When Ling Ji got off of work, she got into a taxi where I was sitting passenger.

“Want a pillow?” the driver, Dong Wei Min, said as Ling Ji sank into the back seat.

Ling Ji, struck by the car’s interior, smiled and began taking photos.

“It’s very special,” she said. “No one else would take the time to make it so nice.”

She is referring, of course, to Hangzhou’s own “Happy Taxi (开心出租车).”

hangzhou happy taxi

Dong Wei Min is the proud owner of Hangzhou's Happy Taxi

It is hard at first to decide what to notice when entering the Happy Taxi. Inside, Hangzhou native Dong Wei Min has a fan of West Lake tacked to his ceiling, a Rubix cube and a child’s hand-drum by the radio, fake grass attached to the floor. And oh yes, two fish in a tank built into the dashboard.

happy taxi interior

He's even added a new wind chime since we spoke

“This car is like my office,” Dong said. “Why not make it a fun place to be? It can make others happy, too, so it’s a worthwhile thing to do.”

His cab resembles not so much an office as a lounge. In his glove compartment alone, he has hand sanitizer, baby books, toys, games, English-language Hangzhou maps, and more. He has even added traditional Chinese elements to his windshield.

happy taxi traditional chinese frame

“Above all, I want to spread happiness,” he said. “In here, people can relieve work stress and any bad moods.”

Having been a taxi driver for many years, Dong has come to know what sorts of details are the most fun to have around. Many took Dong several months to acquire. Some are even hand-made pieces, such as the built-in lights for his fishtank, and a divider for the overhead light.

happy taxi fish tank

Yes, we said fish tank

“It really wasn’t that expensive,” Dong said. “In all, maybe 400 kuai, if even that. The point is, though, that something so small can make a big difference for someone.”

happy taxi drum

Inspired by this little difference made on the streets in Hangzhou, Dong has received both media attention and high Didi ratings. Of course, the Happy Taxi driver is content to make others smile.

happy taxi towers

Wei Min has even included his own miniature "tourist attractions" in the taxi

“Sitting in this car, you can be happy.,” he said. “Maybe it can salvage a bad day. Who knows? Maybe it can save a life.”

Now that you know about the Happy Taxi, stay on the lookout - You might be lucky enough to ride in it someday

Categories: Hangzhou Snapshot, Life, Stories

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