We went to Zhujiajiao Water Town, one of the most popular water towns near Shanghai. It’s a beautiful ancient water town built over 1,700 years ago, similar to Venice in Italy. There are many well-preserved bridges and a boat ride is available. As with attractions like these, there are loads of scammers lurking around.
My devout Buddhist friend wanted to enter a temple along the river to pray. Hence, we hopped off the boat and paid our entrance fee to enter the temple. We were handed some joss sticks, incense paper and told to kneel, pray, and place the joss sticks on the altar. Sounds normal enough, right? The next thing I knew, we were asked to pick up a small pouch from a box. I took it and asked what it was, the monk mumbled some gibberish, blessed us and asked us to proceed to a table where an elder would attend to the both of us.
Singaporeans are obedient and rule-abiding folks, so we followed his instructions and walked directly into a trap. The monk took the pouch, and took out a slip of paper. He read our fortunes for the year. Turned out that both of our fortunes were going to be extremely bad as we had offended a deity.
To break that curse, we had to make generous donations to the temple in exchange for blessings. He then took our a book of records to pressurize us into giving at least $9,999 CNY. At that moment, I knew he was trying to scam us. He refused to let us leave and said if we did not even make a donation, misfortune would be upon us.
Fearing the worst, we gave $500 CNY, which was equivalent to a total of $100.
After giving that, the monk continued to hold us hostage by telling us if we do not make another donation, our parents would suffer misfortune and that we should be filial by donating more to break the curse. I stood up and left immediately, but my poor friend who was superstitious decided that he needed to be a filial son, and so he donated all that he had on him.
That day, we walked out of the temple almost $300 poorer. The two of us had planned to go to a cafe for coffee, but since we had no more money, we decided to share a bowl of dumpling noodles with whatever change I had left. We had to end our day trip prematurely because we were too broke to visit the rest of the attractions.