Have you been tempted to look at airfares to China yet? Have you thought about bringing my niece and nephews and my gorgeous sister in law over for a Shanghai adventure sometime? I really hope you are, it would be amazing to have you all over here. It really would be an adventure!
There are the planned adventures of course, attractions and tourist spots, and last night I went on an incredible night-time bike tour in the city which I will highly recommend to all visitors by the way – I sure saw some sights and smelled some smells! Shanghai is amazing during the day, but seeing the back alleyways, gardens and lane houses, as well as the lights of The Bund in the middle of the night is something else, and navigating those crazy big intersections on a bicycle adds a nice little element of danger to the occasion.
Then there are the unplanned adventures that are just part of everyday life trying to navigate living in this astonishing city.
I took a taxi home from a function in the city today, the concierge took my address card and talked to the taxi driver, so clearly he knew where he was going and I could sit back and enjoy the ride – about an hour back to my apartment.
There I go again, making assumptions about how things are going to go, must not assume things anymore!
Like many Shanghai taxis, this one had no seat belts, so I was already feeling slightly less safe. Then we got onto the highways, and my ride home started to feel more like being in a pinball machine, this driver was in a race against something – weaving across lanes, braking suddenly, heavy on the horn, and we were flying along at a horrific speed. I did try to be at peace with the Shanghai taxi experience, I tried to relax and remind myself that this taxi driver knows a lot more about driving here than I ever will, that the taxi was in pretty good condition so he must be adept at avoiding contact with other vehicles, but I started to get a little scared. I certainly felt inspired to learn more Chinese – I couldn’t even ask him to slow down.
Then, on an elevated highway, he stopped without warning. He didn’t pull over, he made no attempt to find a safe place to stop; he simply stopped. Once again my total lack of language skills made me completely helpless, I couldn’t even ask what was going on! I did lean forward to try and see what he was doing, and was utterly dismayed that with a look of complete confusion on his face, he was studying my address card – which has my address written in Chinese as well as a map. Not only was this guy a terrifying driver, he also didn’t know where he was going.
I had travelled that road enough times to know that we were in fact going the right way, and that we were about halfway home, so that was encouraging, but of course I couldn’t tell him that.
After a few minutes, he continued driving, and at every intersection he paused to study the card some more. I didn’t know the rest of the way home and the roads started to look less and less familiar. At every intersection I considered my options and thought about jumping out of the car and taking my chances in another taxi, or on the metro, or pretty much anything else but staying in that taxi.
It was a while before I started to see familiar streets again, and I realised I wasn’t far from home. Needless to say, I’m writing this because I did get safely home, but not without a chunk of anxiety along with the ride. There was a lovely big glass of wine waiting for me, which always helps in times like this!
So, today’s lessons are all about learning enough Mandarin to be able to manage those situations a little better, and perhaps knowing my way around enough to be able to communicate directions to less than ideal taxi drivers, and also knowing that these things will happen and I will be okay.
Don’t let this put you off, we have a fantastic driver who can ferry you around the city to your heart’s content – and I can recommend a great cycle guide if you want the extra challenge!
Come see your sister in Shanghai! You know you want to 🙂