Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Cheap Taxis

I got in a taxi tonight (after trying out my new Swiss jokes in front of a confused crowd) and was complimented on my pronounciation of the street where I live. Pretty good work given I've been there for almost two years.

Having said that, we careered onward down Kennedy Road back to Happy Valley, paying no attention to road markings or highway safety. And yet it felt no more dangerous than usual.

Perhaps I felt in good humour because the taxi driver was being nice about my Cantonese, or perhaps because when I hailed him he'd ignored another gweilo further up the street (who seemed to be in a no-stopping zone - maybe he did like to pay attention to road traffic ordinances after all).

So we got home safely, without further ado or conversation. That's the thing about taxi drivers in Hong Kong; they drive, they don't talk, and they don't expect a tip.

Whereas all London taxi drivers expect a tip, half of them will bore you rigid and none of them open the door for you to get into the cab. Ok, that is because no door opening mechanism exists for them to open the door for you from the driver's seat, but that absence is a reason, not an excuse. And I bet with the monumentally unhelpful taxi drivers of London, even if they could open the door for you, when you're laden with bags of shopping, they wouldn't.

A Hong Kong taxi driver will floor it and ignore all speed limits in his quest to get you to your destination. A London taxi driver knows exactly how slow to drive on empty streets on a Sunday night, to get you from Liverpool Street to Victoria exactly one minute after the last train home departs.

So when London taxi drivers ask me what I like most about Hong Kong, I seem to be incapable of preventing myself from telling them "the taxis are much cheaper".

Maybe I should make a general comment about transportation, but if I'm paying a fiver to sit in traffic, I'm not going to throw my tact into the bargain for free.

Oh, and Hong Kong taxi drivers will allow the police to commandeer their vehicles if they need to construct rudimentary roadblocks for illegal racers to crash into. Perhaps that says more about the traffic police of Hong Kong.

Four days to Chinese New Year - God Hates Pak Choi!


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