Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mandarin Mondays:交通

One thing that is markedly different about living in a big city in China, instead of the suburbs or countryside of America, is transportation (jiāo tōng, 交通) around town. Kunming is relatively modern and packed with cars (chē, 车). Some foreigners even drive here, although it takes a bit of effort to get a driver's license here and a bit of an expense to purchase a vehicle. However, if you are spending most of your time within the city, you don't really "need" a car unless you just love to drive.

The option we use the most for traveling in the city is public buses (gōng jiāo chē, 公交车), which will take you all over the city for a very reasonable price. Once you learn the bus routes, it feels very comfortable to just hop on a bus and ride to your destination. My husband has even used Google maps to figure out bus routes to and from destinations. If we are going somewhere new, we can figure out ahead of time what number bus to catch, if we need to change buses, and the names of the stops we want to get off at.

Some other foreigners use small motorcycles (diàn dòng chē, 电动车). Motorcycles will probably get you to your destination as fast or faster than any car, but they're not our preferred method of transportation. Regular pedal bicycles (zì xíng chē, 自行车) are more popular and perhaps the most popular method among foreigners. They can get you to your destination on our own schedule quite quickly and have very little fees, other than an occasional very small parking fee.

I think the last option for getting around town is the simplest, although it will take you longer, and that is simply walking (zǒu, ). We often do this to places nearby, and usually push our little boys in the stroller or use baby carriers to carry them on our backs. This is a great option for things that are close to you. It has all of the benefits of a bicycle, and you don’t have to lock your bike. It will take you longer and you'll be more tired, and obviously it is not a good option for getting all the way across the city, but for a quick run to the store, we like this option best. Walmart, fruit and vegetables markets, and a lot of restaurants are all within easy walking distance from our house.

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