Taxi Ride in Xian, China
My husband and I went to Xian, China as Global Volunteers teaching English in the schools. Our friend who had traveled to China before, assured us that we did not have to change currency until we got to the airport in Xian. The exchange is better there and the bank would surely be open. Also, Global Volunteers assured us that we could easily get to our hotel from the airport with no problem by a cab ride.
Upon arriving in Xian, we learned that China was on a one week national holiday. All banks and government offices were closed. Needless to say, the exchange office at the airport was also closed. Now we were stranded with no Chinese money. We went directly to the tourist booth for some help. First, could they change currency for us? That can only be done at the currency exchange. How do we get a cab to our hotel in downtown Xian? There were cabs outside the airport but drivers did not speak English.
Meanwhile, a man speaking some English came up to us and offered a ride to our hotel—the Hyatt. At first we were wary but the agents at the booth did not deter us and actually just shrugged their shoulders. This man was very persistent. We decided to go with him. He asked us to follow him down the elevator to his car. We went down the elevator and emerged in the bowels of the building chasing after him, dragging our suitcases. After what seemed like blocks wending through the parking lot, we came to a ramp. In a few minutes, a car drove up. The driver got out to put our luggage in the trunk while we got into the back seat. Before we knew it, our English speaking escort disappeared and we were at the mercy of a cab driver who did not speak English. We had no idea whether he knew where we wanted to go or where he was really taking us. Thoughts of being kidnapped did cross our minds.
Traffic in Xian alone is another adventure as this driver plowed through the busy streets, barely missing the myriad of pedestrians who seem to just step off at any time. Finally we arrive at the Hyatt Hotel in Xian. We had no money to pay the driver. Fortunately the bell man at the hotel spoke English and was able to translate for us that we would go into the hotel to change some money to pay. Rich went inside while I stayed on the curb not wanting the driver to think we were going to skip paying him. The Bell man insisted I go into the hotel and he would wait for us.
It took a while to make the money exchange and figure out how much we owed the cab driver. When Rich went back out, the cab was gone. The bellman said he paid the cab to save the driver the wait and we could just reimburse him. The amount owed was exactly as expected.
Once we checked in, we learned the manager of the hotel was an American from Minnesota who spoke perfect English and Chinese. He welcomed us and we felt like we had a little piece of home after at twenty-three hour plane ride.
Later that night, I was reading the tour book more carefully and found a caution, against rides offered in the airport by anyone other than the official cab union with a marked car. Once again the Lord protection was on us.