| 絲綢之路的另類體驗----公路見聞 梁潔詩
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|Encounter of a special kind – our highway experience through the Silk Road trip
By Nancy Kit-Sze Tang (65)
In recent years we have made several trips to China. Last fall, we went for a 12-day excursion on the “silk
road”. The trip only covers a small portion of this famous journey made by the merchants, missionaries, and
explorers hundreds of years ago, however, the area we visited has become a very popular tourist route. I have
not kept a travel journal, but interesting and intriguing things did happen on our trip….
A New Age “STOP” Sign
Driving in North America (and many parts of the world) means observing the road signs which are mostly
pictorial for easy understanding. We came to many “STOP” sign along this route when rubbles and rocks of
various sizes were neatly lined across the highway. As the driver, you are forced to stop at these spots; you
have to use your wit as to where to go next because there is no ‘detour’ sign to guide you. No reasons were
ever posted for the detour but you have to get off the highway. You drive down to the unpaved gravel road that
goes alongside the highway. You travel on but you do not know when you can get back on the ‘built’ highway!
To solve this problem requires delicate skills, once when it happened, our driver only succeeded at the second
attempt to get back up on the highway after he stuffed some notes inside the guard’s hand.
Another time we were stopped by a row of rubbles when arriving at a new city. The high-rise hotel was already
in sight, but we just did not know how to get there as there were, as usual, not a single sign on detour route.
Our smart tour guide got on the phone and called a local taxi, for a few dollars, we were at our destination in
All Weather Highway Closure
We all have experienced highway closure one time or another; usually there are ample of advance warning
unless an accident happened and we cannot get off the highway in time. That was exactly what we thought
happened one fine early morning when we were rushing to another city and came to a complete halt as soon
as we got on the highway. We then learnt the toll booths were closed at mid-night because of the potential
danger of sand storm over the highway ahead. Apparently this happens quite often as in this part of China or
across the Gobi Dessert, sandstorms can be very severe and damaging. Unlucky for us, with no highway or
weather alert, we were stuck.
Fair (fare) Negotiation
We passed quite a number of toll booths and our driver was born and raised in this region. We were naturally
surprised each time when we came to one, our driver would negotiate the fare. He often grumbled and
expressed that they would get their way if his girlfriend was with him! Definitely we were wrong to think that
drivers from these areas have already gotten used to this system of ‘pay as you go’.
Another time at a pay booth we were right behind a transport truck full of produce. This ‘fare negotiation’ went
on for a very long time. Drivers in the line yelled and honked. Finally we were told to back up and go to another
booth. Then we saw a few of the guards chained the truck. Apparently the truck driver insisted that since he
paid the day before, he should not have to pay again that day!
A Guaranteed Successful Business
An interesting phenomenon: It usually happens when a tour bus comes to a public facility. There is someone
standing right by the door with some money, small changes, in his/her hand. With no questions asked, the
patrons would dutifully and religiously hand over the changes from their pocket before going in. It does not
matter even if the facility is filthy and dingy, with no running water and no toilet paper!
This trip has been a fascinating experience for me. I hope if you have a chance to go this way some time in the
future, you will share your experience with me too!