I think I now understand the meaning of “Tourist trap”. This is how we felt. We listed ourselves for the tour to the Qinghai lake. The 16-pax minibus is full of Chinese tourists except us. None of us knew the full itinerary and what was exactly included in the tour. We had several unprogrammed stops – Dang er ancient city, a small Buddhist temple, a Tibetan “village” and finally the lake. The entire tour are interrupted regularly for souvenir shopping included free of charge. We realized that the tour only included transport and everything else is payable, even the ticket to the lake.
The 18th century ancient city is just a street with buildings renovated on both sides. I am sure Confucius may not appreciate, the yuans claimed for yak ride, the souvenir shops around his school, the fashion show disguised as folk dance introduction. We bypassed the Buddhist temple to the great displeasure of the ticket seller who scolded us for being too close to the entrance. The “Tibetan village” is totally fake. Even Disneyland look real, the tents are total empty shells, with a pond for romantic boat escapade. The only attraction was the costume trial which everybody enjoyed and was worth the 20 Yuans. The Lake climax was unique in the world not for its 3600 m altitude but for the mercantilist attitude. I have never paid money to see a lake, or the sea. Even the Tibetan villagers were guarding any alternative routes and claiming money. Lunch was a desperate attempt to lighten the day and was paid by the friendly Shanghai couple who are the only ones to speak English. The village where we stopped reminds me of one of the Far West towns with one street and façades.
I wonder if this attitude will encourage tourism growth or this total disdain will discourage new comers. Unfortunately I believe there will always be some very willing volunteers to test these traps.