Singapore Adventure

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The cab-ride from hell
by jima

Greetings from Taiwan! I'm here on a business trip (because you can never get enough travel, especially right before a move!) and I'm on my way home. The trip from Hsinchu to the airport turned out to be far more eventful then we had bargained for.

We took the advice of a coworker of ours to try to take the bus from Hsinchu up to the airport. This sounds like a good idea, as the bus costs about 200T$ (about $8 US) and a limo (what we normally do) costs about 900T$ per person. So, we catch a cab from the hotel to the bus station, and fortunately our manager Wilson, who speaks mandarin joins us to get us on our way. Well, it turns out that there isn't a bus from Hsinchu to the airport. You have to go all the way up to Taipei (which is about an hour PAST the airport, change busses, and then go back to the airport. Given the lack of Chinese reading ability that Amol and I possess, we decided that this was NOT a good plan. So, time for plan B; taxi back to the hotel and get a Limo.

Well, the nice people at the hotel point out that we can also just take a cab to the airport, which only costs 600T$. Great, we'll do that. So back out, catch the third cab of the evening. All is going well until we run into the expected traffic jam. It's friday evening and everyone is going up to Taipei for the weekend (apparently it's common to work in Hsinchu but live in Taipei on the weekends). So, the traffic backs up and we start on the bumper to bumper part of the trip. This is fine, as we really do have plenty of time to catch our flight (it doesn't take off
until 11:30 pm). The problem is that the cab driver decides that this is a good time to take a NAP. Yep - he started driving with his eyes closed. We spent about 45 minutes with him nodding off - his head would bob down, then he'd snap to and slam on the breaks.

Ugh, this was pretty obnoxious, but it didn't feel overly unsafe, as most of the time we were only going about 10 MPH. Well, that changed as we got past the accidents (there were at least two if not three) and traffic started to speed up. 40 MPH with a cab driver doing his best Ray Charles imitation is NOT a fun way to travel. Of course, as we got close to the exit we wanted, he decided that the regular lanes were just too pedestrian, so we headed for the shoulder. We rode there for a couple of exists until we got off. We thought of saying something to him, but other than terrified screaming, we really didn't have many communication tools at our disposal. Plus, if we had insisted on him letting us out, what would we have done? We had no phone and empty cabs aren't too frequent on the freeway.

Fortunately the airport was only a few miles past the exit and, while we still had a jerky ride for this portion, there wasn't much traffic. We made it to the airport in one piece, but, oddly enough, we didn't tip the cab driver.

In retrospect, I've decided that this man must be one of the best drivers in the world. Anyone can drive with thier eyes open. It takes a real talent to successfully drive a cab while you're asleep!