On the road in China
On the road
Travelling in parts of China
It is hard to describe some experiences in China. Some things are so strange and bizarre and many are the sort of experience that you have to live through yourself to understand.
I will do my best with this. When I was here two years ago I travelled by taxi to a place called Keqaio where there is an English college for workers in the textile industries of Keqaio, and for two hours one night a week I worked with groups of adult workers to assist with their English. Again I am going to the same college each Tuesday night.
A driver is provided and he takes me there and back in his blue taxi. He speaks no English. I know to meet him at the West Gate and he is there at the college when I finish. It is the same driver I had in 2008.
When we first caught a taxi in this part of China we found it an awesome experience. Something that at first was like riding some great dodgem car, and we always felt our hearts in our mouths as the taxi did what taxis do around his city. Dodge, toot, swerve, toot, dodge. We were always relieved when we arrived at our destination in one piece and we often wondered how we did! I have long lost count of the number of times we have uttered an expletive as we again survive a near miss.
Once on the journey to Keqaio during my last sojourn a taxi driver was so bad I, and the other teachers who went with him, refused to go with him. He was scary.
Nevertheless, I have faith in my driver. I am awed at his skill – and these days I do not find myself in panic mode as I did in the early days.
The taxi arrives at the West Gate at 6.10 pm – and at this time of the year, it is dark, still. Tonight, as last week, it was also rainy. I even dislike being on a wet road home in Australia, but nothing compares to driving on a wet road, after dark in this part of the world.
I have no idea of the traffic rules, but I know the speed limit in the city is 60 kph. Taxis seem to be exempt from this. I know there are red lights that most vehicles stop at when they are confronted by one of these lights, and impressively there is a countdown to when they are going to change colour. Taxis appear to be able to ignore these red lights and proceed anyway.
Taxis do not apparently have to obey any rules, as they cross double lines (yellow ones here) and you often find yourself facing oncoming headlights, but the driver knows just when to duck out of harm’s way.
The little rickshaw-like tricycles ply the streets, and they have no lights. They are dark blue, and impossible to see, and they dart in an out of traffic with strange bravado. Pedestrians, even adults holding babes in arms walk in and out of traffic, onto roads, with apparently no care. I shake my head often in wonderment. They do not even seem perturbed when the taxi or other vehicle is inches from their body and tooting the horn like crazy. Nothing seems to faze them.
On many nights the roads are full of heavily overloaded vehicles, often with two or more people sitting way on top. You only hope the load gets under the bridges, and that the "travellers" atop remember to duck when a bridge approaches. They variety of wheeled vehicles, big and small is unbelievable.
E-bikes are popular here, and many are on the road at this time of night – in fact, they appear on the roads all night silently travelling along the road. Lights? No way. One must conserve the power – and lights suck too much power out of the battery!
Bicycles are also popular and hundreds are on the roads at any time. Lights? Rear reflectors? No. Nothing, but sheer bravado.
In some places, there are good street lights, but others leave a lot to be desired. The roads when wet are shiny and any light is reflected making it very difficult to see any distance. Shadows, carts, bikes, etc – it is hard to tell what is what. Additionally, along most of the highway there are bridges being constructed – there’s a new express rail link going through to Shanghai, and the are completing the bridges over the highway. It can be quite chaotic, but on this night the rain had caused the work to stop.
The drivers, even when they beep their horns, which they do frequently do not do it with the aggression that Aussie drivers show when they are faced with road hazards.
Horn beeping is common. It is to let another vehicle or person know that your vehicle is on the road. “Look out here I come” it seems to be yelling. I’ve seen no road rage – and I am so impressed with the Chinese drivers who just quietly continue, without showing any emotion.
This is a city with 10,000 bridges, and when they build them they don’t always match up the road and the bridge, so there is always a great join, where the bridge meets the roadway, and in most cases it is like a speed bump, so you know when approaching a bridge, you are going to be jolted on the way up and on the other side. Jolted as if one is going over a ditch or a speed bump. It is quite a hilarious experience in a us full of passengers, especially as at peak times passengers are standing and so many are packed in that it is hard to breathe!
Intersections, especially busy ones are breathtaking! It is hard to fathom any rules as cars, rickshaws cycles, pedestrians, e-bikes, cars, buses, weave their way in and out in a quiet and seemingly matter of fact way, to continue on their journey. You really have to experience that!!!!
Accidents? I’ve seen a few, but surprisingly they seem to all be minor. I do love it though when the ambulance arrives and out pops the ambulance team, which includes a doctor and a few nurses, the latter dressed in white with white nurses caps.
All the way there and back tonight, it was raining. Not heavily but enough to have the wipers going back and forth across the windscreen continuously.
Surprisingly I no longer get worried unless there is an obvious near miss and with me sitting in the front seat I get a good view of things, and often see more than I want to.
Quite amazing really. It is something one has to experience to have some real understanding, and yet, I still don’t follow the rules. I drive a car at home, but I’m glad I am not permitted to here.