I was in Guangzhou last weekend and had the opportunity to take taxi with a relative who is a Guangzhou native. He told me a secret about Guangzhou: “We Guangzhou people only take yellow taxi. They are Guangzhou people’s taxi.” According to him, the yellow taxi company recruits only locals as taxi drivers, not those unable to speak Cantonese from other provinces. True to his words, we went on a yellow taxi whose driver started to reminisce about the past in Cantonese upon hearing that we were heading to Pan Xi Restaurant (畔溪酒家),a restaurant founded in 1947 and known for its garden setting.
The taxi driver said: “The old tea houses had a distinct flavor, which is long gone. Remember these old restaurants used to have netted windows? The owners would put up the nets over the windows so that the customers would not fly the plates out through the windows. For the bills were decided by the number of plates left on the tables. Flying plates was commonplace then.
“In days of yore, the steamed beef cubes were small as they were never re-heated. Nowadays, the steamed beef cubes are big, as they are heated again and again. The good taste is gone.”
I understand from the conversation why the Guangzhou people trust yellow taxi.
There are seven taxi colors in Guangzhou, representing different taxi operators. The taxi fare is the same despite the myriad of colors.
China has, at 8,358 kilometres, the longest high-speed rail network in the world. In December 2010, the Guangzhou-Zhuhai express rail commenced trail operation, with the travel time between the two cities reduced to 30 minutes. And the high-profile Shanghai-Beijing express rail is scheduled for operation in June.
Yet, ordinary Chinese people will have to face tougher uphill battles in the coming Chinese New Year in order to get a train ticket to return home for festive celebration. Reason? As China develops express rail links, the regular train services have been cut and for those that can only afford regular train price, especially the migrant workers and the students, they are destined harder to get a train ticket.
How expensive are the tickets for the high speed train? Take the Guangzhou-Wuhan high-speed trains. A second-class ticket costs RMB490. And how much does, say a migrant worker earn? Here are some pointers. The minimum wage in Shenzhen is RMB1,100; and starting March this year, the minimum wage in Guangzhou will be raised to RMB1,300, topping the whole country. In the second-tier and third-tier cities, the minimum wage are significantly lower.
High-speed trains are a symbol of China’s technology advancement and economic might. But the fact is, they are also a symbol of benefiting the rich, leaving those ordinary and poor even more behind.
I was crossing the border to Shenzhen from Hong Kong at Huanggang the other day, and was standing behind the customs area, waiting for friends. A foreigner was walking through the customs carrying with him a box, the package of which suggests that it contained an ipad. He was stopped by the customs officers and it was obvious that he ran into trouble by carrying the gadget with him. He seemed to be arguing with the officers and gradually lost temper. No doubt he was requested to give tax on his ipad.
I later read reports that people carrying iphones 4 or ipads into China will be taxed RMB 1,000 (value estimated to be RMB 5,000 so 20% tax is RMB 1,000 ). Any items, valued over RMB 5,000, even if they are for self-use, have to be taxed, according to the reports. If you don’t want to be taxed, you can place the items with the customs and take them back when you leave China. But then you may need to pay a custody fee as well.
The latest news is that Chinese Customs has publicly defened its practice, saying that a tax of RMB 1000 on ipads is justified, which is in accordance with WTO rules and international practice. So be prepared to be taxed if you an ipad or a new iphone into China.
If you want to buy air tickets for the Greater China region, check out this website
www.travelzen.com. It claims to be China’s only web-based online travel agency. You can book flights departing from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, with instant booking and confirmation. This looks like a real convenience for travelers to China. Currently, China’s other major travel sites like www.elong.com are not able to provide instant web-based booking and confirmation.
I’ve tried the interface of Travelzen website and I like it so far.
According to its website, the “Travelzen Group Limited is a joint venture between Shanghai Ever Bright Town International Travel Agency Limited (SEBTI), China’s largest private air ticketing wholesaler and a reputable international private equity group”.