If somebody has traveled around China, surely they have had the experience of seeing crowds standing and shouting out in front of any train or bus station. They usually shout in Chinese, but when they see a foreigner, they start to use the only English word they know, “Taxi! Taxi!” This is no official service, but so-called black taxis. I try not to use them, but sometimes there is no other choice. However, the experience is always unique.
If I would give these people a name, I would call them smart-asses. They are not individuals trying to earn some extra pocket money. These are organized groups with many agreements between them, which normal people have no idea about. So, you never know what is going to happen.
I was traveling from Shanghai to a small town called Huaian. It is close to Shanghai (in China, close means 500 Km), but the transportation is not very convenient. There is still no train going there directly from Shanghai, so you have to go by a slow bus or by a plane. The plane departs once a day and it is the smallest plane I have ever been on in China. But the day I was traveling, they called me few hours ahead of the departure to tell me it was cancelled. So I had to think of another way to get there. Since it was already quite late, the best way was to go by a fast train to the ancient city Nanjing and then somehow get to Huaian. It is only 200km more.
When I arrived at Nanjing, it was already midnight. I had to be in Huaian the next morning, so the only possibility was a black taxi. I started to talk to one older woman. I knew the real price since the owner of a factory in Huaian that I was going to meet told it to me beforehand. I was supposed to bargain to 500RMB for a small car. After a short discussion, I went to a car, took a photo of the plate number, sent it to my wife and I was ready to go.
But after a half an hour ride, we suddenly stopped at a parking spot outside of Nanjing. There were many strange looking guys and some bigger vans. My driver started to discuss something with another guy. I stepped out of the car to be able to listen to what they were talking about. They wanted me to change cars, to sit in a big van, and also to pay the money beforehand. I wasn’t very happy about it, but there is not much you can do at 1a.m. outside of Nanjing when arguing with fifteen strange looking guys. At least I managed to sit in the front seat, since there were no seats in the back. It was a clean van, but it had no seats. You should have heard all the other people when they saw it. They paid for a taxi to Huaian and now they had to sit on a floor for a few hours. They started to argue really angrily, but it didn’t do much. There was no other option except to sit on the floor if they wanted to get to Huaian that day. I had the best seat, so I was pretending that I did not speak Chinese, just to not cause any controversy.
It was a long way. It was a super slow car, so we got to Huaian at half past four in the morning. Another reason for that was also that the driver made various stops on the way there, for example, at some kind of a wood factory, where he started to steal wood. It the middle of the night, he was putting wooden plates into his car, but the other people were starting to get really angry, so he quit. His friends were not there anymore; instead he had a full car of angry clients.
If at all possible, do not use black taxis. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, they will always win. It is not only a problem for foreign faces but also for Chinese people as well. Once one of these men stopped in the middle of highway where there was literally nothing and told me that we would continue only if I paid him the original price he proposed. So my long time spent on bargaining was lost and I had no other option but to pay. Sometimes you can meet a nice person, but taxi drivers will always be taxi drivers.