If you haven’t driven or been driven around in China and Hong Kong, then I am honestly convinced that you’ve never placed your life in another persons hands. Driving, and I am including driving a motorbike and a bicycle in this category, out here is, putting it as accurately as I possibly can, a complete and total gong show. You know what, even that is incomplete, because even gong shows can be recognized as madness. This defies logic, defies comprehension, defies sanity.
Lets start with the roads. There are indeed roads. And they are, indeed, paved. In fact, the roads are very well made. It’s just that the people on them are pants-on-head retarded. The roads have all the standard accoutraments of a road. Blacktop, signs with words(in English!) for directions, traffic lights, painted medians that use a petroleum byproduct rather than paint, and multiple lanes. The majority of the roads are three or four lanes wide, and can fit a large amount of people. The problem, the numbers are skewed like an Imperial Storm Trooper freshly force choked.
The signs are frequent, but I haven’t seen a single stop sign, U-turn signs, speed limit signs, nothing. The traffic lights are so non existent that I would venture to say that someone must have driven through the city and stolen them all for his ladder to the moon, because no one in their right mind would create this many uncontrolled intersections with this much traffic. The medians are ignored unless of course if they can’t be crossed by a car. And the roads have no side streets so if, lets say, you want to get around some roadwork, you literally have to drive a kilometer in the opposite direction to find an intersection that gets you in the direction of trying to go around the road work.
You may be asking, how do they not have accidents like crazy? I have one word for you: freestyle. Everyone is making it up as they go and because they all share the same cultural heritage they all come to the same style every time. And this style is usually a combination of flagrant horn use and an aggressive manhandling of your vehicle. The motorcycles just go wherever they want, the cars honk at them when they are in the way, and the bicycles try not to get killed. They regularly stick their cars out into traffic so that they can sidle into traffic. It’s dangerous and maddening, and I cannot relax in a car here.
In fact, I had one of my students help me go shopping, so he showed me around on his motorbike. I was on the back, holding on to dear life by the handle behind me while he zipped around on a moped like vehicle at an excess of 60 klicks. For some people, this would be a pants wetting quality experience. I have been more scared, but this was definitely way up there. And then after shopping, we repeated this process back to the campus laden down with a good 20 pounds more of stuff.
There is no doubt in my mind he is a capable driver, but back home we would have taken away his license, buried his keys, threw on a straight jacket, and then had him certified. It is crazy, and I dunno if I can get used to it.