The Yin and Yang of Pedicab Drivers

One of the ‘Must Do’ tourist activities in Beijing is to take a pedicab tour in one of the hutong areas. There are hutongs found everywhere, even in the neighborhood around our hotel, Hotel Kapok.  The more touristy hutongs are found near the Drum and Bell Towers and Lake Houhai. We took the subway to Nanluoguxiang Street to find a pedicab. We walked past the first gauntlet of pedicab drivers calling out to us and strolled the very IMG_7240touristy Nanluoguxiang. Two or three blocks up a middle aged, portly pedicab driver called out to us. His pedicab actually did not have pedals, it was a nice, sturdy electric motor three wheeler. It was a sweet ride. We politely told him we needed two pedicabs. He smiled and we walked on. Half a block later, he showed up with a buddy who had a combo electric/pedal pedicab. The buddy was taller, leaner, older, and a smoker. He spoke English and began pitching us his deal. All the pedicab drivers have the same laminated card showing prices and places to visit. Gigi ignored the card and began her hard bargain of 40 yuan for a pedicab, which she had read was the price in TripAdvisor. It must have been a good starting position, because the man vigorously shook his head ‘no’ and stabbed at the card. He wanted 150 yuan, not sure if that was for the cab or per person. We countered for 40 yuan a person, which was 80 per driver. Happy cabbie started talking in Chinese with his buddy, and we could tell he wanted to agree. I IMG_7241liked this guy already. Grumpy cabbie looked very dejected and did not want to take the deal, but finally with hunched shoulders and downcast eyes he caved in. We hopped into the pedicabs, Gigi and Jordan with Happy and Justin and I with Grumpy. Grumpy shook off his bargaining defeat, took the lead and acted as tour guide since he spoke English. We saw the doorways and walls of the homes of many famous people: the wife of the last Chinese emperor Puyi anda residence of Chiang Kai Shek among them. Those were the only famous names we recognized out of the 6 or so hi-lighted on the tour. We all enjoyed the hour of wandering the neighborhood in the shaded leisure of a pedicab. When we got back to Nanluoguxiang Street our tour was over. We asked where the Drum and Bell Towers were located and Grumpy explained it was a five minute walk away. Happy started talking in Chinese again, and we could tell he was trying to convince Grumpy to take us there, but Grumpy was having none of it. We ended up walking. We tipped the guys an extra 20 yuan each to make the deal an even hundred. I wish only the happiest thoughts for Happy. I could have spent the whole day with him. With his black rimmed glasses, round hat, ready smile and belly, I kept envisioning Po from Kung Fu Panda whenever I looked at him.

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