Escaping the buses, a survival guide to the streets of China.

China 1 Comment

Escaping the busesDriving is my hobby. Being behind the wheel of my favourite car, driving peacefully, taking in the scenery, admiring beautiful cars, listening to the blissful sound of the engine, feeling the next gear change, feeling the friction of pad and disk, giving way to traffic and pedestrians, the satisfaction of the perfect reverse park, I could blab on all day.

When I’m not behind the wheel, I enjoy the occasional stroll, exposure to fresh air, trees, grass, blue skies and nature’s free gift of peace. Ok, so maybe walking through urban areas isn’t peaceful – peaceful, but unless you’ve navigated the streets of China, you probably don’t know how good you’ve got it.

Habitual locations in China are densely populated to say the least. Roads are jam packed, pavements also. This brings a multitude of factors one must consider before going to China for extended periods. I’m not going to give you a lecture on health, but for your own benefit, get a health check before you go to China, and regular checks there after.

First thing, I’d dare not drive in China, unless you want high blood pressure, be stricken with road rage and don’t mind millions of dents and scratches all over your nice new car. Public transport, though reliable, is not pleasant, restrictive and slow. I stick to mopeds or electric bikes. Whatever form of transport you choose, the quality of journey depends on how you handle what the streets promise to throw your way.

If you’re ready to brave the walk, invest in some comfortable shoes, keep your distance from the road, and in all cases, especially should you cycle, wear a facemask and some earplugs. If you can, I recommend that you bring a quality-approved facemask with you, or import one. In China you can only find standard issue nurse masks, unless you scour the web for foreign products. If you decide to purchase a local mask, at least wear one on top of another with a filter in between.

You may laugh at the earplug one, but seriously, apart from air pollution, which is a whole different discussion, sound pollution here is bad. The ringing in my ears is worse than ever.

Once you’ve had enough of walking everywhere or taking the bus and you opt for a bicycle, electric bike or moped, make sure you use protection! Wear the best quality helmet you can find, or import one. One helmet I purchased broke when I dropped it, so be careful. When I had the moped, which could do almost 100km/hour, I’d wear a leather coat, gloves and jeans at least. It’s difficult finding safe riding gear as no one wears it. You’ll see people breaking land speed records wearing just shorts and a vest. Don’t forget though, despite sometimes seeing 5 people on a bike, it’s supposed to be illegal to have more than one person per bike unless you have a motorbike license.

If want to blend in more and do as the Chinese do, you’ll at least need some kind of visor to shield the dust from your eyes. The good news though is that in China, it doesn’t really matter if you don’t look cool with all that facial gear and protection. Unlike many western societies, most Chinese aren’t going to judge like we’re perhaps used to. They wear pyjamas in the streets, so I wouldn’t worry too much.

The buses

Buses should be on the most wanted list. They plague the roads and stain neighbouring environments. Dare get stuck behind a bus unless you have a spare set of lungs, self-cleaning skin and clothes that don’t get dirty. Do all you can to get past, or stay back. Dare never to cross the road should a bus approach. Definitely wear a mask if you have to queue for a bus. Bus stops are no doubt the source of all lung and skin disease. Should you board a bus, voluntarily, shoved or pushed, may your face be prepared to entertain nice sweaty armpits and your pockets subject to a visit from the local pickpocket. Be prepared to be thrown in any available direction. Be prepared to become a human air bag.


China is not China without the daily fight against traffic and deafening car and bike horns. As a biker, and a pedestrian (as bikes freely roam the pavements), one must be alert, able to bear inexplicable driving skills, ready to duck or dive should someone spit and have acrobatic tendencies as to filter and swerve between endless streams of people. The total non-existence of ‘stop, look and listen’, distinct lack of common courtesy and inexcusable air and sound pollution, might be enough to make one want to avoid such ventures.

There is good news for pedestrians though. Drivers do seem somewhat alert and quick to hit the brakes when called upon. If you don’t see your death flying towards you, at least you’ll hear it coming!

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  • 1, WPThemes, July 27th, 2010 at 2:52 am

    Good brief and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you as your information.

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