Tag Archives: taxis

The eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth quarter review

22 Oct

I am trying to play catch up with my blog after such a long hiatus, so the content posted in the last nine months was not up to previous standards.  That said – I was reminded by my friend Carissa at Everyday Adventures in Asia that it is not a competition and I should continue to blog for the pleasure of it.

The eleventh quarter (like the last 12 months) was one of lots of travel – I had just finished six months at my new job and was definitely in the swing of things.  Unfortunately, that meant that the time I had to blog was reduced quite dramatically – meaning that I had to cut my post schedule, but I did manage to continue, which is more than I could say for June, July and August!

Even with the reduction in posts there were some fun elements and wanted to take the time to relive a couple of my favorites.  Do you remember either of these?

  • I posted on part of our trip to Greece and taking wedding photos in front of a certain church in “Do you speak English? (A Santorini photo shoot).”  Every time I walk into my apartment I am reminded of that wonderful trip because our “money shot” has been blown up and framed on the wall above our couch.  Believe it or not, I have even more photos from Greece that never made it onto the blog – but at least I was able to give you a sense of the wonder of that honeymoon.  I would go back again in a minute!
The church and the two of us - a perfect pairing - the money shot

The church and the two of us – a perfect pairing – the money shot

  • Replacing things in the new year (part 2) – My saga regarding the main air conditioner in our apartment where I narrowly missed an electrical fire thanks to the circuit breaker flipping.
    Would you use this plug?

    Would you use this plug?

    We have continued to have to replace things in this apartment, but did decide to stay another year when our lease came up in September.  The price is right, the location good and the landlord very responsive.  That said – I will predict now that this is our last year in this place (but I’ve been known to be wrong before.)  The most recent change was we got a new refrigerator at the end of August which we used as part of our negotiations.  It is larger than our old one and does not frost over every other week, so both of us consider it a good trade-up.

The eleventh quarter also contained Chinese New Year – introducing the Year of the Horse and after the official holiday we did slip off for a lovely vacation, so I’ll see if I have the energy to post on that one.  Any guesses where we went?

The twelfth quarter I also managed to get a handful of posts together – though this is when my work travel really started to pick up.  I’ll be posting retroactively on some of my trips (like the Hong Kong post earlier this month) to give you a sense of where I was and what happened – so more to come, but I did want to call out this post on living in Shanghai that I posted in May:

  • Door to door service – talked about the convenience of a big city – the good and the bad.  I’ve had even more things delivered since this post – not having to carry them and getting lower prices is a strong incentive, but luckily I have not had any more visits from the police recently.

I also thought I would leave a teaser – not all my travel in the twelfth quarter was for work.  Li and I managed to slip in a trip to Bali at the end of April that was absolutely phenomenal.  Here are a couple of photos.

A temple - and beautiful blue sky

A temple – and beautiful blue sky

Exotic Indonesian fare

Exotic Indonesian fare

Finally – the thirteenth quarter when I started posting again.

My most popular post was on Taxi Roulette – trying to figure out the best way to get a taxi and get around this city.  I have downloaded a new taxi app recently and am trying it out as well.  We’ll see how the taxi situation continues to evolve here in Shanghai.  Also – as per one of the comments – I have finally seen the new gold taxis on the streets.  They look like London Black Cabs, but they are gold – and since I was in London in June, I have a pretty recent comparison.  I haven’t ridden in one yet and don’t know if they are more expensive or have any special features, so more to come.

There are a couple of posts that continue to rack up the page views – even when I wasn’t posting which I find very interesting and thought I would call them up here as well.

1) Buying a jade bangle – which I did in Hong Kong two years ago AND

2) The pineapple cake wars – my descriptions of the two main competing pineapple cakes in Taipei in the summer of 2013.

I am guessing that somehow these two posts have gotten picked up by one or more search engines and they provide a steady stream of visitors to my blog.  It was definitely strange when I came back to see that traffic had not dropped all that significantly – which could be a good thing or a bad thing!  Folks don’t tend to leave comments on those posts now though – so I really appreciate those of you who stayed with me during the hiatus and your support as I share about my jumbled life.

Now I am (kind of) up to date, so hope to be back here soon with more stories in Shanghai and looking back over the last year.

Did I miss any posts you would have put at the top of your list?


Taxi roulette

27 Sep

Since I switched jobs last year I can no longer walk to work.  I miss my daily walks and now really have to make an effort to get out and about more – either walking in the evening, arranging lunches by my apartment when I work from home or taking a walk near the office at lunch.

