“My Water Buffalo is missing!”, our taxi driver shouted, as he hung up his cell phone.

We had just hopped on this cab from Jiuzhaigou airport for 200 Yuan for the expected an hour and an half ride to our hotel.

“What?!” I turned and said to our driver, still groggy from our early morning flight.

“My Water Buffalo is missing! I need to go find it!” our driver shouted at me again. I think he is part deaf. He spoke in screams.

By then, I had a good look at the guy. He sported a ridiculously outdated old gray suit that every man in China had to wear during the Cultural Revolution era; he even wore a matching old gray cap on his head. He appeared to be only in his 40’s or 50’s, but his face was full of long and deep lines. And his long thin face was very dark, typical of a Chinese farmer who spent too much time on the field under the sun. His eyes were blood shot, but the most striking feature of his face was the teeth. They were remarkably long and thin, and very yellow. The nose was forgettable.

I quickly concluded that he looked like a guy who can greatly benefit from a Water Buffalo.

“So…What do we do?” I asked him.

“You guys have to move to that car, same price! 200 Yuan!” He shouted and pointed to a white taxi cab stopped along side the road, with its driver poking his head out of the driver side window looking at us.

So, the four of us and our luggage quickly settled into the new taxi, and continued on to our hotel.

The new driver was a much younger guy, and reasonably dressed. The air was cool and fresh that morning, and the roadside scenery was gorgeous. I was in a great mood. The new driver and I carried on an easy and comfortable conversation.

Then he asked, “How did he get you to agree to move to my car?”

“His Water Buffalo went missing, he needed to go home and help his wife find their cow.” I explained like how it was.

The grin on his face gave it away. I was fed a lie.

Their local taxi law forbids a taxi from picking up customers outside of their home territory. So, when our young driver dropped off customers at airport this morning, he was not allowed to pick up new customers at the airport to take back to Jiuzhaigou, so instead of driving an empty cab back the 90 minutes, he called the green taxis to see if anyone had customers for sale. So, within a few minutes of leaving the airport, we were sold.

A runaway Water Buffalo… Creative! I laughed.

I asked our young driver to not sell us again, because my hubby and two kids fell asleep in the back seat. The young driver said okay. I then agreed to let him take us the next day to Huanglong Park for a day trip for 500 Yuan.

Once, we arrived at Jiuzhaigou, I quickly learned that the going rate for a day trip to Huanglong was 400 Yuan. But I decided to honor my reservation with our driver anyway, after all, we were his–he bought us.

On the agreed upon date, our driver came to pick up at our hotel on time, at 8AM. It was a three hour long drive each way to Huanglong. Once again, I enjoyed the roadside scenery, as we passed by mountainous region, open plains, local farmland, and various Tibetan villages, while chatting with my driver friend here and there.

“Huanglong Park is on very high altitude, do you want to buy cans of oxygen? I can stop at a store on the way there.” Our driver asked me about 2 hours into the drive.

I was aware that Huanglong Park is on high altitude. But my husband is originally from Denver, and we have been to the mile-high city without suffering altitude sickness. So, I told our driver to just keep going, and added that if we needed it, I would buy oxygen in the park.

Huanglong Park

“Are you sure? There is no oxygen for sale once you are inside the park. You have little kids,” said our driver.

At the mentioning of kids, my maternal instinct kicked in, and I told him to stop for oxygen.

We stopped at a small store front in the middle of nowhere, and there were already a couple of other taxis there.

We stopped at this Black store on the way to Huanglong

The store keeper told me to buy 4 cans of oxygen. He said there isn’t very much oxygen inside each can, so we each needed one. The cans were bulky, bigger and much taller than a regular bottle of water, yet surprisingly light to validate the small amount of oxygen he promised. They were 50 Yuan per can. Against the store keeper’s wishes, I bought just two cans for 100 Yuan.

“Why is this so light? These cans feel empty.” I complained out loud, as I shook the cans.

“You bought air!” the store keeper shoot back at me.

Our big can of Oxygen

We finally arrived at the park. And we found oxygen for sale EVERWHERE! Any kiosks that sold water and snacks had the exact same can for sale for 15 yuan. Also, we didn’t even need the extra air. We opened one can, only because the kids had to try it.

This time, it got to me. I was pissed!

Luckily, Jiuzhaigou is a touristy town, and they care about their tourists. I knew this because they posted phone numbers prominently for tourist to call with complaints. The number 96927 was painted in bold large black color on every white taxi cab in town.

I dialed 96927 a number of times over the next day and a half. All I heard was: ring…ring…ring a number of times, and then it went to a busy signal. This number was supposed to be 24 by 7. I grumbled to my husband that no wonder the driver can practice deception so openly, there is no one to listen to the complaints.

“Or,” my husband had a different opinion on this, “all the tourists are calling, so the line is ALWAYS busy.”

“Hmm…quite possible!” And we laughed.

Here is my original post about Huanglong.

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