Monday, December 08, 2008

Motoche

Although there are a few buses and taxis in Taishan, the most common form of "mass transit" in this small town is the motoche. Everywhere you go, from the bus station to busy street corners in the shopping district, you'll see middle-aged men idling on motorbikes. Are they bored? Are they fascinated by all of the passing traffic?

No and no. For a few kuai, you can hire these guys to take you wherever you want to go (we have pretty much walked from one end of Taishan to the other). You just jump onto the seat behind the shifu. Then you put on the second helmet he keeps on hand. (Notice I didn't say "strap" on. Although everyone in Taishan wears helmets, almost no one actually buckles them under their chins.) As Desi put it, it is the "used" helmet aspect of motoche that makes the whole thing a non-starter for her. Let's put it this way...We've never seen a driver disinfecting his helmet between customers.

Actually, there is one group of Taishan residents who you never see wearing helmets...children. It is a common sight to see little ones standing in front of, or sitting behind, their driving parent. As you watch these bikes whiz by, you can't help but wonder (if you're me, anyway) what combination of law, enforcement, economics, and culture has produced this combination of professional shifu, rotating helmets, and children with their black hair blowing in the wind.

~Steve

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