I’m sure you figured if I wasn’t barfing on this trip you wouldn’t hear about barfing. My last post proved that notion invalid.
After another long day of meetings (and time spent catching up on e-mail during the endless discussions that I couldn’t follow because they were conducted entirely in mandarin) I thought for sure I’d be writing about my experiences with trans-Pacific movie-watching on a Taiwanese airline. Instead, that thrilling exploration will have to wait because I feel compelled to share the story of this evening’s hair-raising taxi ride.
I didn’t leave the office until 8pm. The cost negotiations (between Engineering and Procurement) were still going strong, but I was clearly at the end of my endurance so I was graciously excused. I’ve graduated to the level of “one who catches her own cab” so I made my way to the street and waited for an available taxi. At that hour, they were few and far between and mostly occupied. Finally I lucked into a driver who whipped around in a mid-block u-turn, pulling up to the curb and confirming his willingness to take me the few miles to my hotel.My mandarin hasn’t improved so much as my ability to show the business card for the hotel has proven quite adequate for this basic exchange. That and my ability to read and cough up the appropriate fare at the end of the ride.
Off we went, merrily cruising the city streets of the Neihu district. I’m familiar enough with the commute that I was taken aback when the driver pulled off the beaten path into an alley that was crowded with cars (parked on both sides of the street as well as oncoming) and scooters and pedestrians. The smaller alleys that branched off to the sides were filled with street vendors and shoppers. It was a mini-night market. It’s not my first time to see this sort of industry in action but it was definitely my first time to traverse such a scene in a taxi. Since this was a short-cut my driver was not wasting much time with the sight-seeing aspect of the jaunt. He moved right through the maze of bodies at an alarming clip…narrowly missing cars, scooters and pedestrians.
This image will hopefully give you some idea of the route. I marked the shortcut in blue (starting at point “A”). Normally the drivers will either take a right on JinHu Rd (from the top of the image, near the Neihu MRT station) or they will follow the MRT around the Dahu Park & Lake. The City Lake Hotel (where I’m staying) is at the junction of JinHu Rd and ChengGong Rd.
All of this is just meant to provide context. It was dark. It was harrowing. And just when I thought we were clear (because we’d gotten past the crowded part of the alley) the lane narrowed and traffic thinned and the driver picked up speed. I don’t think I can do justice to the thrill and exhilaration of jouncing along like I was on some sort of foreign joy ride. Well…I guess it was some sort of foreign joy ride. It might be worth noting that the driver appeared to be at least 60 years old. I’ll give him credit for being a master of his trade.
I also felt a thrill when he pulled onto JinHu Rd and I knew immediately where I was. There’s something to be said for spending enough time in a foreign city that it becomes that familiar. At least this little corner of the city has become familiar. Here’s a broader perspective.
If tomorrow turns into a repeat of today, minus the taxi ride, then I promise I’ll share my reflections on my movie-watching adventures. I don’t want to leave you hanging.