Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Transportation and China's Analysis


There are six methods of travel in China which we have had experience with so far:

1. Feet

Walking, while perhaps a bit archaic, has the benefit of being one of the slowest methods of travel (in case this doesn't sound like a benefit, consider this: you get to experience practically everything— from the food stands to the dead cat smell to hearing a couple talking [not that you can understand, of course!] to the large amount of stares you get everywhere due to being a three-kid tourist family).

Walking means that you get to take a lot of steps. Both Mom and I wear pedometers, which measure the amount of steps we take. An average person should take 10,000 steps a day. If that person takes an average step of 2.5 feet, 10,000 steps means five miles.

At home, I don't doubt we took less than 2,000 steps. Perhaps five thousand on the Tae Kwon Do or Acro Dance days. Starting to walk about five times more than usual all of sudden seemed to take hours, but nowadays it's pretty normal. The most steps I ever took in a day on this trip were 19005, on October 21st. We went to the Inari Temple and mostly climbed steps.

In China, the most amount of steps I took was 17742, when we went to Xi'an. (The least was 903, when we woke up late and had a rest day.)

Walking's disadvantage is that, by definition, you cannot sit down. This results in aching feet. We enjoy sitting down, and as such will actually walk further simply to sit down on that bench that is completely out of our way.

Walking also has a couple of hazards— even while on the sidewalk, one has to be on the look out for cars, rickshaws, bicycles, motorcycles, which apparently own a good deal of the supposed walking space. 

2. Bicycles and Motorcycles
Bicycles and motorcycles are pervasive. They are parked on the side walks. People are fixing them in what looks to be an informal two-wheeler parking lot.

When crossing the street, you have to be on the look out for bicycles as much as you are on the look out for motorized vehicles, because they will not stop. They will pass even when the light is red— perhaps having two wheels instead of four exempts them from some rule.

We did not ride bicycles or motorcycles in China— the streets were hard enough to navigate on foot.
3. Taxi (and other cars)
Taxis are not allowed to take on more than four people. At the Beijing airport, however, this rule was not in place, and we were taken to the hotel as speedily as possible through traffic.

However, much to our dismay, when we later tried to get a taxi in Beijing to go see our grandparents, the taxi driver would shake his head and one hand in front of his face, then hold up four fingers.

We managed to get around this rule once, when we all piled into the taxi before the driver realized that there was one extra person.
"He's small." Dad explains to the taxi driver, a pleading look on his face, the map already spread out on his lap.
The driver shakes his head and starts telling us he can't take five people.
"Ioan, spread out. Get your head down." Mom says, as Dad is trying desperately to get the taxi driver to take his hand off the emergency brake and start driving.
Ioan, in the end, is spread out on the back seat, his head obscured by Ileana's day pack, his feet in Ileana's lap.
"Pretend you're dead." Ileana says.
Ioan obligingly sticks out his tongue and rolls his eyes back.
"Shh!" I say, "This is important!"
"Please," Dad says, "he's small." He makes the universal small sign with both hands.
The taxi driver looks back and sees that Ioan is nearly invisible from the outside, and he takes his hand off the emergency brake.
We all heave a sigh of relief.
When we got to the destination, Dad paid the man forty yuan instead of the twenty-three we owed him. 
"I was watching him as he drove and he was so nervous!" Dad exclaims, "He was looking around wildly for policemen and driving fast and I was watching him to see how far I could push before he kicked us all out of the taxi."

Thankfully, in Xining and Longmen, we did not have this problem— the taxi drivers let us pile in and took us where we wanted to go with a smile and a nod.
4. Bus
There are two types of buses in China: crowded and uncrowded.

If there is an uncrowded bus, you can be sure it will, at some point, become crowded. You need to watch the seat you want. You need to stand right next to a seat in order to sit down the second the person gets up. You need to be alert, to move fast, in order to have the privilege of sitting down.

This means that when an empty bus approaches a station, there is a throng of people waiting just outside it.

There is no such thing as an orderly line— budging is acceptable, and as long as you are one of the first people in the bus, you get a seat.

When the bus is crowded, however, you have to really push in order to get in at all. Because there are five of us, the first person to get in the bus has to be adept at pushing and navigating through a large crowd of people who do not want to move in order to get to the middle, which is usually less crowded and has more seats to stand next to.

When getting out, you have to be just as adept at pushing and navigating in order to leave the bus— which, if you're not careful, may leave with you.
5. Metro (i.e. Subway)
The metro has a security check upon entering the metro station. You must take any bags you have on off and pass them through the airport-like security check.

The interesting thing, however, is that no one checks you. What if someone decided to hide a bomb in their underwear? No one would notice.  It appears to be simply a bag check, which I think in America would prompt an immediate rectification of terrible security.

