Part 1 in Our “How to Navigate China with next to Zero Mandarin” Series
Seriously, first cab we get in mainland China, picture this. We’ve just rolled off a 27 hour train ride, where of the last 2 hours of the trip we spent at the previous station waiting for the train staff to deep clean the train. I mean these guys ripped the curtains off, tore out the runner carpets, removed all the bedding (except ours) and prepped our train car for what seemed like a mass cleaning or burning once we were off the train. I suggest the latter, but the former would suffice. Finally, the train rolls on to our final destination.
We get off and head with the crowds to the exits and the “taxi circle”. Now, I didn’t take a photo, but I should. Picture your average mall parking lot cul de sac. The taxis were crammed in ways you’d never imagine a car could cram into a space, and as we neared more fit in. We shoved our way passed various “taxi drivers” trying to finagle you into their cab before you got to the circle (and saw how deep they were). We pushed to the line where you “wait” for a taxi, seemingly close to the exit.
We spot a guy with a cab nearby. We get in. He stays outside. We sit their for about 30 seconds before I realize he’s trying to get more passengers. Uh uh. I get out. We get out. He says “Ok, Ok…” He gets in we show him the address that Tracie copied using her first-grade level Chinese handwriting skills and we begin to nudge our way out. About a ten minute process of honking and arm waving.
Once we hit the road the fun really begins. You know those car race or chase scenes you see in movies like “Die Hard” or “Smokey and The Bandit”. There you are laughing here and there because no way would anyone ever try or do that successfully. Oh yea, come to China.
Our cab driver ran no less than every red light he encountered. Some he would slow down for by crossing over into the oncoming traffic lane and then turn from that lane. Other times, he’d turn from the right most lane, going left?! When I say there are no rules, I mean it. But somehow, we got there safe and alive. When he passed up our street, he made an 180 in the middle of the street which raised a police car’s eyebrow enough for them to pull up with flashed lights. He yelled something out the window and pointed to us and drove away. Buford T Justice.
After several other rides between tour guides and other taxi drivers, I’ve learned you just let go. There are no rules, and somehow everyone does just fine. In fact, I haven’t seen a case of anger or road rage at anyone else’s moves. Everyone is so blasé about it, its just normal. Its China.