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The Great Chinese Traffic Jam of 2010 Is Over

Apparently China's 10-day, 62-mile-long traffic jam between Beijing and Inner Mongolia is over. The heavily trafficked highway grew even more crowded than normal starting on August 14 because of several major road construction projects. Then, at a certain point, everything came to a complete halt. Drivers?including hundreds of coal-carrying commercial truckers—lounged around the side of the road, killing time and looking for bathrooms. Locals seized upon the opportunity to sell food and water to the stranded travelers at 10 times the normal price. (Who says capitalism can't succeed in China!) Raw video from the Associated Press (above) shows the scene just before the jam freed up today.

Take note, travelers: Sometimes it just doesn't pay to cheap out and take the free road. By all accounts the toll road that parallels the stalled highway was moving along rather nicely all week. This can be helpful advice to remember whether you're driving near Beijing during the Mongolian coal harvest or tooling through France at the end of August when everyone returns to work from vacation.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed an expert who said the Chinese situation was "a perfect storm, traffic-wise," because of the construction projects and the booming economic activity in the region. But that doesn?t answer a question I have. What's the deal with the motorcyclists parked by the side of the road in the video? Don't they know that they can drive between and around the stalled cars and trucks? I've been to Beijing, and this is the first time I've ever seen motorcyclists there purposely obey the traffic laws.

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Smart Traveler Mark Orwoll is the International Editor of Travel + Leisure.

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