Read Part 1 here
(From the airport and towards the city center – it is a long straight road which meant our taxi was “flying” and despite the taxi slowing down at certain places where I saw automated enforcement system, it still felt fast all the way until we reached the city)
I managed to catch “Horrible Bosses” on the on-demand in-flight video and I must say that movie was one the funniest movie I ever seen – the multi-talent and well known cast and well written comedy that is so fluid (but be aware – it is not safe for kids).
We landed in the morning after a smooth flight – despite reports of cyclones, there were no major turbulence in the way. The flight has been a pleasant one too – all the passengers “behaved” themselves and service was top notch (as usual). A quick stop at the immigration was interesting – unlike the usual tough looking officers, the officers here were young and friendly (and yes, they actually smiled and we felt so welcomed – anyone after more than 5 hours flight would have greatly appreciate it too) and after a quick check (no one stopped us at the customs), we walked along looking for taxi. Language was not an issue at the international airport – there is more than enough airport staff who can speak some basic form of English (“yu wan taxi?” was more than enough for us to understand).
Being so obvious me being a foreigner (imagine an Indian in a sea of Chinese), there were handful of hotel agents trying to get us to book the overpriced limousine to the city center but we kept on walking until we reached the taxi stand. We have been advised to take the public taxi on the outside which was cheap (it cost us only CNY156 compared to CNY500++ for a limo) and as reliable as the expensive hotel limo (but not necessarily be safer). We picked the first taxi at the stand and passed the hotel details to the taxi driver who did not speak a dust of English but it was not a big problem. We had pre-printed the hotel address in Chinese, my colleague spoke fluent Mandarin and as backup, we even had the numbers of our contacts at hand, in case we got lost and we needed someone to communicate the details to the driver.
(The local taxis, Volkswagen Santana Vista kind of reminded me of the early Proton Sagas – boxy, bulky and feels less sturdy)
Sitting in a Volkswagen Santana Vista (the standard model for the taxis here), I looked around but did not feel eased despite it being a Volkswagen (the quality looked too close to some run down Chinese cars than to a brand new, quality built Golf). But I was impressed with how the driver turned on his on-board GPS, punched in the coordinates and starts driving. The taxi may feel cheap but it was high tech. The taxi also had this small touch-screen monitor at the back where you can view the map, ads and other information. The road from airport to the city center was well maintained and had far more lanes than the highways back home.
Since we arrived just after the morning peak hours, the road was almost empty and this only meant one thing – our taxi was “flying” on the highway. We were beginning to have doubts if we were going to make it in one piece. We were literally hanging on to our dear life and wished we could have taken the limousine instead. We were saying silent prayers hoping the “runaway” taxi would slow down.
Thankfully God must have heard our prayers – the taxi driver slowed down as we reached the city centre – there was enough traffic on the road to keep the taxi on a safer driving speed. The roads in the city were very clean and most drivers abide by the traffic rules and I also noticed most of them are driving Audi, Volkswagen and other premium European cars as well – not surprisingly China is one of the richest country in the world and certainly an eye opener for me after all that talk of too many cheap cars in China (the same happened when I went to Chennai).
(Clean and inviting – kudos to the local authority for making sure that all is well maintained and clean and plenty of greenery. The weather was really good at this point of the year, so late afternoon stroll walk in the park was tempting)
We reached the hotel after almost an hour drive from the airport – it is a 4-star hotel, so quality, service and cleanliness is top notch and the room has one spectacular view. The only downside of the hotel is the bathroom – it is glass walled and you can see the bath tub from the bed. Certainly it is a “huge” problem when sharing the room with another colleague. Deciding that it is too late or not possible to change the accommodation arrangements, we decided to work on a solution – we managed to close the glass wall with blinders and with another smaller bathroom inside the main bathroom, privacy was almost assured. But still, it is a bad design on the part of the hotel.
There was no time to take a rest – we had our work cut out for the day. A quick shower and a change of clothes and we were off for our appointment. At first we wanted to walk – our destination was not far from the hotel and since the weather was good, it was perfect for a walk but we then changed our mind. We decided to take a cab (cost us about CNY14) and keep the walking later for the day. This time, there was no “runaway” taxi to contend with.
To be continued…