Monday, May 18, 2009

Taxi dramas and highlights

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.


Carl said...

Good luck on the exam, Jonna! And thanks for sharing the taxi stories with us. My worst taxi ride was actually in Chicago where my boss and I were taking a cab to some building downtown... thought the driver was trying to kill us, as we were being thrown around all over the place in the back seat. I was SO HAPPY when we got to our destination and found I was still alive! LOL.

The Casual Observer said...

I assume that the licensed taxis need to display some sort of indentification? If so, this should offer a bit of protection against these sorts of games, as people could report the taxi driver. Of course, this assumes that they are able to decipher the information on the indentification.

Taxis in the US sometimes play these sorts of games, too - especially taking very long routes to/from airport.

I hope Blogger gets unblocked for you soon.

What today ate we? said...

Hey Jonna!

One easy way to get photos on your blog again is to use Flickr.

Looking forward to many colorful posts!

Hang said...

I beat the GFW system! I am cool!

I often use the 'black taxi' waiting outside the residential area I live. The drivers are residents themselves and they are ok.

choonhong said...

Are you using proxy to log in, since i have heard from my friends that blogspot has been blocked by the ISP.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Carl -thanks! The exam went OK! I'm just glad it is over :) Yeah, crazy taxi rides can take place anywhere in the world... But at least in Chicago I bet u had a seatbelt..?! The taxis here rarely has... :/

Casual -yeah the drivers all have identification cards so basically when they are taking you for a little joyride you're supposed to report them.. I wonder how many people do though?

What today we ate -problems solved, photos will come as from tomorrow onwards...!

Hang -yeah they are not bad once u get a swing of how it all works... When I first came here I wouldn't dream of taking a 'black taxi'.

choonhong -yes I am using a proxy.

mantse said...

take a taxi in China is really a good experience.

i tried once my friends need to go to Pudong airport from downtown in rush.... the taxi driver really helping us --- in 140km/h on the highways..... noramlly we need more than one hour but that time just 45 mins......

Little Tiger said...

I took one of those gypsy taxis from the BJ city centre to the airport and he only charged me 50 kuai. I had missed the airport bus and he offered to give me a lift. Nice guy.
I also have had some nightmares. One taxi driver was driving extremely fast and even knocked down some people's pet and didn't even flinch.
Another guy kept falling asleep at the junctions and was woken by the beeps of the cars behind him. I was lucky to reach my destination alive on those occasions!

Chong Hum said...

Jonna, here in Toronto, Canada where the Chinese population is close to 400,000, there are many illegal underground cash-only "CHINA CABS" operated by local Chinese residents. A legal taxi business licence plate cost $ 90,000 or you can rent a car & plate from the local legal cab company for $ 250/day. Many young Chinese kids rip off the 'China Cabbies' by leaving $ 20 ( or nothing ) and running away once they get to their desination ... when the agreed fare was $ 40 flat ... before the trip.

Pete In Syracuse said...

The closest thing to a Taxi story I've been in was a sam-lar ride in (Ma-ha- sara-kom) Thailand. I was about 100 lbs. heavier than I am and this poor boy had to take me from the train station out to the country where the university school was, just on his own peddle power ( a bike with a passenger seat). When he got there the sweat was pouring off him. The locals told me how much to pay him and said if I paid him too much that would be an insult, so I paid him a price in between the two price ranges so I wouldn't insult him. I was so grateful I didn't have to walk it with my suit case I would've paid him triple the amount. lol I don't know he just looked so pitiful and from a third persons perspective it must of looked like a flea taking an elephant out for a ride.
To this day I still feel sorry for him.
I love your stories they bring back so many interconnected parts of my past. I especially like the english/chinese lesson/accomplishment ride before the Olympics time, what a hoot!

m--e said...

I just discovered that if you use the "mobile blogging" feature, you can attach photos too!

Emil said...

Sometimes there is some taxi drivers trying to fuck with me, and there is about nothing that makes me more angry.

I remeber back in 2003 when I legged one of those old black cabs in Beijing which never used their meter and ripped of everyone. I noticed him going the wrong way and I started pointing and being crazy until he stopped and then I just ran away. It was funny as that fat asshole was screaming after the little blonde boy.

******************** Shanghai MiFeng said...

Jonna , I like to use this opportunity , to tell you of my one and only Taxi misfortune . In August last year , the day after our Wedding day . It was a Saturday and of course all the light's are on in Shanghai on the Friday and Saturday . So , my wife and I , took my Family and my Mom (from Germany)to the Pearl Tower for the View of the City . After we got down and ready to go home , about 22:00 , I stopped a Taxi for my Mom and my Uncle and Aunt and send them off to their Hotel . So , now my Wife and I , looking to do the same and stop a Taxi to take us back to Puxi from Pudong . But you think , one of them stopped ? They just kept driving right by you empty and the green light on . What is this we thought ? When , one of those Van's ( none Taxi's ) stopped and told my Wife , that will be 100 yuan . My wife told him go to you know where , your crazy . She is right , we never pay'd more then 23 yuan for the same Trip back to our Hotel . As it turns out it was going to be almost Midnight by now , and I saw a Taxi on the other side of the Road and waved him over and my God , he turned around and stopped . Took us to the Hotel Downtown Holiday Inn and he only ask for 23 yuan as usual , but it being so late and he was nice enough to take us to the Hotel , I gave him the 100 yuan , that those other Jerk's wanted . You should have seen his face and how surprised he was , as I handed him that Bill ? Heck , I still feel so good about having done that . Special People , need to be treated as such . As for my Wife , what are you doing ??? She know's now and agree's , that I have done the right thing . Hahaha

Chris said...

Taxis in Shanghai were interesting. There were five of us flew in as a group and we needed to take two taxis. One of my colleagues and I got a registered taxi from the airport, while the other three got into what they thought was a legitimate taxi. The two of us arrive second to find a drama going on - the others when they arrived, had been asked by the hotel what they had paid for the trip; told them; and everything went frantic round them. The hotel refunded the fare; contacted the police to complain about the gypsy taxi; and went to great lengths to ensure that my companions were happy with the outcome. Meanwhile, our taxi arrived, and we paid the (normal) fare which was 1/20 of what the first cab had paid.