the little hood where i first met the chongqing street culture
So I got my late flight into Chongqing
, the largest western city in China, and by some measures the largest metropolis in the world. I had a nice tme practicing my chinese with the guy sitting next to me on the flight, and he offered to help me get a taxi to my hotel. We got in and immediately you can tell why they call this one of the 3 furnaces of china, it was like miami, 25-30 C at night. So we both made our way thru the baggage claim and out to the taxi stops. But these were not the taxi stops, there are actually cameras and traffice police which prevent them from stopping, so they slow to a crawl and bargain with my friend while we walk and walk.
the bridge that i came in on
It seemed immediately like a scam. He kept saying yi bai kuai (100 yuan or 14 dollars). I told him nothing besides 80, and then just shut up knowing Iwould only give 80. I felt worried about this, it was poorly lit, and this guy seemed to be making no sense at all. I finally got to the end of the long road (500 meters maybe!) and he pulled over. He loaded my things and we were off. It then got really scary I must admit. He drove like less than a km and pulled over under a bridge, I thought he would try to rob me or something. He gets out and moves my bag from the open trunk to the back seat. OK, I thought that would be it, problems over, no way. SO he did this again, and rearranged the bags, and now we were off albeit to a rough start. He pulled out a cigarette and offered me one, but since I quit 10 years ago, I declined; I did however appreciate this gesture as it has greater importance in China. I felt strangely drawn to the smell of the smoke, it reminded me of summer nights as a teen, and as we pulled to a toll station and he showed his ID card to the woman, I felt the warm air waft the sweet smell of the second-hand smoke into my nose, and have the strong memories of enjoying a good smoke come and go. If it wasn't so damned deadly I would love to smoke, but I ain't going out like that. SO once we begin to see the city, and I had pointed out that his meter wasn't running and iwasn't dumb, we had agreed to 80 yuan. The city began to unfold like some sort of dark comic book, like Gotham, massive and filled with mystery. We crossed several bridges and then I began to see the scale of this place. This is when things went to shit. We began entering a poor area, and there were prostitutes everywhere and many young kids around on the corners, looked like the hood to me. Nothing too menacing but not the business-district for sure. This is when he got lost, but I thought he as driving me to his hood to relieve me of my belongings. People started running up to the cab, and pulling on the doors, sometimes opening them. One teen saw me from his moped mounted throne on the corner and gave me a drunken "Hellooo". I felt like it was gonna be a fight any second. The taxi driver kept pulling over to ask other drivers where to go. I came to find out that the guys pulling at the doors werent trying to steal my stuff but rather my cab. There are too few of them and on a friday night at 1 AM they are a precious commodity. At the time I felt it was like a carjack, and had my pen in hand to use for a knife since I was unarmed in china. Thankfully we finally found it, and after passing the same crowds a few times, it was not soon enough, since they were becoming more harassing. I finally got in and bitched at the staff a little that the neighborhood is not safe. I found out later that it is not unsafe, just full of drunk nationalistic poor people = dangerous. Anyhow, I was finally there, and my room was quite large. I passed out.