Having recently returned from a business trip to China, I discovered that the Hotel Concierge is far more than just a rolodex of restaurant recommendations. He or she is also a godsend when it comes to communicating with the local service industries.
As an Englishman in Shanghai, I did not know a word of mandarin, besides the obligatory 'hello', 'please' and thank you', staples of all good business travel language.
The one thing I soon learned on arrival in this bustling city was the fact that taxi drivers don't understand our guide books, even if you point to a location on a map. Unless the place of interest or business is written in mandarin and Chinese lettering, they are likely to look at you blankly, and at worse, shout and tell you in no uncertain terms to get out of their cab!
If you are travelling in China or the Orient and you need to get about, ask your concierge.
Show them where you need to go and they will write down your destination in Chinese lettering, for you to hand to the taxi driver, instead of trying to thrust a guide book under the driver's nose and hope that he takes kindly to your direction.
Hand the piece of paper to the driver and be sure to take it back, in case you need to use it again.
Asking your concierge for a little written help will do wonders for your stress levels and the uncertainty of whether or not you will arrive at the destination you had asked for.
Of course, you could be unlucky, like me, to choose a destination across town that requires fighting the traffic, in which case no amount of written help will please the driver, as he unceremoniously dumps you back on the pavement to hail another taxi!
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