (“Ba dien ban, dui ba?” “Dui.") along with the price (most definitely ¥120/person). Told him where we’re staying, exchanged phone numbers, he’ll pick us up there tomorrow.

Seven thirty AM, we get a knock on our hotel room door. Cancel that - there was no knock, just the door opens and in comes Van Man and his buddy. (Luckily, we were awake and clothed.) Dude starts rushing us, and I’m like, 8:30, like we said. And he goes “8:00!” (as if this explains why he’s there at 7:30; whatever) and I gesture to our stuff spread around the room and got to use a favorite Chinese expression: “Busheng.” (“Not possible!")

So we repeated “8:30” a couple of times, and recited the price again for good measure. (this time with a calculator visual aid.) Dude’s left, I made sure to lock the door, and good thing, because the knob turned again at 8:15. Barges back in and we go through another couple recitations. And sure enough, we were ready and out the door at 8:28. Dude.


h -

Ah, adventures in cultural norms!

Dan -

I know, right? Like, he was all smiles, didn’t mean any harm, clearly didn’t think he was being rude to the point of scary, it just seemed like a reasonable thing to do :P

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