When in Rome (or Beijing), do as the locals do.
I saw very few motorized tuk tuks when we lived in Beijing seven years ago. Now, though, I see them everywhere around our little rural hamlet. Locals and expats alike motor around at moderate speeds, from place to place, taking care of business. At first, I didn’t see the value in owning one, but it didn’t me take long to realize that a tuk tuk would open up a new world around town for me and give Horatio more frequent access to our car, once we have access to it. I borrowed one from a friend for a week or so, and quickly learned to love it.
So, yesterday, less than 6 weeks after our arrival, my friend took me out, and off the beaten path, to purchase my own sweet ride. We went to an area less frequented by foreigners in order to ensure a more authentic experience (read: better price). Of course, looking the way we do, we don’t expect to be treated like locals, but we can try.
This shop is less than 10 minutes, by car, 20 by tuk tuk, from our house. They sell everything from fancy tuk tuks to bare bones bicycles.
I immediately spotted the vehicle I wanted, but was careful to not appear too eager. I needed a tuk tuk that could fit the maximum number of passengers, which meant finding one with a driver’s seat and two facing back seats. Each seat can hold two people, so theoretically, our whole family could venture out and about in it. That scenario is highly unlikely, though, with two teens and a tween among us.
I walked through the store and then, in Mandarin, asked the cost of the vehicle I was eyeing. The shop manager told me it was 3,200 rmb (about $480 USD). I hemmed and hawed and said it was too expensive, and walked around a little longer. I asked if they had any used vehicles; they didn’t. I inevitably returned to the tuk tuk of my desire and asked for a lower price. Having done my research, I figured I’d probably end up spending 3,000 rmb, but knew I had to start lower in order to get to that price. I asked if I could pay 2,800 rmb. He countered with 3,100. I went up to 2,900 and he went down to 3,000. A fair price; in cash, of course. The highest currency used in China is 100 rmb bills, so I handed over a stack of 30.
Before I knew it, the manager and another worker were installing a battery, pumping up the tires, cleaning it up and testing it for me. For the price, I also got a floor mat, lock, charger, motor bike poncho and pump.
Soon, I sped off, following my friend toward home. The whole process took about an hour, door to door.
Dwight, Bob and Harold were extremely happy to take our sweet new ride to the bus this morning. It’s only a bit more than 1/2 mile from our house, but it’s nice to have a bit more quiet time at home before school. It would have been nice to have had the vehicle on Tuesday, when I had to take Dwight to the doctor, about a mile away, to tend to his broken finger (rugby), but better late than never.
We are free to roam now, and wouldn’t you know it? The government released our car to us today! Sweet Freedom.