Russian tour guide connects with China on the border
Andrei Baluas Vladimirovich,
50, has been working for the past 15 years as a tourist guide on the Sino-Russian border, often between the cities of Khabarovsk and Fuyuan, which face each other across the Heilongjiang River. Recently, Vladimirovich, a resident of Khabarovski, spoke to China Daily about his life and changes in cross-border tourism.
How often do you cross the Heilongjiang River?
Every day there are six boats traveling between Khabarovsk and Fuyuan. Each boat can carry 45 passengers, and every week I bring 150 to 200 tourists to China. During the busy season, I come here once a day. But now, because of much lower exchange rates of rubles against the yuan and rising prices, the number of tourists has dropped.
Who are the Russian tourists you bring to China? What kind of Chinese commodities do they like? After so many years, what has happened to the spending habits of Russian tourists?
Most are young people but some are retirees. In the past, after returning to Russia, they sold the goods they bought in China, including clothes, shoes, hats, underwear, swimsuits and mink coats. Now, because of higher costs, they can’t make a profit from buying and selling. So most of the goods they buy are for personal consumption, like jeans, T-shirts and daily necessities. Some Russians order furniture made in Guangzhou, and ship their purchases through Suifenhe.
What kind of Chinese food do they like?
For me, I like all kinds of Chinese food. Russian tourists like Chinese tea, fruit, Snow and Harbin brand beers, and Ant wine.
Besides shopping, what do Russian tourists like to do? Which scenic spots do they like in Fuyuan?
They like Chinese traditional massage, and they like to see Chinese dentists because of their low prices and efficiency. They like to visit Dongming Temple and enjoy the lotus flowers in Fuyuan.
What do you do when the Heilongjiang River freezes in winter?
In winter, my main task is to rest. Sometimes I can help others repair electrical appliances.
What about your family?
My wife helps me with the tour business, like taking bookings and organizing trips. My son is a computer engineer.
What about your income?
I earn 15 yuan ($2.25) from each tourist, or 2,000 to 3,000 yuan per week. Not much.
Why is there a Taobao.com logo on your business card?
I help Russians buy Chinese goods from Taobao and ask the sellers to deliver them to a fixed address in Fuyuan. Then I carry them back to Khabarovsk. Many Russian people like buying goods on Taobao.