Maura And Public Vehicles, Or How To Survive Shanghai Taxi And Hong Kong Minibus

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My dearest  friends, today I want to tell you a bit about how to take a taxi in Shanghai. It will be a short and concise post, a memo to give you a warning: do not take the taxi in Shanghai. Never.



And if you do not believe me now, I’ll give you a list of the reasons that lead me to give you this advice:

  1. Chinese taxis are dirty, really deeply dirty.

2. Taxi drivers speak only Chinese, so you have to go to the concierge of the hotel, tell where you want to go in English, let them write it down in Chinese on a ticket and hand it over to the taxi driver.

3. The taxi driver will take a quick look at the ticket and behave in one of the following ways:

  • He will extract a magnifying glass from his pocket because he does not see well but does not wear glasses. This will undermine your confidence in his visual abilities and driving licenses in China by ruining your journey, which you will naturally spend praying.
  • He will return the note to you and explain in Mandarin that he cannot read.
  • He will start driving with an huge happy smile on his face but he’ll take you to the wrong place.

4. Pay attention! If you forget the ticket with the hotel’s address in Chinese, you will not be able to go back.

5. If you have a bag full of Chinese writing tickets and you have forgotten to write down in any language you know the meaning of the Chinese characters, then you have to redo the line from the concierge of the hotel to ask for another ticket (which you will obviously lose in a bag among others).

6. If you are not at the hotel and you do not have a concierge to ask for help you cannot take a taxi.

7. Taxi drivers have a long and yellowish fingernail to wipe their ears, and when you pass the above-mentioned note, he touches the palm of your hand with his fingernail, and there you will feel like vomiting.

8. Taxi drivers drive like crazy, go past red lights, jump between cars where it is impossible to fit in, do not give priority to pedestrians, often do not know the road and ask you in Chinese to have a look at google map which obviously doesn’t work in China.

9. They are full of nervous tics and when they stop at traffic lights you will feel like singing and dancing  La Macarena at the rhythm of their shoulders and head movements. Do not do it, they get angry. I speak from experience. (I leave you 5 minutes to enjoy the song and imagine me and the Chinese taxi driver cheerfully dancing together …).

10. If you knew two mandarin words, they will speak Shanghainese or any other Chinese dialect you will not understand.

11. There are no seat belts in the taxis.

After four years in Shanghai the only thing I can suggest if you have to take a taxi is to learn how to pronounce these four sentences:

  • zuǒ zhuǎn (turn left)
  • yòu zhuǎn (turn right)
  • diào tóu (go back)
  • Tíngzhǐ (stop here! For God sake!)
  • Shàngdì qǐng bǎohù wǒ (the Devil take the hindmost!)

Here in Hong Kong I do not often take the taxi but buses, trams, Metro and minibuses. And those of the latter I would like to talk about with  you.

There are two colors of minibuses: green and red.

They each have 16 seats, depart every 10 minutes, are super fast and there are tons around the city. The  minibus driver is similar to that of the shanghai taxi: they drive like there is no tomorrow, they don’t speak English, are severely intolerant to showers and are filled with nervous tics.

There are several things that make the minibus trip pleasant:

  1. There is no stop bell like on the buses, so when you have to go down you have to scream between the rumors of the other passengers and the engine rush: “Next stoooooppppp pleaseeeeee”. Then you have to look at the driver and wait for him to do a gesture with his hand, much like the blessing of Pope Francis to the faithful. If the blessing does not happen you are damned. Ah no, you have to scream again “Neeeexxxxttttt stoooooopppppp pleaseeeeeeeeeee”.
  2. The signs hanging on the minibus. There are many, in the midst of the most trivial “for your own safety, buckle up your seatbelt. Passengers who fail to comply are liable to a maximunm fine of $ 5,000 and three months of imprisonment” and “drinking and eating on the minibus is forbidden” is the nice sign “$ 300 debit if your vomitus smears the carriage.”
  3. The vomit should stay in your stomach because a further sign tells you that “the maximum speed of this minibus is 80Km/h”. Which is obviously a lie.
  4. Given the excessive speed and abundance of curve, you have to keep the handle in front of you as you were in a Ferrari and is the driver Vettel, while the minibus hovers over hills by running right and left drags you out of the seat that of course has no seat belts (despite the fact that there is a sign). If you want to save your gym money, do not hold the handle and tighten your abdomen to stay upright, your core will be like steel in a couple of days.
  5. The last fun thing: between 2005 and 2015 every 1000 road accidents, 256 have involved minibuses , with an average 20 times greater than incidences caused by private cars.

In short, taking a taxi in Shanghai or a minibus in Hong Kong one thing comes to my mind to tell you: Have a nice trip!


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