If you only have 1RMB on you, what should you spend it on?

I’d suggest a bus ride. Taking the bus in Beijing is always fun: you never know who you’re going to meet, what mood they’re going to be in and if you want to get up close and personal with real Beijingers, rush hour on a bus is really your best bet.

They’re quite communal spaces. In torrential rain, the bus driver will often pick on a passenger to come up front and wipe down the inside of windscreen with a rag (‘Left a bit! Down a bit! No! This way, not that way! More, more!’) so that he can see where he’s going. I like it when my bus drivers can see where they’re going.


I’ve had a singing bus driver who was belting out folk songs a cappella late one evening. Another time I went all the way to the bus depot with a driver before we both realised I hadn’t got off at the last stop.

Agitated bus drivers are the best. As I get on at the first stop on the bus route, if the driver is already psyched up before they’ve hit morning rush hour, I know I’m in for a fun ride. Today’s driver was my favourite so far. As soon as we pulled out onto a main road, he started muttering darkly and bouncing around in his seat at red lights, smacking the steering wheel for emphasis. I felt a storm brewing. When a car pulled out in front halfway through a crossroads (standard procedure in Beijing) he really lost it and pulled out a tannoy which he used to address the driver in front.

The only part I understood was ‘stupid c*nt!’ (傻逼 ShǎBī for those of you working on your Mandarin), the rest was lost to me a sea of Beijing dialect’s rolling r’s.

In all, it sounded a bit like: SHABI!! arrrrarrarrrrSHAAABIarararaaaarrrrSHABI’

I’m not sure how much of the noise actually reached the driver in front and how much just echoed around the bus full of grandparents taking their grandchildren to school. No one else seemed particularly interested in the driver’s monologue but either way, the traffic moved and it brightened up my day. Maybe Transport for London should consider tannoys.


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