For sure the highlight of my trip in China was not the new ultra modern / space aged buildings in Shanghai, not the Terra-Cotta Warriors in Xian, and not the Panda Tour in Chengdu. If you even go back to my trip to Beijing last year I can't even say it was the Forbidden City or the Summer Palaces (old and new) or even the Great Wall of China. Nope, the highlight of all of China for me was my crazy taxi ride to the airport in Xian to catch a flight to Chengdu.
My hostel had incorrectly informed us that we did not need to leave until 4:00 PM to catch our 5:40 PM flight. Of course at around 3:50 they informed us that we should leave right away. Around 4 PM taxi drivers change their shift and it would be difficult to wave one down. Wonderful.
So we rushed out and tried to flag down a few taxis. Sure enough, we were told that they would not go to the airport because they were changing shifts and the airport was too far away. Finally one driver took pity on us and said he would try to get us to an unofficial taxi driver (the ones that rip you off) because those were the only ones working. The unofficial taxi driver wanted to charge us 200 RMB, much too high. Even our current driver said that's too much. So instead he drove us to the area where he changed drivers. That driver agreed to speed us to the airport but for 120 RMB. Time was running short and we were desperate so we agreed.
The new driver said no problem he would get us there before 5:40. He then proceeded to nearly kill us multiple times with his driving. If you've ever played the videogame Crazy Taxi and wondered where they got their inspiration from I can answer it for you. They got it from China. The people here already drive like they walk: every man for himself. Rules and regulations are not followed and the streets and even highways essentially resemble chaos.
Our driver managed to go above and beyond the normal chaos of the streets. He drove on the wrong side of the road multiple times to pass up slower vehicles while obnoxiously honking at oncoming vehicles so they would not crash into us head on. The car's engine actually stopped when he came to complete stops a few times. This became very dangerous when we had to start going again. The drivers behind us nearly rear ended us at this point.
The best part though was while on the highway we came to a fork. He was not sure which ramp to take, despite the sign saying to take the ramp on the right – taxi drivers generally do not have 20/20 vision and do not wear glasses. So instead he started honking wildly at the large garbage truck next to us because it prevented him from switching lanes. Essentially he wanted to be able to drive in two lanes so he could select which fork to take at the last minute. Well the truck did not move for us and he just sped off on the wrong fork. After going for about a minute he realized we were on the wrong ramp. Well what to do in this situation? Well obviously you stop the taxi on the freeway, put it in reverse, and start backtracking to the other ramp while other cars are driving towards you at highway speeds. Like I said, obviously. So we managed to make it back to the ramp in one piece some how and he got us to the airport at 5:30. 10 minutes left... we dashed in the airport and got in the line for security checks only to be turned away because we had been dropped off at the wrong terminal.
Well long story short we missed our flight, drat. What's done is done, so we walked to the proper terminal, and got the next flight out to Chengdu and rested in our 4 star hotel, Green Land. That part went smoothly.