Where was I? Oh yeah, I was about to catch a flight from Beijing to Johannesburg to meet Don for a four week tour of South Africa, including Kruger National Park, Drakensberg National Park and a road trip down the coast to Cape Town. After that it’s off to Ecuador to visit an eco-lodge in the Amazonian basin followed by a weekend cruise in the Galapagos. I hope you’ll join me for the journey. Comments and questions are always welcome. And now back to Asia.
I Hate Taxis!
I can’t say all taxi systems are bad. There are many cities where it is simple – you flag down a cab, tell them where you want to go, they turn on the meter and take you directly there. But all too often it’s just another way to gouge the unaware tourist – from taxi drivers who take the “scenic” route to meters that spin out of control to drivers who refuse to use the meter and charge you whatever they can get away with. So I hate taxis and avoid them whenever possible.
That said, when returning to the Beijing airport to catch a 2AM flight there wasn’t a reasonable alternative. Besides I was fairly confidant that the hotel would find me the “regular” taxi I requested. I took the precaution of asking at the reception desk about how much it should cost.” 120 yuan”, he tells me. Everything starts out normal – the vehicle looks like a standard taxi (not a notorious “black” taxi), the driver turns on the meter and we exchange pleasantries, a combination of his broken English and my poor Chinese.
On the expressway, however, I notice that the meter is racing faster and faster. By the time we reach the airport toll gate it is already up to 160 yuan. Generally you pay the 20 yuan toll in addition to the meter price. So I ask why the meter is so high and inform him that the hotel clerk told me it should cost 120 yuan. Immediately the driver, now obviously annoyed, says in English, “130”. End of discussion. Surprised at his reaction I accept his price figuring it’s only a little over what it should be. At this hour I’m not going to argue over $1.50. But still, it’s just another example to add to the long list of taxi conflicts that fuel my aversion to taxis, or more specifically, taxi drivers.
September 13, 2011