Let’s talk transportation. While in China, I had the
life-threatening experience opportunity to use many different modes of movement to get from point A to point B. I already wrote a bit about the private car that was hired to pick me up from the airport. I did not, however, share my immediate fear upon the car moving into traffic. It was like there were no rules. As if lanes and traffic signals were mere suggestions.
It was terrifying.
Whether travelling by bus or by taxi, using transportation was terrifying.
Because both driver’s licenses and cars are complicated and expensive to purchase, personal cars are a luxury. On the other hand, buses and taxis are inexpensive and e-bikes (short for electronic bicycles) are unregulated. As in you do not need a license to drive one. Just let that sink in for a moment. The point is, the average person uses some combination of walking, bicycles/e-bikes, and public transportation supplemented with taxis to get around. I used each of these while in China, although unfortunately because I took a private car to and from Shanghai, the one way I did not get to travel was by train.
On Sunday, we took a bus to nearby Keqiao for a Sunday meeting with friends.
Between waiting on the bus, spending time with friends, taking a bus to get to a lunch spot, and taking yet another bus back, the entire day felt like it was spent waiting or riding on a bus.
I appreciated how fortunate I am to have a car, which I can use to go places without consulting a bus schedule or standing in the sun waiting (an hour…) for the next bus to arrive. Although there was fresh pineapple while waiting.
Pineapple makes everything better.
I got to have the standing-room-only-balancing-next-to-someones-armpit-packed-bus experience. Sadly, the bus was so tightly packed that I could not get to my camera in order to document the moment. That was one of the times when I felt like I was truly in China – trying to look out the window at unfamiliar scenery, squished into a crowd of people speaking a language I did not understand, but among who, for once in my life, I did not feel especially short.
In addition to the city buses on Sunday, we also took an intercity bus from Shaoxing to Hangzhou later in the week. It was quite comfortable and I enjoyed the change of scenery from city to country and back to city during the drive.
Seats were individually purchased, so everyone had a place to sit. Seats were ostensibly also assigned, although people seemed to generally sit where they wanted. During the drive, I found it most helpful to look out the window and attempt to ignore moments like this…
Diaphragmatic breathing was also useful to manage the rising panic I intermittently felt.
As a side note, China is a cash-based society. So do not expect to be able to use a credit card, at least not outside of a major city. To take any form of transportation required cash. At any given time, I was carrying between 500 and 1000 yuan. Although that was not an especially large amount of money, there was something quite satisfying about pulling out multiple 100 yuan bills. Most taxi rides to the places we went in Shaoxing seemed to cost around 10 yuan (1.50), even with multiple people in the car. If I remember correctly, the individual bus rides within Shaoxing were a few yuan at most and the bus to Hangzhou cost 25 yuan each way.
And then there is the e-bike – the family vehicle of China.
Bicycles and e-bikes (motorcycles are not allowed within Shaoxing) are common enough to have their own dedicated lanes and own traffic
Parking lots looked like this.
The e-bike was perhaps my favorite way of getting around Shaoxing, although I may have felt differently if the weather had been cooler or rainier during my trip.
Although fun, there was a bit of an adjustment period during which my bum was rather sore. And wearing a skirt while riding the e-bike definitely took some skills (thanks, Candi, for loaning me the pair of tights). Oh, and my hair generally looked a bit like this.
And last, but not least, and certainly not least weird – there was time we accepted a ride from a random stranger. Yes, that is correct. One evening when we needed to get back to the bus station in Hangzhou, seemingly every taxi in the city already occupied due to rush hour traffic, a random guy on his way home from work pulled over and offered us a ride. For a price, of course. For several yuan and tense minutes of uncertainty about the future of our organs, five adults and two children piled into a red, 4-door sedan and trusted that we would end up where we wanted to go.
Whether by foot or by taxi, by bus or by e-bike, I loved the opportunity to explore a new place. The occasional terror I experienced while doing so just added to the adventure.