Minsk World, and the consequences of showing off

This morning I took a taxi from my Shenzhen hotel (the Pavilion Century Tower) to Minsk World. The Minsk is a Soviet-era aircraft carrier (or battle-cruiser) which was sold off and converted into a theme park in Shenzhen. The taxi ride cost 60 RMB, and took me through a series of spectacular tunnels, the longest 1.3km. I spent about two hours at the ship, and shot a lot of video; I’ll upload a few clips to YouTube. (The first is in process right now.)
It was just after noon when I decided to leave. I walked to the main entrance, and looked around for a taxi. Nothing. Oh well: according to the map on my Android G1, the center of the town of Yantian was just a block north, so I started to walk. And then the driver got out of a tiny car that was parked nearby and waved at me. He spoke no English, I spoke no Mandarin, but the conversation was straightforward. “Can I drive you to your hotel – where is it?” Shows card from hotel. “How much?” Use display on cellphone to display: “80”. “No, that’s too much – I paid 60 to get here” (displayed on my iPhone via Oxford Translator). “Too little – how about 70?. And I took stock. Everyone had warned me to use only red taxis (strictly, red-and-silver), and not to risk the green taxis or the many unlicensed ones. But I decided to trust him. “OK, 70.
We set off along a route that initially confuses (and slightly disturbs) me, but turns out to be a cool short-cut to the highway towards Luohu, We zip through the tunnels, with the car windows open. Exhilarating. As we cross the Shawan River and approach the city, the driver closes the windows and turns on the air conditioning. This is a mistake: with the A/C on, the car barely has enough power to accelerate, and stalls several times.
Instead of taking the ring road around the north of Luohu, we cut through and pick up Sungang East Road. (I’m monitoring our route on my G1.) OK, this is fine; we’re making really good time. He’s definitely earned his extra 10 RMB. As we approach the intersection with Shangbu Road, we have a choice – turn left on Shangbu Road, then west on Hongli Road, or brave the most complicated intersection in the city, at Huaqiang Road. Seems like a no-brainer, and I show the driver the map on my Android and suggest that we turn left. No, no: he’s got a better idea.
He continues west on Sungang, then dodges around a bus and dives into a bicycles-only lane. Hmm. He zips along, scattering cyclists and pedestrians, drives through a cyclists’ underpass, and turns right. Things are looking promising. Then we turn a corner and come to a footbridge, which blocks most of the path. Easy for cyclists and pedestrians, but cars? Amazingly we squeeze through with about an inch of room on either side of the car. We can see our destination… but now there are steel tubes set into the pavement, blocking cars from entering. We need to get past; there’s no way to turn around or reverse back past the footbridge. I’m about to pay him and get out, when the driver decides to go for it! He squeezes the little car between the wall and the last bollard, and almost makes it… and then there’s a screeching sound of bodywork damage, right under my window. But we’re through. It’s only half a block to the hotel, so I tell him to stop, and pay him off. I give him a 100 RMB note, and he doesn’t hesitate to give me the full change of 30 RMB. I leave him gazing at his scratched paintwork.
I think I’ll stick to red taxis from now on, although the entertainment value was significant.