Monday, April 5, 2010

First Impressions

We have finally arrived to Jiuzhaigou. For those of you who are unaware this is the final destination in our trip to the Great East. After acquiring suitable transportation, a 2003 Citroen, the wife and I drove the short 9 hour route to our new home. The car behaved beautifully and at some points we were unsure if it was actually using any gas. It seems as though when the tank is full the meter reads full as well for about 200 km. It then subsequently begins to fall slowly at first and then faster as it empties. Fortunately you can drive for quite a while with the fuel light on, not that I would condone that kind of behavior.
We purchased the car on Tuesday with the intention of leaving on Thursday or Friday for the park. Part of this story is recounted in another post so I will save a lot of the details of the day, save the stuff related to buying the actual car. First off we bought the car at a new and used car dealership, mostly new. Unlike car dealerships in the states there is a relatively low level of nagging by the salesman. They still follow you around mind you, but they are less inclined to point out that there are perfectly good new cars inside. I think this is because they expect me not to a) speak Chinese and b) not actually allowed to buy a car. In the case of a) I don't speak Chinese, but fortunately Amanda does. In the case of b) I am actually allowed to buy a car it's just a pain in the a$$.
We saw this cute little number first thing in the morning and after performing the most basic of tests for functionality, i.e. kicking the tire a couple of times something I learned from Todd Martin. Of course I've learned many other things from the "old man up the road" but those will need to go in the memoirs. The salesman told us the price and then said that it is a little negotiable. This is China isn't everything negotiable. Alas the car was really the best running and best looking car in our budget and we needed something reliable and that we can resell in a year even though it is French (read as Chinese made).
Le Car (Not to be mistaken for Le Poop)
Imagine this beautiful piece of machinery, only in white and you have our beautiful piece of the latest in 90's technology from France.
After settling on a price with the salesman I was finally allowed to test drive the car, this was of course after a lengthy discussion as to whether or not we could actually buy a car as foreigners and a trip to the traffic police to confirm that we could. I can report that the test drive was basically uneventful, except that I was driving a frigging car in China. This is an especially nerve racking thing the first time as there is no way to tell what people are thinking and sometimes what they are doing. Regardless we survived the test drive and went back to the dealership to finalize the transaction. While at the dealership we were informed that the car had a 1 month or 1000km warranty and that they would handle all of the registration fees. Basically it turned out that they were going to do everything for us which was great. They also informed us of the insurance obligations and that it was insured until June and the existing insurance policy would be carried over to us.
Registering a car in China should be on the list of a 1000 places to see before you die, it is certainly up there with having high tea at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. This is how the registration works: First you pull into part of the (traffic police Supermarket is what they called it) inspection building, whereby a couple of fellows in coveralls go to removing your license plates either by screw driver or in some extreme cases of laziness a metal grinder. After removing your license plates you are then required to park in another part of the building for inspection. This inspection is to prove that the vehicle that is being registered is not something other than is represented by paper. Apparently there are a lot of illegally assembled vehicles on the road in China as questions about them were prevalent in the Drivers License Exam booklet. While awaiting inspection the used license plates are put into a pile and you the car buyer can pick out your new license plate numbers, hint the number 4 is bad luck so try to avoid having it on your plates. After picking the license plate numbers and having the car inspected I was then told to drive out of the building on one end and then back into the building on the other, aka the entrance with the guys in coveralls. I thought that maybe they would be putting my license plates back on, but alas I was merely parking in another part of the building. We then set to waiting for the rest of the paperwork to go through and I guess allow them time to make the new license plates. I guess they don't make them in prisons like they do in the states. After about two hours in the Traffic Police Supermarket (TPS) we were free to go back to the dealership where they attached our new license plates.
After many congratulations all around about the purchase of the vehicle Amanda and I left the dealership in our new (to us) retro 90's styled 4 door hatchback.
Oh and apparently they hadn't actually given us the registration for the vehicle so we had to drive back on Thursday before we left for Jiuzhaigou to pick up the rest of the paper work. Basically as far as we can tell we were two foreigners driving around illegally for a couple of days. Who's gonna say anything?

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