Taxi Driver

Shanghai

I slid into the backseat of the taxi, slamming the door behind me. “Beijing West Road and Xizang Road,” I told the driver. “Beijing West Road and Xizang Road!” He repeated my destination cheerfully and put the meter down to start the ride.

It was late into the evening, and the radio played old Chinese songs as we drove along the brightly lit streets of beautiful Shanghai. The music was ceaselessly interrupted by the Didi app, aka the reason Uber failed in China. “Ding ding! Huaihai Road and Ruijin Road!” “Ding ding! Nanjing Road and Maoming Road!” The taxi driver ignored the ride requests, humming along to the radio; after a while, the Didi sounds blended as percussion into the symphony of sounds on the drive.

Suddenly, the blaring ringtone of the taxi driver’s phone interrupted. “Hello,” he answered.

“Shifu,” a young man said, calling driver ‘master’ as was common with the more polite youth in the city. “I’m the friend of the girl you just dropped off, Shifu, the one who forgot her wallet. I can pay you back now, I’m at the corner near where you just dropped her off – can you come here?” The conversation turned into one of figuring out meeting logistics and I sat in the back, quietly listening.

As soon as the call ended, I piped up. “Shifu, how did you know she was going to pay you back? What if she was just lying and you never got your money for driving her?” He laughed and shrugged. “It’s just 20 RMB – really, not a lot of money. It’s not a big deal, it’s just money, right?”

His attitude both surprised and touched me; in a city – country, really – where I was wary of being scammed or ripped off, his words felt an anomaly. But that was exactly the point: every moment I’ve spent in any town, any city, any country, I am taught over and over again that the people who make up its population are so incredibly unique. Some may be selfish, but others will be generous; some are out to scam me – but others are out to help.

My imperfect human tendency to generalize a culture, a people, a city was and is always being challenged and rebuked; this I owe to the intricacies of the human beings like the taxi driver that I met – if only for a ten-minute ride across central Shanghai.

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Hong Kong 1-Day Itinerary: Central & SoHo

Hong Kong

Walking: Moderate || Good For: Families || Price Range: $

Morning: Central to Escalators. Make your way over to Central via one of Hong Kong’s many excellent transportation systems. Chances are, you’re getting over jet-lag or maybe even took that early-bird flight over to HK. Make your way over to the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators and admire the sights as you ride part of the world’s longest out-door escalator system. Don’t ride it all the way, though – get off at Staunton Street, head to your right, and take another right when you hit Elgin Street, where you can enjoy some brunch.

Brunch: Dim Sum, of course! Try some of Hong Kong’s dim sum at Ding Dim 1968. This isn’t the most local place, nor the most famous (that’s Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan) – but it has pretty good dim sum with classics like shrimp dumplings as well as dishes with more unique ingredients like quail eggs and truffle (the foodie’s obsession and the food snob’s eyeroll). It’s a pretty small space although there are two rooms, so you might need to wait a bit. They even have a combo plate for two people so you can try more food!

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Early Afternoon: Wandering SoHo. You’re already in the middle of Hong Kong’s SoHo, so explore away! Wander up and down the streets to work off that dim sum and admire the murals that adorn the buildings of SoHo. Shop at unique Hong Kong stores like Goods of Desire (48 Hollywood Road) or Homeless (29 Gough Street) for cute household goods and attire that you never knew you needed. In fact, add all of Gough Street to your list – and break off to explore all the side streets as you please!

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Head a bit uphill on Aberdeen to check out PMQ , a four-level semi-outdoor mall made up of independent store-owners selling everything from clothing to stationery to jewelry. A lot of the items are hand-crafted and you can even see them make their items in-shop.

If you’re not into shopping, go down Hollywood Road to Man Mo Temple and inhale that strong incense as you mingle with worshippers and tourists inside.

Late Afternoon: Snack Break. If you’re tired of walking, pick up some milk tea at Lan Fong Yuen, a popular local tea restaurant. It’s a tiny shop, though, so don’t expect to be able to sit around – pick up the milk tea so you can say you’ve tried it, and try to find somewhere else to sit. Alternatively, you can go to Honululu Cafe – a more diner-style place with a lot of seating, you can try Hong Kong classics like pineapple buns or HK-style French toast. Pair it with some iced yuanyang, a half-coffee/half-milk tea drink and you’ll be feeling refreshed in no time!

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Evening: The Peak. Hong Kong has incredible night views, and The Peak is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations for a reason. This viewing point atop the mountain can be reached either via the historic but more expensive Peak Tram (expect lines) or the regular bus from Admiralty’s bus terminal. Both will get you to the top, where you can enjoy the expansive view of Hong Kong Island and its across-the-water neighbor, Kowloon. Enjoy your time up there, but be warned that it can get windy and quite chilly at night during the winter months.

Dinner: Simple and CheapIf you want to stay and eat at the top of the Peak, check out Tsui Wah, one of Hong Kong’s many tea restaurant chains. Be warned that this location is probably more crowded than the ones back down in the city, so you may want to take the tram or bus back down and find other Tsui Wahs. Or try sweet and sour rice noodles at Nam Kee, where you order at the counter to choose the soup bowl that fits your desire.

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Late Night: The One and Only LKF. If you’re not utterly exhausted, head on over to Lan Kwai Fong – Central’s main bar/club/hookah area. It’s generally crowded on any night, ridiculously crowded on holidays like Halloween, but one of the best places in Hong Kong for people-watching. Duck out from the crowd to sit down at a bar, or grab some beer from 7/11 and watch the crazies from a distance – you might want to leave the kids at home for this one, though. Enjoy the rest of your night!