Getting to the office means that I either have to take the subway (which is about a 40 minute trip) or a taxi (which takes between 20-30 minutes depending on the traffic).  As I don’t go in every day because of the way my schedule works, I have been taking taxis quite a bit recently.  I know that if I get in a cab before 8am it normally means that I’m at the office by 8:20 and ready to start my day.  Rainy days are always tough – but I’ve had some bad taxi karma in the last several weeks where no matter what I try to do – in the morning it can be almost impossible to get a taxi.

I have my preferred corner and know if there is more than one person waiting at that corner it is normally going to be a very long day.   Sometimes you can see lots of taxis but they are all full.  Sometimes you see lots of empty taxis but they don’t stop.  And sometimes, people cut in front of me at the corner and jump into the taxi.

I have tried different tactics – I have a taxi app on my phone which sometimes will work.  I know if I head out before 7:30 my chances go way up – same thing if I go after 10am.  But really – there is no good way to predict if there will be others at that corner at the same time as me.

Once I get a taxi – it doesn’t mean all is well.  Our office is located near the Huangpu River, but right next to a ferry terminal – so very few taxi drivers have heard of it.  I have become an expert on telling the drivers which  tunnel to go through – which way to go if there is  traffic, how to get un-lost when they take a wrong turn when I wasn’t paying attention and even arguing if they take too long and the fare is higher than I expect.

It is funny how getting that taxi can affect my day and my mood.  When it works – my day starts very smoothly – when it doesn’t I can wind up flushed and discombobulated – not the best way to start my first meeting.

Similarly – getting home from work I have the same situation.  My normal tactic is to leave the office slightly early because of my late phone calls – but even that doesn’t guarantee me a smooth trip home.

Each time I put my arm out I am playing a game of taxi roulette – hoping and hoping that taxi will pull over in front of me and will whisk me off to my next destination.  The taxis remain affordable (about $4 USD one way to the office) and the drivers for the most part are polite and professional.

I would say that this is a cultural difference, but I don’t think so – I think it is a big city standard that I managed to avoid for a long time given the location of my apartment and workplace.  We have considered buying a car – but driving in Shanghai strikes me as even more stressful than playing taxi roulette – then I’d have to worry about parking too!

What tactics do you suggest for managing my taxi frustration?  I know it shouldn’t bother me so much – and occasionally I’ll have a week or so where everything will go perfectly – but that is the exception not the rule.  Any tips?

Really? I used to live there!

2 Feb

We got into a taxi, like we have many times before.

Please take us to the corner of Hefei Lu and the elevated highway.  There’s a church there.

The cab driver looked back at us and stared.  He confirmed the intersection and we started off.  It was obvious he knew where he was going – getting there takes less than 10 minutes but there are several one way streets so going the wrong way can be annoying.  We relaxed and watched street life in Shanghai whirl by.  I noticed that another block on the way there was being slowly flattened by the ever-present cranes.

He glanced back again and said – “I used to live by there.  There’s no church – I swear.”

We confirmed that there was a church there again, but the taxi driver had it in his head.  He kept thinking aloud – “Maybe it’s the old park?  No, I bet it’s the old Culture Palace (文化宫).”

We pulled up outside and he confirmed it.  “Yep, it’s the Culture Palace – you were right.  It is a church now.”

Then he asked “Do you believe in God?”

Taken aback – I said, “Yes.”

When we got out of the taxi – I asked Li what a Culture Palace was.  He said that in the big cities there were specific places for the party faithful to go have fun – there may be places to play cards or pool – gathering places for true blue collar communists.

Entering the church I looked at it closely.  I am convinced that it’s structure was that of a church originally.  My guess is that it was taken over during the revolution and converted into a place to play.  Then sometime in the last 10 or 15 years it was converted back to the church that it should have been.

I got a history lesson from a cab driver in Shanghai.  I think that I may have taught him something too – obviously he didn’t know there was a church there!

Shanghai continues to pull me in even six years later.  I wonder what else I’ll stumble on?

Taking a taxi in Athens

15 Oct

This post is part of our adventures in Greece in September and October of 2013.  To see other posts in the series, click here.

We debated if we wanted the hotels on this trip to help us with airport transfers.  In Crete and Santorini we did, just to make things easier because the airports looked very small but for Athens we decided to just wait for a taxi at the airport.

