I am posting on Emily’s behalf, as WordPress is currently blocked in China. – Kelly Kesinger, UW Study Abroad
This is one of the biggest aspects of China that takes Americans by surprise. Coming from the control and order of the roads in our country, it is natural that Chinese streets would look like utter chaos to American eyes. What’s so chaotic, you ask? Let’s look at the different types of transportation that are available in China and maybe you will get an idea.
Buses, taxis, and cars. I have ridden in buses and cars here a few times, but spent the majority of my time on Chinese roads in taxis. Taxis in Chengdu are all green Volkswagen Jettas. Taxi drivers are often friendly and will have a conversation with you. Chinese drivers as a whole have incredibly different style of driving than Americans. Tailgating is just how you drive, yellow and white lines are suggestions, and car horns are used very frequently. As I’ve observed, honking sends a very different message in China than it does in the States. In China, you typically honk to say things like “I’m merging, don’t hit me.” In the U.S., honking more often means, “You idiot!”
Mopeds, motorcycles, and bikes. These are all very popular in China. On campus there are hundreds of bikes but downtown there are far more mopeds. All of the bikes have a back seat. One of the most interesting and fairly common sights is to see an entire Chinese family of three riding one moped. Once I even saw a child sitting on a stool in between the handlebars and the seat. Just yesterday I saw a man on a moped holding a large potted tree with the leaves buffeting his face, and then another person driving a moped with a metal pole three times the length of the vehicle strapped to the side. Laws about tying down cargo are evidently not strictly enforced.
On campus, we also have rickshaws, which here is a bicycle attached to a covered seat.
Foot traffic. The easiest way to get mown over in Chinese traffic is to expect vehicles to stop for you. Even if it’s a crosswalk, unless it has a walk signal that people appear to be using, do not assume. Here’s a quick how-to I hope will be helpful.
Step 1: Pick a place to cross at random.
Step 2: Begin to meander into the road.
Step 3: Stop for cars, even if you’re caught standing in between lanes. When safe, proceed.
Step 4: You survived! Now breathe.
(Not here in Chengdu, but in smaller cities) Horse/donkey drawn carts. These weren’t uncommon in the city that I visited last summer. This reminded me that China really is still in the process of developing as a country.
So that’s Chinese transportation in a nutshell. Oh, and seat belts? Ha!
P.S. We had hot pot! It was great. The soup that you cook the food in was filled with Sichuan peppers. And we ordered pig brain! The consistency is very creamy, which is really odd, and the flavor is surprisingly not bad at all.