Generally, all Chinese bus tours work the same way. You meet each morning between 6:30 and 8, and the bus leaves for its journey. Every 2 hours or so, the bus stops at one of those roadside restroom areas, or some sort of small sightseeing place.
Some of these small sightseeing tours were not much more than gift shops with overpriced trinkets, which the “tour guides” (not Thomas) would try to prod you into buying with grandiose explanations. I never bought any of these. Thomas told the Bohemians not to. The rest of the people on the tour were spending money like rap stars makin’ it rain.
One of these “tours” that we went on was the “bee factory” as Thomas described it. I was excited because I like bees and have always wanted to know where they were made, although I assumed Thomas actually meant it was a honey processing plant. Either way, I have often thought about keeping bees myself, although I doubt my bedroom would be big enough for more than one or two hives.
At the Bee Factory, we were greeted by plywood cutouts that were painted like bees, the kind with little holes that you can put your face into and take a stupid tourist picture which makes you look like a bee with some genetically engineered human face. My one regret of the whole trip was not getting a picture with me in one of those cutouts.
The Bee Factory turned out to be the best tourist trap of the entire trip. Inside the Factory (read that, “gift shop”), the guide stood up to give us “the exciting bee experience…and afterward you can buy some bee pollen to take home to your honey.” His talk was filled with puns, and not much else. Basically, it was just like bee-ing (see what I did there?) in the audience of an infomercial. I am not sure if there was anything made in this location at all, or if it was simply a gift shop.
It is easy to think of visiting these types of places as extreme rip-offs on the tour, and if you buy things there they are. But they do serve a couple of purposes. First, we would only actually spend about 30 minutes there, and we only visited a couple of these places. They gave you an opportunity to stretch your legs and use the restroom. It was better than just using public toilets on the side of the road.
Secondly, and far more valuably, they gave the Bohemians things to laugh about back on the bus. Bee Factories turn out to be much better stories than anything else.
When I was a kid, my family took a road trip through Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. Along the way, we stopped at The Amazing Dinosaur Experience. Billboards had warned us about the danger of missing this “once in a lifetime opportunity” for many miles, so we stopped. It turned out to be cave that the portly owner had “covered with plaster and painted white” with a few half-fake dinosaur bones painted glow-in-the-dark and stuck under a blacklight. We still laugh about it to this day.
The Bee Factory was that type of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. -Ryan