What You Can Do with US$1 in Jianshui, Yunnan, China

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March 6, 2012
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March 8, 2012

What You Can Do with US$1 in Jianshui, Yunnan, China



One late night in Jianshui, we were looking for something to eat, doubting anything would open at this late hour. Then we stumbled upon this little night market with full of barbecue stalls. Chicken feet, pig feet, chicken butt… No, we weren’t in the mood for a heavy barbecue.




We used our little Chinese skill to ask if they have a noodle soup. Luckily, one guy understood and made us a really good chicken noodle soup. Exactly what we needed.


We asked how much, guessing it would be 6 ~ 10 yuan a bowl. Then he was smiling and saying,


It means America.


“Yes, Meiguoa and Hanguoa.”

American and Korean, we are.


“One Meiguoa, one.”

“… What?”


I pulled out my notepad, wrote down America and Korea in Chinese and pointed out the sentence means how much it is. But still, he kept smiling and saying one, Meiguoa, one Meiguoa. We had absolutely zero idea what he wanted. He didn’t seem like want to scam us or anything. His body language was very friendly.


We gave 20yuan note on his hand and stood confused. Then he gave us the money back and made a gesture that you can go now, again, smiling. So, you like us but you don’t want money from us?


So we offered him a beer.

“Come, we’ll buy you a beer instead. You don’t charge us for food, so we’ll buy you a beer.”


But he was shaking his hand and making the gesture that it’s okay. Huh. Lost again. What does he want then? Then we remembered he was pointing 1 yuan bill while he was saying one Meiguoa.


“Oh, you meant, THIS?”


I wrote down “$”, the universal language of American dollar, on my notepad and showed it to him.


“Yes, yes!”

He looked happy.


Now, finally we understood each other. So he wanted us to pay with 1 US dollar bill instead of Chinese Yuan. Technically, it would be less than what he normally charges for noodle soup because 1 US$ is just 6 CNY but his food must be 10 CNY a bowl. So, he was interested in American bill than his business.


Stephen travels with American dollar but not at that moment. We promised him to come back with 1 US$ bill and left without paying anything for our dinner, one of the best actually.


Did we come back?

Yes, we did, the night before we left Jianshui. We gave him 1 US$ bill, as we promised and had another bowl of noodle soup.


So, really, how much does he charge for the noodle soup?

I have no idea, because he refused to get our money this time as well. He was so happy that we came with 1US$.


So, what did we do?

We paid the dinner with another 1US$. And he gave second dollar to his wife.


Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Juno set off for the wider world to pursue her passion for travel and storytelling. She traveled the world as an award-winning travel blogger and photographer, witnessing the everyday life of different cultures. Currently based in Anchorage, Alaska and exploring this amazing Last Frontier. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Instagram .


  1. Mike Bugno says:

    Imagine what a TJ would get you…

  2. Great story! Love reading about genuine people around the world!


  3. Giulia says:

    I love noodle soup! And for just $1 it sounds just perfect:) How many nice stories we live when traveling… Made me smile:)

  4. Leslie says:

    What a funny story! I love that he just calls US money “America.” Wonder why he insisted on the $1 US?

  5. Waegook Tom says:

    Aww, lovely story, Juno! Impressive that you can write Chinese, too – everything about the language just confuses the hell out of me!

  6. GReat story Juno – I bet it was quite tough getting the message across (from his perspective).

    Wonder what he did with the dollar? Maybe he just wanted a souvenir!


  7. Haha–that’s awesome! I’m living in Xi’an at the moment and, I must say, they do love Americans! And, in reading your post, I’m happy to say that my Mandarin lessons are paying off! I actually knew what you meant!

  8. Cute story! We had a taxi driver in Chengdu ask us if we could show him a US dollar because he’d never seen one before. I wish we’d had one to give him!

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