Monthly Archives: January 2007

Best Buy Opens Store in Xujiahui

Best Buy opens a store in Xujiahui, many weeks ago. After had three long meetings in three different locations for the whole day, I finally get back to Xujiahui, and visited the store – since there is no taxi in rush hour, why not take a look. I am very curious about how much market share Best Buy can take in the $100 billion market (according to Best Buy)

It seems to me it is the electronic appliance version of IKEA. I mean the color and environment.

Will Best Buy Fail, or Succeed

IKEA is an example of huge success in China. Wal-Mart is not yet, and many other U.S. players, especially in Internet segment are not.

In price-sensitive market like China, whether the service advantage over-comes price disadvantage (if it is its disadvantage) is the key question.

Four Seasons Hotel

I visited Four Seasons Hotels to meet someone I have known by name for long time. It is the second time I actually visit the hotel. As a local residence, who can I complain for not saying in any of the good hotels in Shanghai?

Till now, I still connect relate the Four Season Hotel with the luxury hotel chain I read in newspaper and investment newsletter. To be more direct, I don’t think it looks to be a good hotel. (BTW, the other hotel that gave me the same feeling is the Le Meridien in People’s Square)

Pictures of the Four Seasons Hotel

Here are some pictures I took today outside the hotel, then I tell you why I don’t think it does not match the luxurious hotel standard.

Image in courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels

Location? Not good

The hotel is not in a good location. As you can see from Google Map, it is not in business district, and not in commercial center. It is just in the middle of a residential area. Maybe it is the modest tradition after the first Four Seasons opened in Toronto in 1961.

Too Many People Smoking

The lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel is the first five star hotel with so many people smoking. There are one table (4 persons) who all smoke right of my table, and one person smoke on the left. There were no table free of smoke…. I don’t like smoke. The waitress apologized for the unavailability of a non-smoking area.

A Late Player?

Maybe because it is a late player in the hotel industry in Shanghai. I still remember when Ritz Carlton was just a so-so brand, before people realize its service quality (or before its service quality really reach its standard). It takes time.

Also, the hotel areas like where the Hilton/Regal, Ritz Carlton, and the Hyatt are, were relatively remote and after 10 years, they became the commercial or business center. I guess it is also so for late hotels like Four Seasons.

Google Satellite Map

So Many Red Lights!

I took this picture today at the intersection of Yan-An Road, and the Huashan Road.

Photography by Jian Shuo Wang

Photography by Jian Shuo Wang

If you count carefully enough, you will see 14 red lights in the picture. There are 7 lanes for single direction. Isn’t look funny?

Here are the Google Map of the area.

A Stolen Bicycle

Look at this stolen bicycle!

© Jian Shuo Wang

I took this picture at Xiang Yang North Road (襄阳北路) this afternoon. When I was parking there, I noticed this bicycle wheel.

It is seems the person have locked his bicycle on the pole, hoping that no one can take his bike, but some one may have taken away the rest of the bike. It is so funny.

Stolen Bike

This scene is funny, but losing bike is not. Stolen bike is a big problem in Shanghai and all around China.

I even cannot imagine anyone who hadn’t lost a bike. I lost many. Jia lost his bike few days ago.

Anyone who lived in Shanghai but never lost a bike (If you had one)? Please let me know.

PVG: From PVG to Ningbo

We get in to PVG at 3:25 pm and need to get to Ningbo. Can we take the bus directly from Pudong Airport to Ningbo? I have seen answers on the blog that say yes and others that say go to town and get bus or train. The train schedule does not look good if I am reading it right. (No train until 19:15) If there is a direct bus, does one leave around 4:30 or 5:00pm?

Is a bus from PVG to the bus station in Shanghai to get a bus to Ningbo a better idea, i.e. faster or cheaper?

There is direct bus from Pudong Airport to Ningbo. You have transit to train or long distance bus.

