Ahhhhh! I cannot post photos with the proxy server I am using… oh the pain! I was going to do a photo special today seeing that it hasn’t happened so much in between last night and now… Sorry guys, you’ll have to do without photos for a while. Boooooring –I know, but I can’t really do anything about it at the moment. This week is a bit hysterical as well, so I don’t have time to look into better options at the moment (and I am not that keen on the thought of moving my blog).
Anyways, I thought I’d share some taxi stories that I have come across during my years in China. First, some notes about using an illegitimate car (a ‘gypsy car’ –is that the correct word in English?) in China… I know many people have tried this and told horror stories, but I’m telling you, if you manage to find a good one you can get quite a good deal.
I recently had a quite good experience. It happened one day when me and a friend were stranded in the rain in SND (Suzhou’s New district, the other side of the city to where I live), frenetically waving for a cab. A black car pulled up in front of us and asked where we wanted to go. I was like… ‘eh, nowhere with you!’ but my friend (Chinese) started negotiating a price, and after a while she said: “Ok, he’ll take us for 30 kuai, jump in!” (with a normal taxi it’s normally around 50 kuai). I was hesitating, wondering if it was really safe, but my friend seemed certain.
And sure. Not only did this guy take us straight home for 30 kuai, he also gave us his phone number and asked us to call him whenever we needed a ride again. Since then we actually haven’t got a chance to use him, but I still have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the experience, considering how many taxi horror stories I have heard from people here in China.
One of my friends once took a (legal) taxi to the airport in Changsha. On the middle of the highway the driver suddenly stopped, claimed the meter was broken and asked her for 80 kuai (the ride was normally 40) to get her to her destination. Her Chinese is very limited, AND, she had a flight to catch, so she agreed in an instant. What else can you do in a situation like that?
During the registration to Shanghai marathon in 2006 I was told another story. At the registration, I bumped into a lot of fellow runners that I started chatting to. One of them, a tall (close to 2 meters), big foreigner who had flown in from Dalian, asked me how much a taxi from the airport to his hotel (in Pudong) normally would be. He then told me that he’d caught a cab where the driver had gone around with him in circles for ages, before stopping the car, saying he couldn’t get his luggage unless he gave him 500 kuai. The man didn’t speak any Chinese and felt helpless and lost and eventually paid half of the money in order to get his bags, then got out of the car and had to catch another taxi to his hotel.
Another friend I know once tried to use a ‘gypsy car’ at the Shanghai airport, but was arrested at the spot and taken to the police station where he had to identify the driver. He personally wasn't charged however.
So yeah, taxis sure are subjects of dramas here in China!
But there are not only bad stories going around. I have personally been very lucky with my taxi rides over the years. Once I was going to a restaurant and noticed the driver was going in the wrong direction. But I told him straight away and he felt so ashamed he turned off the meter and let me go for free.
And once in Beijing (back in 2006) I met a driver who had started to study English as part of Beijing’s ‘let’s teach our taxi drivers English so that they can communicate with tourists during the Beijing Olympics’ –project, and who was so happy to have me in his car. During our ride he told me everything he could say in English (everything from: ‘it is a red light. I will stop and wait for the green light’ to ‘look, that is a big square to your left!’ and ‘In Beijing we like to eat noodles!’) In fact, he was so excited about using his vocabulary that he completely forgot about paying attention to where he was driving, and as a result, what should have been a 20 min ride became a 1 hour ride. For free though, as he soon realized he’d missed my exit.
OK, enough of morning anecdotes, now I better get myself transported to the university where my exam is about to take place.