Getting a taxi in Beijing
1. Stand at street corner, waving at passing taxis.
2. Continue step 1 for 10 minutes.
3. Begin to wonder what you can possibly have done to offend the taxi gods.
4. Get hopes up when taxi driver clearly spots you, slows down, then decides he doesn’t need your money and drives off again.
5. Continue waiting with your hailing gestures becoming more and more exuberant.
6. Feel pathetically grateful when a taxi does eventually pick you up.
Getting a taxi in Vietnam
1. Step outside.
2. Show no interest in passing taxis and bikes, and mke no effort to hail one.
3. You will be offered some form of transportation – Hello taxi! Hello motorbike! Hello cyclo! Hello bamboo boat! – at least once every 50 metres.
4. You will be offered transportation when:
4.1 you are just entering a building (no I don’t want a taxi, I’ve just got here);
4.2 you are just getting off the back off another motorbike (if I wanted a motorbike, I’d stay on this one); and
4.3 you are going for a run (to be fair, I probably did look like I could use a lift).
Getting a train ticket in China
1. Find train station at least 3 days in advance of your departure date.
2. Find ticket office in enormous train station.
3. Be stared at by 500 Chinese people as the only Westerners in the building.
4. Pick your way over several sleeping Chinese people using rice sacks as pillows.
5. Join one of twenty queues to a ticket window.
6. Wait in line for 20 minutes. Use this time to copy name of destination in Chinese characters from guidebook, in case the ticket person can’t decode your terrible pronounciation.
7. Try to make sense of departure board. Write down date and time of your chosen train, plus a couple of second choices in case it is unavailable.
8. Reach the front of the line. All the Chinese people in the queue will crowd round you, not to try to push in but just to have a nose at your transaction.
9. Try to correctly pronounce name of place you are going – pointing at your prepared written destination and train time if necessary.
10. Hand over your passport to the ticket seller. If you have forgotten your passport, go away and try again tomorrow.
11. Ticket seller will tell you price by keying it into a calculator. All the Chinese people around you will peer into your wallet as you take it out to pay.
Getting a train ticket in Vietnam
1. Ask hotel receptionist with excellent English to book you a train ticket.
2. Be told that this is no problem, the charge will be added to your bill when you check out and would you like them to arrange a taxi to the train station?