So there I am, at the bottom of The Peak Tram in Hong Kong. I’m soaking wet. I’ve managed to wrench my back somehow and am in the sort of pain only someone whose back lived through a pregnancy resulting in a nearly twelve pound baby can be. It’s raining. And worst of all – the won ton soup I had ordered at the top of The Peak had smelled like someone took the shrimp for a sun-filled vacation in a rotting sewer. It was sent back, of course. And I got no won ton soup.
Sometimes you have these days when you travel. “But!” I told myself. “Hey! I’m in Hong Kong! That’s awesome! And we’ll just take a cab back to the hotel, chill and dry, then get some won ton soup somewhere else! Really, I’m totally ahead on this!”
Little did I know that one does not simply “take a cab” when it is raining in Hong Kong.
In the end, we ended up walking back to our hotel in the rain, with my back yelling curses at me the entire way. It wasn’t far – just a little over a mile away. Any other time I wouldn’t have bothered with a cab at all – in fact, we had walked to The Peak tram in the first place. But there was something about having a cab driver refuse to our fare even though we were next in line at the taxi queue that just set me off.
It also made me irritated at Hong Kong in general – of the four countries we visited this go-round, I would have to say Hong Kong was my least favorite, and the place I’m least likely to visit again. Little things like taxi drivers can make a huge difference.
It’s the sort of thing you don’t really think to google before you go – and even if you *do* think about googling whether taxi drivers stop while it is raining, you have so many other things to google that it gets lost in the shuffle. I can’t speak for anyone else, but my search history is full of places to see, tipping recommendations, hotel reviews, weather reports, restaurant lists, crime statistics, cultural awareness tips, and how to ask for the toilet in whatever language. I map public transit, figure out walking paths, and monitor exchange rates.
And I love it! Don’t get me wrong! But even though I’m well versed in dealing with cab drivers in the developing world, it somehow never occurred to me that I might need a crash course in dealing with cab drivers in Hong Kong after reading that there are supposedly strict rules governing the whole shebang.
Even worse, on one trip to Hamburg we got totally taken in by a cab driver who claimed to speak no language in our repertoire (which includes English, French, Russian, Spanish, and asking for the bathroom/saying hello in Mandarin. We could also throw in a bit of Krio and Nyanja, although that is mostly just understanding what we hear and not much speaking). A two kilometer drive turned into a forty euro, bridge-crossing-both-directions affair. It was dark and we were exhausted, there was rain, and it was just short of freezing – we really had to trust that the driver would be honest.
He wasn’t. Nor did our complaint to the cab company itself net much more than, “Next time you’re in Hamburg, we’ll give you a free voucher for a ride!” We heard nothing further about the cab driver and the “sanctions” he was supposed to receive.
It might actually be that the reason we didn’t like Hamburg at all was that first jerk of a cab driver. Certainly the Christmas Market and the parades should have had us begging for more of that city.
It’s the part of travel that people who love travel hate to talk about – the fact that sometimes travel sucks. Cab drivers quite often harsh my travel mellow, I’m not going to lie or try to hide it. We’ve had some wonderful experiences – both in the developed and developing world. But sometimes…
At least in Hamburg, cab driver aside, we got to look at *this* beauty in our Home Away room every night when we went to sleep. There’s a silver lining to every cloud, right?