Gift-givingTraffic

Beijing's notorious traffic seems to have been particularly bad over the past few days.  On Thursday and Friday of last week, it was nearly impossible to catch a taxi, so much so that I had to get on a bus four times (I'm generally not a fan of crowded buses).

The times I did manage to get a cab I chatted with the driver about what was going on — was it my imagination or had traffic suddenly gotten a whole lot worse?  In every instance they were also complaining about how how bad things were, and they know since they're out in in all day. 

When I pressed as to the yuanyin (reason), they were all saying song li — gift-giving.  The Mid-Autumn Festival is this week and in the run-up, people are out visiting friends and delivering moon cakes.  

And just to confirm that wasn't all a figment of our imagination, this headline popped up:  Record 140 traffic jams hit Beijing in a single evening:

A record 140 traffic jams were observed on Friday evening in the
Chinese capital, state media reported, as the number of vehicles on
Beijing's streets exceeded 4.5 million. Friday night's record snarls in a city already notorious for bottlenecks
were worsened by rain and the approach of two national holidays,
state-run CCTV reported. Chinese regularly travel to visit friends and family ahead of the
Mid-Autumn Festival on September 22 and National Day on 1 October. The previous record for simultaneous traffic jams was over 90, recorded
early this year amid heavy snow, the daily Beijing News reported.One driver, named only as Li, told the newspaper he had taken half an
hour to pass through a single set of traffic lights, which would
normally take three minutes. The number of registered vehicles in Beijing has exceeded 4.5 million,
local media reported — up from four million at the end of 2009, with
the figure expected to reach five million by early 2011.

To tell you the truth, I don't think that there were 140 traffic jams on Friday night.  There was just ONE — that covered the entire city.