At the end of the walking tour of Chongqing we needed to get a taxi back to the airport. This is easier said than done as ALL the taxi drivers seem to be going off shift every 15 minutes, so don’t have time to do anything useful like take passengers.
An hour of waiting and waving later we were mildly regretting turning down some of the earlier exorbitant quotes of taxi drivers who refused to use the meter. Just as we were losing all faith in Chongqing taxi drivers a very clean taxi pulled to a gentle halt in front of us and the smartly dressed driver hopped out and held the door open with a smile.
We got in without checking a price and he asked where we were going then flipped on the meter. He explained that he was a Communist Party member and loved his job. In Beijing, I don’t think anyone has ever mentioned his or her Party membership status, as though it’s something to keep under wraps. Away from the capital, being a devoted Party follower seems to be a matter of some pride.
As a loyal party member and top taxi driver, he’d had the honour of driving some senior party officials round last time they’d visited Chongqing.
I was surprised they didn’t have their own car(s) and staff so he showed us their comments in his guestbook.
In other news, this taxi has a guestbook.
Flipping through this school exercise book, there were sketches by a variety of hands, short messages and even multi-page essays that I couldn’t read. I duly signed it in English and left a nice comment. Grateful for his first English comment he offered us a pair of guest passes to the Chongqing Horticultural Show, but with our plane leaving in a couple of hours and no interest in horticulture we had to decline.
Some men just want to watch the world burn
Eventually we had to stop at a petrol station to fill up for the drive to the airport. With our taxi driver apologising profusely for his oversight he again opened the door for us and guided me over to the low wall lining the riverbank. Whilst the petrol attendant filled the taxi, the driver gave us a guided tour of the impressive lighting display on the opposite bank.
I was keen to take a photo, but the appearance of my camera seemed to annoy a young man working at the petrol station who physically grabbed the camera and then me. I couldn’t quite figure out what he was shouting but eventually twigged he was worried about the camera starting a fire and the inevitable explosion at the petrol pumps.
I agreed that a fireball reaching into the skies would have made an exciting photo, but I don’t think that was his point.
Understandable in retrospect, but at the time I’d assumed he was wasn’t too concerned about the possibility of fire given that he had a cigarette hanging out his mouth whilst yelling all this.
In time, we arrived at the airport and the fare on the meter was a third that of some of the earlier quotes.
Taxis in Chongqing are cheaper than in Beijing or Shanghai – the meter starts at just Y7 for the first 3km. There’s a lot less English spoken, so it’s worth getting your destination written down in Chinese by your hotel or a friend.
Buses could be an alternative, but you’ll need to be patient as they are often full due to the impracticality of cycling on the hilly streets.