Tales of the trip – A wild ride to the airport in Xian, China

The traffic in the city of Xian, China

“Tales of the trip” are short, memorable experiences that I encountered during my travels. These moments can be funny or amusing. They can be scary. Or they can be experiences that you just don’t want to end. It’s these moments that drive the dinnertime conversations with family and friends for years to come. “Do you remember when…….”.

It was October, 2006. My daughter, Erin, and I were on a two week trip including the main sites in China – Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. This tale is an excerpt from an e-mail that I sent my Mom during my trip and describes Erin and my transfer from our hotel in Xian to the local airport. The transfer was provided by our hotel and the driver was one of their employees.

“We are finding out that the transportation in China is kind of like Disneyland. They both have “A” rides such as riding a bicycle down a road without much traffic or one of the vehicles that rides down Main Street. They both have “C” rides such as riding a bicycle down a busy street that has other bicycles, motorbikes, pedestrians and cars (that are all going every which way) and then cuts through an intersection trying to make a turn and miss (or be missed by) the cars that are going through the green light and those still going through the red light and at Disneyland you have the Tea Cups. And then you have the “E” ticket like the Tower of Terror attraction or driving to the airport in Xi’an. We discovered that you can change the type of ride ticket here by the amount of time you give yourself (and your driver) to get to the airport before your flight. Like this morning, we got away from the hotel a little late. We were lured into a false sense of comfort and relaxation and then, all of a sudden, we hit traffic. Our driver, stopped at a nearby phone booth, rushed in and returned in his “I’ll get you to the airport on time” cape. We looked for our seatbelts. The harness was easily found but the thing it slipped into could not be found. This “E” ticket did not have a proper belt check station before the ride started. As we moved in and out of traffic, we found that there are actually three lanes available to a driver on a road that has one lane in each direction. There’s the normal lane but unfortunately that was crowded with slow moving trucks and tourists. The next option is the bike lane. Even if there are bicyclists using it, the car’s horn is very effective in getting them to move over. We found the key to option two is to pass the slow moving vehicles by the time you come upon a parked car. Option number three, when there is no bike lane, is the opposite side of the road. This is similar to the bike lane in that you need to be back on your side when getting to oncoming traffic or BLOW YOUR HORN REALLY LONG so the oncoming traffic moves into their own bike lane so that you can continue. We finally got to the airport expressway. In order to pass the cars moving at normal speed, you can use all three lanes that are located on your side of the road. One thing we found out is that it’s important to “lay on your horn” as you pass these cars so they do not move into the way of someone passing them by 40 miles per hour. I was being challenged to convert km into miles as we sped down the road. I kind of lost track as the speedometer was between 150 and 160. Well, as the airport approached, I realized that the ride was coming to an end. I almost felt like telling the driver that I forgot something at the hotel so we could do it again. I thought of suggesting “Fastpass” to him but really didn’t have the time and I didn’t want to distract him during the ride. I do have to admit that we did not have much time once we got to the airport. Not sure we would have made it with an American driver. All in all, the driver was a really nice man. Throughout the entire ride I felt very comfortable because the driver himself was very much under control.”