Like everyone else who takes a guided tour, I had an idea that our guide would be a boring chap who prattled on endlessly about how high a particular mountain was, how deep a lake, how old a building etc. Guides seem to adore numbers. But on a recent tour to the Great Wall at Badaling, outside Beijing, all those preconceptions were proved wrong. Our guide James Lee, pictured here, was a surgeon until he got the opportunity to become a Tour Guide, a much more exalted position, apparently, in China.
|The badge says “James Lee G001″
Is there a better tour guide in China than James? Probably, it’s a big place after all. But his badge says G001, which is suggestive of high rank, and he really is a fantastic guy.
He figured out after 5 minutes that we were totally and completely not interested in any information that contained a date or a number, but we did like to learn about people and the culture, especially the culture of today’s China.
On the way back from Badaling we got talking about the strange graffiti we were seeing everywhere. He was reluctant at first to admit what it was about but fessed up in the end: the ten-digit numbers we were seeing all over the place were cell-phone numbers (how hard was that?) and the adjacent symbol indicated which specific illegal item you would find through this number: guns, drugs, hookers, fake passports, etc.
|Call now for a fake ID… or an AK47, maybe?
We did a bunch of other tours around Beijing (including the Forbidden City: very cool!) and James was there for all of them. But the most important thing we learned on these tours?
Don’t imagine you know anything about your tour guide, and especially don’t give him a hard time. He may decide to migrate next year, and the next time you see him might be in the Operating Room…