Saturday, May 17, 2008

Taipei: 2 Chinas, Superior System?

The food and language might be Chinese but there are some distinct mainland Chinese characteristics missing. Where’s the homicidal, almost Braille driving? What about the complete deadly disregard of drivers by pedestrians and of pedestrians by drivers? Also thankfully conspicuous by its absence was the Chinese National anthem, the ominously loud, nauseating, guttural phlegm pre-expectoration sounds that mean take cover and watch your shoes because a mighty spit is coming. The subways I've ridden in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are a Chinese fire drill free for all, when the train stops and the car doors open it’s best to drop your head like a halfback and force your way through an imaginary goalpost to get on or off the subway car. On Taipei’s MRT there are painted lines on the ground on either side of the door openings and people calmly wait for the arrival of the next train. The result is efficiency and order: people leaving the car go straight out while those getting in enter from the sides. There’s very little yelling and bellowing into cell phones as there is on the mainland (Hong Kong too).

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