Getting to the actual metro means walking through underground corridors and looking for the colored signs which tell you where you are going.

There are also two types of metro, amazingly similar to the bus types, so I am not going to tell you about that. One thing I will mention, however, is that every once in a while, the metro doors will attempt to close, and will hit a part of human body. Whereupon a light starts flashing and everyone near the doors will attempt to push slightly inward so as to allow the metro doors to close.

When you are in a crowded metro or bus, people are pressing you in from all sides. It's oddly comforting— like being at the bottom of the deep end of the pool, or getting a really strange kind of hug. It feels like there is a connection between you and all these people who are staring at you like you are an alien.

I should add on to the above that I am a very touchy-feely person. For someone who doesn't like being touched, they might hate a crowded Chinese metro. But I don't mind it. 

In a test Mom gave us years ago on the Languages of Love, my first language is verbal praise— and my second is touch. I'm not bothered by touch and absolutely love getting hugs. Of course, there are exceptions— like when I'm angry, but that's not the point.
6. Train
There are also two types of train: however, these differ from the bus and metro types.

There is an overnight train and there is a… day train? The day train has seats, which sometimes have a table that comes down (think airplane tray table). In essence, it's like a large version of a car, with perhaps a bit more room. Moving on.

The overnight train, however, comes in two versions: soft sleeper and hard sleeper.

'Soft' sleeper doesn't mean the bed is soft— the bed is hard. However, the soft sleeper cars have four beds to a compartment, and a door. The hard sleepers have six beds to a compartment and no door.

We haven't slept on a hard sleeper yet— we'll take that train today, at 4 PM, to Lhasa. It's a twenty four hour train ride. I'm not sure if it's going to be acceptable or if we're going to be able to sleep (either because of cigarette smoke or loud Chinese) or if we'll survive in a small train compartment for twenty four hours.

The last train we were on, we had pillows filled with buckwheat. These are incredibly heavy and amazingly comfortable. The grains move around beneath your head and it's kind of like memory foam, except harder (which makes it more comfortable).


Since we're leaving China, here's a break-down of favorites and least favorites and other such statistics:

Favorite country: China— it's much more adventurous than Japan.
Favorite Hotel Location: Xining— three large beds with a desk and a tub.

Favorite City in China: Beijing

Most Interesting Food: Scorpion (I didn't eat it. Ileana and Dad were crazy enough to try). Second on the list is an extraordinarily spicy mix of meat with dumplings.

Beijing's Best Attraction: The Toboggan Slide on the Great Wall

Xi'an's Best Attraction: The Terracotta Warriors

Longmen's Best Attraction: The Buddhist caves.

Xining's Best Attraction: The city lights at night in the main square. 

Worst Attraction: Tiananmen Square in Beijing. It was huge, full of people and all I could see of interest was Mao Zedong's portrait.

Best Food: Sweet and Sour Chicken at King's Food in Beijing. Second on the list is rice, and third is Peking Duck, which is frankly somewhat overrated and isn't even that good without the tortilla wrapping and the sauce and the cantaloupe and so on and so forth. The duck itself is very bland.

Worst Food: The dumplings at King's Food in Beijing that were like pudding in fried dough. They were hot and tasteless.

Number of Steps in China: At least 95,000 steps (47.5 miles) (by contrast, Japan= 59,202)

Best Place: Xi'an Wall— the playground there was fantastic. We played shuttlecock and chased around a hoop of metal with a stick and played Diabolo (which I cannot explain because it's too long) and jumped rope.

Most Interesting Day: November 14th, when we started downloading Civilization V from the App Store and had to stay up all night to make sure that it was still downloading.

Words Written For 1.6 million Word Goal: 228,000


  1. I hope you have found the oxigen connections.As this train goes at very high altitude (Tanggu-la Pass -5180 meters altitude) and the train is suposed to have sources of piped in oxigen (some passangers buy canisters of oxygen). Between Golmud (some 400-500 km away from Xining towards Lhasa) and Lhasa the train is supposedly non-smoking (Soft sleepers berth come with individual TVs). By the time you will be reading this post you'll be in Lhasa. Here in Rochester NY is 11.16.2011 11:38PM. XOXOXO a million of hugs for the huggy feely girl. E.Richards Rock NY USA

  2. The train is non-smoking, but that doesn't mean anything here. ^_^

    And I think we did find the oxygen 'pipes', there was something that said OXYGEN on it, but I didn't touch it much and we were all fine.

    Thank you for the hugs!

  3. Hey, it's Inq, this is so friggin' cool Take a ton of photos and keep writing! Put some videos on youtube!!


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