Smelly Beijing Taxis

Damn. My arch-rival beat me to the punch on a post I’ve been meaning to blog about for a long time – four years, to be precise. This is an absolute must-read and something I suspect many of you can relate to.

If only computers could convey fragrances (something I hear is not that far off)…. Beijing taxi “fragrances” are unique, and I’m often surprised at just how bad a single car can smell. They’ve gotten a bit better; I remember the days in the freezing winter of 2002, when I would open the window a fraction and press my face up so I could catch some outside air, no matter how painful the cold. I never could define exactly what it was that smelled so bad – bad breath, body odor, some local air freshener I didn’t appreciate. But it was intense. And it’s still an issue. (Stale garlic seems to be a key ingredient, along with tobacco.)

Please don’t say this indicates any bias against China; it doesn’t. It’s the equivalent to commenting on Beijing traffic or weather – a fact of life. Check out the Imagethief post and see how much of this criticism comes from Chinese citizens.

While I never experienced such foul aromas in taxis anywhere else, I did have an occasional problem in Taipei, where many taxis seem to use a flowery air-freshener with a sickly sweet, suffocating stench. It wasn’t dirty or filthy smelling, just nauseating. I did the crack-the-window thing over there quite a bit. I would love to know the source for this stench so I can recommend banning it.

Meanwhile, I am still loving Beijing. It will take a lot more than a smelly taxi ride to turn me off from this incredible city.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

A while back, Kaiser wrote a bit of doggerel verse for his monthly column on the subject of Beijing cabbies. I contributed a couple of lines, though the good bits are all his. An excerpt (as near as I can remember it):

How I love the stinking rose: its odor permeates my clothes
And I eat it by the fistful with my
But it’s not a cause for levity — garlic helps extend longevity.
I read that in the
Daodejing by Laozi.

March 6, 2007 @ 1:43 am | Comment

only criticise to china. more racist talk.

March 6, 2007 @ 4:24 am | Comment

That’s a great one, Brendan. I see you, too, beat me to the party.

Yes, chinese, by saying many Beijing taxis smell bad – from an article about how Chinese people make the same complaint – it means I am a racist. Am I a racist too, if I say Beijing is the dirtiest city in the world? Because, in scientific terms, it is. Where’s the racism? Look through my posts and tell me where you see racism. I come up against lots of accusations, but almost never racism. I find racism one of the most repellent sicknesses a man can harbor. Thank God there’s no racism here in China, a veritable haven of multicultural, color-blind co-existence.

March 6, 2007 @ 10:09 am | Comment

Lol i think chinese is being funny.

March 6, 2007 @ 5:48 pm | Comment

I can get used to the garlic and tobacco smell, but i’d always resent the fact politely asking them to put out the fag or unwind the window was treated as a point of negotiation, not basic politeness. sadly, i often found turning into a ranting two year old was the only way to get them to do it. what i could never get used to was the way that cabbies would always take me on the scenic route and attempt to rob me blind, unless i specifically gave directions of how to get there. the phone would ring, or i’d start talking to my friends, i’d look up, where the @$%! are we?!?

March 6, 2007 @ 6:45 pm | Comment

sorry for the double post – but have you seen the follow up? sounds like the ccp wants to prevent the story of smelly taxis getting out of china!

have they nothing better to do?

March 6, 2007 @ 7:10 pm | Comment

The story’s out already. You can’t get the smell back into the bottle, or however that expression goes. I think everyone has his story of the rip-off taxi driver. My very first taxi ride in China in 2001 I got ripped off; only 20 rmb, but still…. (The driver simply sped off without giving me my change.)

March 6, 2007 @ 7:17 pm | Comment

Just want to be fair, smelly cabs are pretty much in every big cities. I have had pretty smelly cab experience in New York City. I take the Jiaozi or garlic smell anyday over BO.

Shanghai does have better cab drivers though.

March 6, 2007 @ 11:38 pm | Comment

Good point by Chubby.

IMHO Chinese taxis are no worse than NYC (or Atlanta, LA, DC, etc) cabs. I’d vote German taxis as being in general the best that I’ve used. And the NYC subways (with the exception of PATH) perhaps the dirtiest, hands down (unless they’ve improved considerably over the past ten years).

March 7, 2007 @ 8:09 am | Comment

When I went to Shanghai I couldn’t believe how nice and clean the taxi’s were. Then i went to Beijing and…..yech. What’s the deal? I noticed that most of the smells emanated from the drivers. Do they not have showers in Beijing?Newsflash CCP: Olympics in one year!Bathe.

March 8, 2007 @ 2:20 am | Comment

Not only did he beat you to the punch, but he catipulted it into an interview with the BBC!

March 9, 2007 @ 12:31 am | Comment

The first track of the NYC Subways was laid a bit over 100 years ago (when we Chinese were such a bunch of dumbf**ks back then). Of course the subways (especially the old sections) are dirty and smelly. But, to this day, it’s still the most efficient subway system in the world.

March 10, 2007 @ 11:56 am | Comment

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