Noilly Prattle: China – Winter 2016 (Shuhe and the Holy Scam)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

China – Winter 2016 (Shuhe and the Holy Scam)

oldest stone bridge in Shuhe
cobblestone streets parallel the crystal clear canal
     Unlike the relatively simple grid pattern of the street layout in Dali, Shuhe, although smaller, has a more complexly convoluted street pattern and takes more getting used to finding your way around. There are many lovely clear canals gurgling through town from a spring source to the north. We strolled northward along the cobblestone streets and lanes that parallel the main stream towards a source spring. Spring (the season) was bursting out all over Shuhe now, and the greening of the town was becoming unmistakable.

 the center of Shuhe surrounds a large pool of clear spring water 

The Source of the Shuhe waterways.
Spring at the spring
        There turned out to be a worm in the apple, however. In that nearly idyllic Spring/spring setting we got scammed—by a “Buddhist monk” of all things. He was a bald largish man in yellow robes and very friendly, nodding and smiling and talkative—a mile a minute in Chinese to Road Buddy thinking, as most people do, that she is Chinese. Obviously (or intentionally) oblivious to the fact that he was getting no positive feedback he casually pulled what looked like a bead necklace from somewhere inside his robes and put it around her neck and then slipped a wooden bead bracelet on my wrist. Still smiling broadly he made the sign for money (rubbing the thumb and first and second fingers rapidly to indicate counting money). At first I thought he was showing us how to use “prayer beads” and nodded and smiled and thanked him and made to walk off. But he stopped us and made the thumb and fingers rubbing sign again. Then it hit me and we offered him 50 yuan, but he, still smiling, pointed to a 100 yuan bill, so, caught off guard and embarrassed (as he knew we would be) we foolishly gave it to him, realizing we had been effectively conned. What an MO!

necklace or prayer beads?

the "Buddhist monk" who conned us
eyeing his next prey 
the accomplice with his
black sneakers
       A few days later we were lunching in the park around the Shuhe water source on bread and water, apples and rosewater flavored pastry. While sitting on a bench I spotted the scam artist “Buddhist monk” who had accosted us a couple days earlier talking to another “monk”. They separated and the second one (unconvincingly shod in black sneakers) strolled our way, passed on by and stopped in front of a Chinese couple sitting on the adjacent bench. I got my camera ready and sure enough he started the con on them. The conversation went on a for a while with the man while the woman, totally oblivious, was absorbed in her smart phone. Finally, I saw the man, all smiles and a prayerful hand clasp, take out his wallet and give the “monk” some money in exchange for some bauble I couldn't identify for sure from a distance (but probably the same type bracelet seen on his wrist as I had gotten). I did manage to get a couple of pictures though--to me, well worth a scam by a clever enough grifter!

a successful scam

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