When Chris and I travel, we usually book our hotels, plane tickets, and tours via Ctrip. They are usually pretty competitive price wise, have a very user friendly English website, and accept major American credit cards. Most of our tour guides have been extremely friendly, and do an exceptional job of showing us around.
One quirk of Ctrip tours is between visits to major points of interest; their guides take visitors to tourist traps. For example, when visiting the Great Wall of China, most tours stop at Dragon Land Jade City.
|If you are feeling the need to buy a jade dragon boat, here is your stop!|
|Jade city does have a great restaurant that serves western friendly Chinese food. Meals are frequently included with the tours.|
Or who could forget our trip to Dr. Tea, the Beijing teahouse that featured $40 boxes of tea and overpriced tea sets.
|After your tasting, stop by the gift shop and pick up a few boxes.|
And there was the salesperson at “Pearl City” that tried to convince my mom to buy Hong Kong diamonds.
|This is where pearls come from!|
Needless to say, that during our trip to Xi’An, we were taken to a few more traps.
The first trap was very subtle. At the end of our trip to the Banpo Museum, we were led to a gift shop which pushed artwork created by local farmers. Normally, I would not be interested, but this painting caught both Chris and my eyes. Tourist Traps 1, Team Wilcox 0.
|70% of the proceeds of the painting go to the local farmers who created the painting.|
The second trap was a little more obvious. Before we were driven to the Huting Springs and Terra cotta warriors, we took a detour to the Xi’An Art Ceramics and Lacquer factory for a “demonstration in pottery making”. I thought we would see artisans throw delicate porcelain bowls. Instead we saw workers piecing Terra Cotta Warrior figurines together and glazing money dragons. The warrior figurines do make great gifts. Tourist Traps 2, Team Wilcox 0
|Feel free to take a snapshot of your loved one as a Terra Cotta soldier, free of charge!|
|A local artist creates a warrior statue.|
|Money dragons are very popular in tourist traps. Many business men purchase them so money won't leave their companies.|
|All I could think about was The Brady Bunch movie after seeing this Tang Dynasty horse statue.|
|Chris had a difficult time selecting his warrior statue. There were so many to choose from!|
|Why do you need a Terra Cotta army when you have Leia?|
Since we had some time to kill before the Tang Dynasty Dinner Theater, our guide took us to our third and final tourist trap: A Chinese Silk Arts factory. When we entered the building, an intricately embroidered silk gown greeted us.
|At first, the museum/factory looked promising.|
We were then led to the factory where our guide showed us how the silk is made.
|Silk worms spin a silk cocoon.|
|The silk is then stretched.|
|After a little more stretching, it is woven into thread and fabric.|
After we saw how the blankets and sheets are constructed, we were led through a maze of overpriced blankets, towels, underwear, and cleaning products. I could buy these in Shanghai! I desperately wanted to get out of this place, but I kept getting lost in the maze of the silk art garage sale! I was trapped! Needless to say we left the factory empty handed. Tourist Traps 2, Team Wilcox 1
Usually the traps are fun, but if you are interested in making major purchases, price your items before you embark on the tours. Also, don’t be afraid to negotiate. Otherwise, you may get trapped!