Friday, August 31, 2007

Chengdu Traffic and Pork!

Road traffic is chaotic in China since most people view traffic signs and signals as optional. Typically, if traffic ahead is slow, cars will cross over the center line into oncoming traffic and then cut in at the last minute. Otherwise drivers will drive on the shoulder and pass on the right. So during rush hour, a three lane road really has six lanes of cars, buses, trucks, electric scooters, and bicycles.

One afternoon, driving back from the office to our hotel, I witnessed the most retarded traffic jam ever. We were on one of the main roads heading back into the city and ran into a solid wall of stopped cars. I think we were held up for about 20 minutes. We found out (one of the passengers got out to see what happened) that the initial cause of the mess was a truck trying to pull a U-turn in the middle of the road. Instead of waiting the 15 seconds to let the truck complete the turn, drivers on both sides of traffic cut across the center line to try and pass. Well, since traffic was stopped on both sides of the truck, there's no room to cut back into the correct lanes before coming face-to-face with oncoming (stopped) traffic. Bam, instant gridlock in the middle of the road, nowhere near an intersection.

In addition, while we were stopped in traffic, we were hit by the car behind us. It was a brand new Honda Civic and the driver's foot probably slipped off the brake pedal. The guilty driver was a girl, not too bad looking, and before our driver even open his door, she had already jumped out of her car, yelling and screaming at us! I don't get it. We were stopped in traffic... for minutes! I guess there was no damage so everyone got back in their respective cars, then she tries to pass us on the right even though we were already in the rightmost lane. Our driver then swerved to cut her off and she almost drove into a roadside ditch. She managed to squeeze through after several tries but needed to fold in her driver-side mirror to avoid another collision. Since we were stuck in traffic anyway, we ended up passing her several times afterwards. Each time we passed her car, I tried to wave at the crazy girl but she ignored me. :) Sorry, no pictures though I wish I had a camcorder. I did get a photo of an old guy carrying half a pig — split from head to tail — on the back of his bicycle on my RAZR; I'll post it if I can figure out how to get it off the phone (update below).

This is what happens when you get millions of impatient Chinese drivers in one place. Leon and I thought the whole episode was ridiculous but it looked like everyone else (all local people) thought it was normal. I've been in taxis where we've missed hitting pedestrians and bicycles by mere inches and missed being hit by buses by the same margin. Sometimes it's easier just to sit back and close your eyes until you get there.


Cool, I sent the pictures from my RAZR to my Mac via Bluetooth; never tried that before. I thought I would need to pay MMS charges to send them to myself. Should have taken more pictures with my phone.

Thermometer in PMI's factory: 32˚C (90˚F) and 70%+ humidity at 10:15am. It gets hotter in the afternoon.

Guy with a pig on his bicycle in front of a sign for Chengdu's hi-tech industrial park (BTW, 金牛 = golden ox)

... which reminded me of the meat truck I saw in Taiwan. Eeeew!

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