Crazy Chinese Taxi

Today I have a special treat for you all – I hope this works! I’ve finally figured out how to post some video here on the blog, which is something I have been wanting to do for a long time.

Ever since I first ventured into a Chinese taxi, I have wanted to share the experience with you all. I am not talking about just any taxi ride here. I am talking about a Shijiazhuang taxi – flagged down and haggled and convinced to drive us to the airport using only hand gestures, choice Chinese words, the occasional grunt and, if all else fails, directions written in Chinese characters (surprisingly, this isn’t always the best choice – sometimes the use of correct, fluent Chinese confuses them).

The adventure would generally begin with the taxi driver all smiles – pleased to have some fresh Western meat in his cab that he could later attempt to extort extra money from. We’d head out of the city toward the expressway – this was always a good sign, because we ALWAYS demanded to be driven on the expressway. However, sometimes the happy, friendly, smiling driver would either drive right past the entrance, or he’d enter and then later sneakily attempt to exit. (Why? There is a 10 to 15 yuan toll on the expressway.)

Taxi drivers see Westerners coming a mile away. They see Yuans floating over our heads and they assume we’ll pay any amount they demand. To travel from Shijiazhuang to the airport we usually paid 100 yuan. (Which as I mentioned before, is what some farmers make per month, and what some workers make over the course of several months. Actually, a well-educated professional usually makes 2000 yuan per month, which is considered VERY well paid. I am referring here to the Shijiazhuang area.) Local Chinese would pay anywhere between 20 and 60 yuan for the same ride. Very few Westerners could get away with paying less than 80 yuan, and those who could gained legendary status for their bargaining skills.

Anyway, it didn’t really matter what you haggled to, the taxi driver, upon arrival at our hotel, would always attempt to get at least 10 more yuan out of us. Either by following us into the hotel screaming, or by blocking our exit from the car.

In the following video you will get a wee taste of what we endured whenever we were unlucky enough to get one of the bait and switch drivers – the ones who enter the expressway and then later exit onto the dangerous backroads to avoid the toll. “Nevermind the yelling, red-faced Westerners in the back of the cab. Just keep smiling and nodding your head.” (Or so I imagine the cabbie training on how to swindle the foreigners.)

This really isn’t an issue of money, although no one likes to be swindled. This is an issue of safety, as you will see. Want to know more about a backroads ride? See this post. The sound on the video consists mostly of honking horns and a few Spanish phrases from the DH and our friend M. Remember, this is a typical 2 lane road, meant to be used for 2 lanes of two-way traffic. Pay special attention to all the pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles taking up the sides of the road and remember this is a rural road. Just imagine what the city roads look like! Oh! and you know how mirrors all say “objects may be closer than they appear?” Well, all objects in this video were MUCH closer than they appear!

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