You would never know that Vietnam and China were are Communist countries. Judging from the aggressive sales techniques and huge variety of commerce, you would assume that ‘Communism’ is merely a euphemism for “bend you over and take your dollar-dollar bills.”

This was the long con. Tsunami Technique.

Sales Techniques

One way of getting your money is the tsunami technique. A large group of hearty women will bodily surround you, trapping you in a sea of loud chatter consisting of only three words, “Buy from meeeee!”

You plan your escape to higher ground, only to watch as the wave swells and consumes the very path in front of your feet.  These women are unyielding, there will be no peace until you have purchased a $5 handicraft from each and every one of them.

Don’t believe me?

Here is an innocent tour group of sexagenarian baby boomers who fell victim to a tsunami wave of Red Zdao women in the Ta Phin village in Sapa. The lesson? Tour vans precipitate tsunami’s – avoid them at all costs. Be vigilant. When you sea a wave form, take action. Start to walk away, say no while shaking your head and your hands.

Interesting Variety of Commerce

Drugs are fairly illegal in Asia, though some countries take things more seriously than others. In China drugs seem more socially abhorrent than illegal. We asked our college-aged Chinese friend if she ever smoked weed, and she stared at us in shock. “You do this!” she quietly exclaimed, slowly bringing her hand to her arm, giving us the international sign to ‘shoot up heroin’.

Nancy Reagan should have looked East when forming her “Just say no” campaign.

Measuring out the good stuff.

That’s not to say China doesn’t have any weed.  They do.  It’s terrible – but the sales process is priceless.

Dali, in the Yunnan province, is a backpacker mecca.  It’s a land of blue skies (very rare anywhere is polluted China), lazy afternoons and gorgeous views.  It’s also the land of the Ganja Grannie.

You enter Dali’s centuries-old city walls and step into Middle Kingdom’s paradise. Ramshackle blue-and-white buildings with traditional pointed tile roofs house storefront after storefront. Bai women in traditional pink costumes work in the stores, or walk around town selling fruit, and you guessed it, ganja.

Dali city gates

Dali city gates

The Bai women sales technique is called the drive by.  A fifty year old woman wearing the traditional Bai headscarf will run up to you on the street. “Hello!” she shouts loudly and sidling closer, whispers, “You smoke-ah the ganja?”

This happens every 5 feet.  You can’t walk down Dali’s small cobblestone streets without meeting a ganja women.  And if you say yes, things get even odder. This December, after a few days of hiking and turbulent bus rides, we decided that, yes, we would like a little ganja.  So with our new Italian friend Davide, we set off to look for the ganja women.

We didn’t go far before an old woman walked up the street, “HELLO!… Smoke-ah the ganja?” We all ambled after the ganja women to her little home, wondering what kind of ganja this old women could possibly grow. She furtively reached under her bed and pulled out a shoebox full of shake and stems – the weed that grows naturally on the side of every road in Yunnan. This was not the ganja we were looking for.  But we were in too deep.

“Good ganja! My husband smoke-ah the ganja everyday.”  Her husband was sitting, shirtless, watching the transaction with little curiosity. He obviously hadn’t moved in at least five years. “You try! Smoke-ah the ganja!”

The ganga was terrible. Didn’t even do the job.  But with a little crappy ganja, some new friends and dozens of bottles of plum wine, we had a great night.

The drive by ganga woman is hard to catch on video.  But here you are! Ganja lady #1 approaches Vin after 12 seconds and another comes running up with 4 seconds remaining on the video. Notice that she’s running away from a cop.

Perhaps I shouldn’t say the women in Asia are nuts. And I can’t honestly claim that Vietnam or China have a state controlled economy.  The women are persistent and the economy is just plain out of control. Both the women and the economic forces are looking to make as much as they can, as quickly as they can.  And it’s working.



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