Taxis were plentiful and some of them were even Mercedes – very posh.  Li had done research and there should be a flat fee of 35 Euros that you pay for any trip from or to the airport from the center of the city.  During our four rides to and from – we never paid 35 Euros.  We had four taxi rides because the first and last days of our vacation were spent in Athens.

The Mercedes taxis made us think about Greece’s economic melt-down.  A country that can spend that much on a taxi must be very well off.  We wondered if all the cars had been purchased in full or people were still trying to pay down loans.

Despite the large sign by the taxi stand, no taxi driver admitted that was the correct price.  The first driver tried to charge us 39 Euros which we eventually paid after the hotel refused to help us negotiate.  The second driver charged us 40 Euros – after insisting there was an “electronic booking fee” because the hotel had called a taxi for us.  Funny how the hotel never mentioned the fee?

Coming back to Athens we were nervous waiting in the taxi line at the airport again.  We didn’t know what would happen or how much money they would ask for.  The third driver took the cake – he said that we should pay 49 Euros.  He kept giving us tips as he drove us into the city center and I think he was trying to butter us up with a very high taxi bill.  We finally paid 40 Euros – claiming we had no more money.

Before the final taxi ride to the airport I tentatively asked the bellman how much he thought it would cost.  He said – 38 Euros – all taxis from here to the airport are 38.  I told him that we hadn’t paid that amount before.  He said he would speak to the driver.

The last driver was a woman – she charged us 38 Euros.  We were relieved – but we never did pay the stated price of 35 Euros.

I don’t know why it is so acceptable to rip tourists off in Athens.  It created the only bad taste in our mouth we had from a beautiful city.  If I were to go again I would arrange hotel transfers.  I may pay a little more money but I would know the price before and not have to worry about the drivers.

Has anyone else visited there and had the same thing happen or were we just really unlucky?  Any taxi stories?  Please share yours.

Talking to taxi drivers

7 Mar

Shanghai has the best taxi system in China.  There are numerous competing companies and generally high standards within the industry.  Because of the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 there is also now a hotline that you can call for help in English or Japanese and on each taxi receipt the taxi number and contact information is printed, just in case you leave something in a cab.  In addition, unlike the majority of other cities, there is a hotline to order a taxi that most of the time (unless it is raining during rush hour) will work.

I’m not nearly as intimidated by taking a taxi as I was when I first moved to Shanghai.  My original apartment was on a street called Feng Yang Road, but unfortunately there is another street called Fen Yang Road – and the two are not close by.  One dropped “g” meant I was going a long way out of my way.

Five years later, I am much more comfortable with the layout of Shanghai and more confident in my language ability.  Depending on my mood and the taxi driver sometimes we’ll get into conversations.  We even have one driver that we’ve befriended and if I’m going to the airport or somewhere pretty far away, Li will call him to pick me up which is great.  Aside from that driver though, typically they’ll ask the same several questions to start out:

1) What country am I from?

2) What am I doing in Shanghai? or Do I like Shanghai?

3) How long have I been here?

4) Where have I studied my Chinese?

Once we get past those particulars any topic of conversation could be brought up.  I normally try to steer to things like the weather (how American of me), but every once in a while I’ll get a taxi driver who takes more of a political bent.  Recently I had a very strange taxi conversation on my way between two client meetings.

The driver started telling me how corrupt Chinese politicians are and how there was not even one single good person in Chinese politics.  I tried to defend that for a while, saying with so many politicians there has to be at least one good one, but he wouldn’t hear it.  Then, when that topic was finally exhausted he started extolling the virtues of Hong Kong because it had been run by the British.  I wasn’t sure how to answer and pretended to get very busy with my phone, but he just kept talking.  Finally he told me that he wanted the American army to take over Shanghai.  He said that he would welcome the change and he believed that would fix the corruption and straighten out the city.  According to him, all normal people would welcome such a change.

When I finally got out of the cab and had a chance to absorb the conversation later that night it struck me on a couple of levels. The first – I am betting that individual had an unpleasant experience with some (or many) government departments or officials recently.  The second – was that I understood what he was talking about!  That in and of itself is a victory.  The third was how sad that it was – he was pretty much giving up on his own government and people to solve the big problems that exist.  The idea that “someone else” could fix everything, instead of taking responsibility for what happens is probably not the best signal for China’s future development.  It worries me.

Who knew that talking with a taxi driver would have me considering China’s feasibility as a country and its future economic development?  Have you ever had such an experience – one where two very disconnected things seem to merge and point you in a different direction?  Please share.

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