TIL – Driving in China

Today is August 1, 2014, and I am sitting in a restaurant in Long Beach, California.

Along with my lovely wife, my dining companions include my oldest friend (and by that I mean the friend I have known the longest in my life) and his wife.

While dining on the fabulous food this eatery has to offer, my friend and his wife are telling me about their most recent trip to China. One of the stories they told us made my eyes widen and jaw drop.

TILSome drivers in China are insane.

According to their tale, they were in a car on a Beijing highway when their driver announced that they were approaching a fog bank. The drive began to slow down, but not because the decreased visibility mandated a slower (and thus safer) speed. No, the driver began to reduce his speed because he knew what was coming up. Because the fog made driving on the highway difficult if not impossible, the drivers in front of my friends simply did U-turns and began to drive the wrong way on the highway to find an alternate route. As the car bearing my friends slowed down, they began to see cars coming towards them. My friends’ driver, determined to go with the flow, did the same as he executed a U-turn and also went the wrong way on a one-way section of the highway. Well, when in Rome…er, Beijing.

Although, as my grandfather joked years ago when he went the wrong way on a one-way street, “Hey, I’m only going one way so what’s the problem.”

As much as living internationally for the past three years has shown me that different folks and countries have different mores, this tale left me with the desire to do some further research to receive a second opinion on this Sino-behavior.

I found it.

From this article from Wikitravel on Chinese driving comes this tidbit:

Another situation where they [Chinese motorists] drive the wrong way is if a vehicle wants to make a left turn off a two-way road with the center median or fence and drive into a driveway, but the driveway is not conveniently located near a gap in the median or fence. They will cross the center median in a gap before their destination driveway, drive the wrong way in the oncoming traffic lane, and exit the road when they reach their driveway. These maneuvers save the effort of travelling a distance and making a u-turn.

While words are helpful, pictures can seal the deal.

I found this 2010 video (courtesy of Gawker) of a Chinese driver going the wrong way down a highway. Granted, he’s using the shoulder, but you get the idea.

After that video, I will not gripe about Bangkok drivers ever again.

It’s a good day when you learn something new.

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