Confession. I will start by saying that it's been a shameful 3 months since my last blog entry. I would not be surprised if most of my alien audience has tuned out by now. In fact, is it even legal to call it a blog?!?
Getting right back to it. It struck me, that in all the advice dispensed to date and following the delights of the annual New Year "Chun Yun" (the galaxy's largest annual creature migration), I have as yet to cover a most basic requirement for successful alien adaptation, namely transportation. Yes, it's all very well eating, living and socialising; but what good is any of it if you can't get from A to B?
Luckily, there are plenty of options available. I have listed mine in reverse order of personal preference below.
There are rumours online about aliens achieving the holy grail of passing the local planet's driving test. For further info and amusement take a look at fellow alien blogger Frank Langfitt's personal experience (http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/01/17/263064557/how-i-flunked-chinas-driving-test-three-times) and have a go at the quiz to see if you're up for the challenge.
That leaves most of us with taxis. On the plus side they're affordable but perhaps the first stumbling block is to find your way in. Despite having what looks like a normal amount of doors, only the right hand doors are available for passengers. You can spot a recently landed alien by their frantic attempts to use a left hand door handle before being waved away by the driver.
Presumably this serves as a reassuring safety mechanism to prevent passengers throwing themselves out into incoming traffic, though it's hard to see how it would be reassuring if your LPG taxi was to burst into flames.
There are plenty of these but alas, unlike the more alien friendly metro (see below), are virtually impossible to navigate without a working knowledge of the local hieroglyphics. Furthermore, the route is NOT the familiar to-and-fro, but a complicated circuit of some sort.
Do not attempt unless accompanied by a local or allow time for a (very reasonably priced) mystery city tour.
All hail the Guangzhou Metro! Built at record speed in a few days preceding the 2010 Asian Games, this underground network covers most of the city and has the great advantage of being fully alien proof with universal English signage. It does, however, have one unique characteristic.
On my first Metro trip, it felt like I had stumbled into a panic driven stampede. But after some time it became clear that this was nothing more than a popular local game which I like to refer to as "Shang Xia" ("Get on, Get Off").
In many ways this resembles a game we have back on the home planet called British Bulldogs. The rules here are simple. Those passengers attempting to board the train ("Platformers") must do everything they can to prevent those on the train ("Trainers") from getting off the train. Vice versa, "Trainers" can use any tactic (blocking doorways, tripping up "Platformers") to prevent the train being entered. Useful game props include buggies (children optional), wheelie suitcases or trolleys, an oversized rucksack or sharp elbows.
For "Trainers" who do manage to make it off the train, the next objective is to be the first to reach the escalator (do not be afraid to knock aside old people, small children or wheelchairs in the process). Once you reach the escalators (and this is very important) you should immediately STOP moving or else you are disqualified.
Try it, it's fun.
Perhaps an obvious choice and gets the "runner up" spot in my list, but not without its fair share of pitfalls (some literally). To illustrate:
Getting lost in a building site. With an average of 25 cranes on the skyline at any one time, this in an unavoidable hazard. Be prepared for pavements that turn into rubble, escalators that lead nowhere and getting your shoes muddy.
Getting run over. Every alien should come to terms with the very real possibility of being squashed like a cockroach. Cars on roads, cars on pavements, cars on zebra crossings, cars everywhere - all driven by people wearing blindfolds.
Recently landed aliens be forewarned that what look to all intents and purposes like traffic lights are in fact purely decorative street accessories and should on no account be relied on as an indication that it is safe to cross.
1. Space Rover
OK, so I don't have one…but I do have the next best thing, a shiny red e-bike. A year after my landing (why did I wait so long!??!), I made an impulsive decision to buy one from a homeward bound E.T. As she sadly handed over the keys, she looked me in the eyes and told me it would change my life.
No more dealing with grumpy taxi drivers, being manhandled on buses and metros or getting run over. Now with wind in my hair, and smog in my face, I can explore (within a 50 km radius) at my leisure.
There's a grey area as to whether or not it's legal but like every recycling dude on this planet, I will choose to ignore it. Fingers crossed, so far the only 2 times I have been stopped by the planet's law enforcement officers have been, firstly, to point out that I should restrict myself to running over pedestrians on pavements and not dodging traffic on roads; and secondly, to enquire how much I'd paid for my bike.
Without a doubt my very favourite form of transport and gains the top spot in the Alien Transport Countdown. Having said all that, judging by the pony parked outside a coffee shop in the CBD, horseback riding may well be the transportation of choice in 2014…
That leaves me with nothing else but to wish one and all a very Happy New Year and may you all "Live Long and Prosper".
Tags:General Travel Expat Rants & Advice Expat Tales Lifestyle
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I was on the verge of getting one. Luckily I didn't because my next gig is out central west. I can't figure how I am going to carry my ebike onto a 23 hour train ride! Well, I'll get it when I get to my new place. Like you said, it beats getting squashed on the buses, cheated by taxi drivers and nudged out on walkways.
Mar 11, 2014 23:04 Report Abuse
Thank you Coineineagh. I wouldn't take my blogs too seriously - just using some artistic licence (or exaggeration). Chun Yun is often referred to as largest annual movement of people (not all creatures as you so rightly point out). I'm sure there are probably larger migration of butterflies, birds or something. Feel free to look it up.
Mar 11, 2014 16:09 Report Abuse
So far so good. Rumours are that if your e-bike has pedals (so you can at least pretend that you're pedalling) and is limited to 15 Km/H (mine does 30) then you are OK. Back in the summer, the police had a crackdown and confiscated bikes in Haizhu (a district in Guangzhou). The owners reacted by surrounding the police station and demanding they be returned which they were (power to the people!!). To be honest, I think the hassle of stopping and processing a foreigner on an e-bike puts most police officers off. Fingers crossed.
Feb 17, 2014 18:20 Report Abuse