Saturday, August 18, 2012

Asian Eyes' China - Taxi Rides

          China is a very big country and the most populous one. Due to the sheer numbers of people there, one had to be very careful and never let the guard down. For this article I am putting down here some of the trivial lessons learnt on taking taxi experience in China. Hope its help someone, sometime, somewhere in China.
Taxis are common and convenient 
in China
         Almost all taxis in China run on meter fare. When one gets into the taxi, the driver will press down the taxi marker to indicate that the taxi is occupied. Many taxi drivers are not from the local area and most of them do not speak English. Many a times the name in Chinese pronunciation may be the same as in English but most of it is different. Example, Marco Polo sounds the same in English and in Chinese, so all taxi drivers know it. However be careful if there are many Marco Polo around, like Marco Polo Hotel (马可波罗酒店), Marco Polo Bar, Marco Polo Pub and Marco Polo restaurant. Some other names are totally different when mentioned in Chinese. Example Renaissance Hotel is called Wan Li Jiu Dian (万丽酒店) in Chinese. If you tell the driver you want to go Renaissance Hotel as in its English name, they will just shake their head. If you do not know the place you are visiting well, it helps to get someone write out the destination in big letters in Chinese before hand. Why big letters - in case taxi driver is above 40's and their eyesight is no more as good as it used to be. If you are staying in hotel, you may ask the bellboy to tell the driver the destination in Chinese. 
This taxi receipt had the taxi
number 'D-T007', date and
time, re
ducing the risk of 
being fleeced!
        Taxi driver had a duty to get you to your destination in shortest route and time. If they foresee traffic jam or other obstruction, they have to get your permission to use a longer route, meaning higher fare. When arriving at destination always ask the driver to print a receipt. This is important because the receipt will show the taxi's plate number, date, time and fare amount. Note that there may be some additionally RMB1 or RMB2 charges on fuel surcharge to be paid on top of the meter fare. By getting a receipt you reduce the risk of being ripped off, either being charged an exorbitant fare or being duped with counterfeit money. Also if you left something behind in the taxi, at least you get the taxi's plate number. If you believe you are being duped, you can lodge a complaint with the traffic authority. The Chinese government took this offence seriously, especially if it involved foreigners. I remembered once a colleague, Alice, was on a taxi in Xiamen island, going from Crown Prince Harbour View Hotel to her office near the airport. There were 2 routes to her destination, a shorter one with more traffics, and the other one was around the island. The taxi driver pulled a fast one on her and used the longer route without asking her permission. The fare was about RMB68 versus the usual fare of RMB23. Alice paid up and later lodged a complaint with the authority after she related her story to her Chinese colleague. The driver was hauled up and slapped with a fine and suspended from of driving the taxi for 3 months. Alice got all her RMB68 fare back and feeling a little bit guilty. 
        In all my ride in a taxi, my right hand will be perpetually on to the handle on the taxi's ceiling as these taxis driver are born racer. Anyone who took a taxi in China can testify to that. At zebra crossing, it is the pedestrian that need to look out for oncoming traffic, not the other way round. I always thought, "zebra crossing in China is for zebras, not for people". I probed once with the driver why they do not let pedestrians crossed at zebra crossing. "Brother, time is money. See those peoples wanting to cross the street. If I let them pass, then I will have to wait for the endless stream on people to cross before we can go our way", he tried to justify his action in his reply. "What if you hit them", I asked back. "Hit them, then it is bad luck. We will be hauled up by Kong An (公安 - police). However the pedestrians are used to give ways to taxi, so we are OK", he replied, smilingly. God bless China!
Family waiting to cross using zebra crossing 
have to look out for oncoming cars!

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