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Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Godanwei was frightened and shouted, “Stop beating us! Stop!”
The young men howled even louder, and begged for mercy in their weak Chinese and English,
“I quit, I quit!”
Li Du snapped his fingers, and Brother Wolf and the others stashed away the belts and took the machetes and other weapons away from the young men. Li Du said to Godanwei, “Do these people know the situation in Hpakant?”
Godanwei shook his head. “I don’t know. They are the local gangsters.”
Li Du said, “Ask them to get lost. If I meet them again, I’ll break their legs.”
Godanwei went to a young man and said a few words, and the youths ran away like dogs with their tails between their legs.
Once they were on their way again, Godanwei became as obedient as a puppy.
He had only seen these men looking big and tall, but he had not seen their strength before, so he didn’t warn his companions in time.
They did this a lot. Godanwei would find rich people to blackmail with his tour guide job, and then notify his gangster companions, who would go ahead of the road to blackmail unsuspecting tourists.
However, the gangsters left early, there was no signal in the mountains, and they could not contact Godanwei. Moreover, he thought he would take his chances, hoping that Li Du and the others were not as strong as they looked.
He had met many people. Some looked tough but dissolved into fearful, trembling beings when they met a native with a machete.
He hoped that Li Du was such a person so that he could get his ID back, rob some money and run away.
As a result, he found himself up shit creek without a paddle!
The car drove for more than two hours. The road was bumpy and they could not drive fast. Li Du was a little bored, so he asked, “You said your cousin’s family is in Hpakant. What are they doing there?”
Godanwei said, “They are working as miners. The whole family drives excavators in the mine.”
Li Du asked, “What’s the situation in the jade mine over there?”
Godanwei shook his head. “Bad, very bad. The government has set up inspection offices to intercept unqualified mines. More than a thousand mines have been closed this year. Many people lost their jobs.”
Li Du knew that the government has not only closed many mines but also stopped approving new mines in Hpakant and refused to extend expiration dates for existing ones.
As the word circulated in the global jewelry industry, jade, the oldest and most important gem originating in Hpakant would slowly become history.
The closure of illegal mines, the refusal to open new ones and the numerous legal obstacles in the way of extending the existing mines’ operating period meant that mining and marketing Myanmar jade would become even more difficult in the years ahead.
As Li Du pondered these matters, the guide asked cautiously, “Boss, are you here to attend the jade mine bidding fair? Ready to stock up?”
Listening to his words, Li Du was stunned. “Aren’t most of the mines closed down? How can there be a jade auction?”
The auctions were a collaboration between the Myanmar jade association and the state mineral administration, in which large and small mines would send the raw stone to jade dealers around the world.
In recent years, with the continuous development of the Myanmar jade mines, high-grade jade material became difficult to get, and the influence of bidding gradually declined. Now, with the closing of jade mines and the scarcity of raw jade, one would naturally expect that such auctions would not be held anymore.
Godanwei said, “Yes, there are jade mine auctions every season, but now they are no longer official. There are some private ones, though.”
He went on to explain that with the closure of jade mines by the Myanmar government, jade dealers in China, Japan, and South Korea, as well as in other parts of Asia and around the world, were eager to stock up on jade ore before the policy was fully implemented.
In this situation, stiff competition was created and demand for the ore has increased, leading some mines to sell the ore they have accumulated in the past.
Of course, some people would fish in murky waters, taking advantage of the market chaos and selling low-quality ore to customers, so now the Hpakant jade market was very unreliable.
Godanwei said, “Boss if you want to stock up on ore, I suggest you wait a while. The situation is very messy and you would be easily deceived.”
“Don’t listen to those people who say that soon there will be no ore in Hpakant. It’s all a lie. The government can’t give up the jade trade, they’re just trying to put pressure on businessmen.”
“In fact, according to what I know, the existing mines have excavated at least 100 million kilograms of jade in the past three or four years, enough raw stone to sell for a long time!”
Listening to his explanation, Li Du looked at him with a smile and said, “Well, you sure seem to know a lot.”
“Not too much. I have relatives in Hpakant after all. Besides, who in my country wouldn’t know a bit about jade?”
Li Du said, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to buy jade ore.”
Godanwei scratched his head. “Huh? Aren’t you going to Hpakant for jade? Then why are you heading there?”
Li Du looked at him with a serene smile. “Does it have anything to do with you?”
Godanwei immediately backed off. “Oh, don’t get me wrong, boss. I’m just asking because I’m curious. I won’t ask any more questions, haha. Oh, this is the wrong way, we have to turn at the next intersection…”
Heading northwest, they gradually moved away from the mountains into the hills.
Myanmar was one of the most resource-rich countries in the world, with two-thirds of the area covered by dense forests and the rest used for growing sugar cane and rice.
There was a lot of rain and many big rivers passed through the country.
They drove along a river for some time and then came to a dock.
Godanwei told them that the river teemed with freshwater fish and shrimps which would taste awesome with rice.
After seeing that Li Du and his men were tough, the guide finally realized it was in his best interest to do honest work. He was indeed an excellent guide, with a good knowledge of the scenery, local legends, and the best places to buy stuff.
After listening to his recommendation, Li Du decided to stop and have dinner there.
After they got off the bus, the local boss, who knew Godanwei, waved enthusiastically. “Bring your friends over! I have freshly brewed rice wine and freshly caught fish.”
Godanwei shook his head. “You can’t fool these people. You can’t mess with any of them. We’ll eat at Brother Duen Qin’s place.”
Godanwei was looking for a small shop near the dock, a tiny, cramped place with a wooden tarpaulin for shelter from the wind and rain. A mother and daughter and several other people were working there.
The place was small and messy, and Li Du could not help but feel doubtful. “Is it appropriate to eat here?”
Godanwei tapped his chest and said, “Oh, boss, don’t worry. If you don’t like the food, you can throw me down the river!”
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