The best way is like this:

Pudong Airport to Ning Bo via Shanghai Railway Station

1. Take Airport Bus #5 to Shanghai Railway Station.

2. Buy train ticket from Shanghai to Ningbo.

Here is the train schedule:

Train #

Shanghai ->

Ningbo

Duration

Distance (km)

N537/N540   0517

1050<

5:50

372

T741 >0630

1000<

4:00

372

5081   0848

1419<

6:19

372

T739   1104

1508<

4:08

372

T745 >1440

1831<

4:31

372

N507 >2218

0321<

5:21

372

There are also lots of bus at the Train station to Ningbo.

Hope this helps.

My Drawings in Hong Kong

Alan de Botton suggested people to draw picture when they travel. Drawing picture helps people to focus on beauty and learn why it is so, and discover the unique beauty in the scene, then, try to explain it with drawing.

In the character named “Procession of Beauty”, he quoted Ruskin’s saying:

“I believe that the sight is a more important thing than the drawing ; and I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love nature, than teach the looking at nature that they may learn to draw.”

So, encouraged by Ruskin, and Alan, I started to draw with a hard-to-use ball pen on the back of the hotel notice. Here are two.

The United Center

Above is the view I see when I was waiting for check-out. I sat there, and spent about 10 minutes or more to draw this one.

Here is the photo from the same view:

Gate 15 of Hong Kong Airport

When I was waiting at Gate 15 of the Hong Kong Airport for my China Eastern Airlines flight, I took another hotel notice, and draw what I saw on the back. Due to time limitation, I didn’t draw the roof well, and the relative size of the ticket counter on the left is also wrong. Anyway, this is what I got:

Here is photo from the same view:

The Difference between Drawing and Camera

There is no way anyone can draw a picture as complete as a photo, or even more impossible to be exactly the same as the nature of itself. But as suggested in the Art of Travel, nothing (either camera or simply be there) can substitute the process of observing. Only after observing the nature for long enough, careful enough, and pro-active enough can someone really keeps the nature in his/her own mind.

Personally, the difference between draw a picture of a place and taking a photo is that, if I draw a picture, I can draw pretty much the same one later without looking at the picture or the scene itself (it is in my memory); while if I take a photo, there is no way that I can draw it out. It is just in the photo, not my heart.

I also encourage people to draw. Well. I don’t feel too embarrassed when people see how bad my drawing is. It is just a way to reach better observation of the scene.

P.S. Below are the bigger versions of the same two drawings.

My Experience with Hong Kong

How many times I have been to Hong Kong?

The first time, I get here with Wendy, and Eric, and stayed at Minji’s place (the Sea Ranch on an island).

The second time was a pretty short one, on March 10, 2005. I couldn’t find an entry about the trip in my blog. Anyway, it was a really short one. I fly in in the morning, get to Upstream Asia’s office at noon, started the conversation in the afternoon, and get back at 6:00 PM. One day trip to Hong Kong. It was during that trip I learnt Cantonese: 百花街 (Crookedest Street). In Mandarin, it is Bai Hua Jie, but in Cantonese, it is pronounced as Bai Fa Gai…

The third time was today in 2006. I started in Shangri-la in Pacific Center – nice real estate project

This is maybe the forth time, and I stayed in the same area, just opposite to the Shangri-La hotel – JW Marriott. It is a very nice hotel, especially to have a harbor view. I was not able to take pictures at night when all the lights went off, but I will definitely take some shots tomorrow.

Hong Kong

I have never see a place where high-raise buildings are so close and concentrated like Hong Kong. Even New York don’t give people the energy like Hong Kong.

Taxis in Hong Kong is more aggressive in starting and stopping, but due to relatively better traffic rules (I mean relatively), it is running pretty smooth.

Miracle

Hong Kong is a miracle. Miracle, Energetic are the keywords I describe Hong Kong. I like here.

Visa? I hate Visa

What makes me feel bad is, I still need something like Visa to visit Hong Kong. Visa application time is so long – 7 days – which is even longer than U.S. visa, and India… Also, most people don’t need a visa to Hong Kong, but I do. :-(

Habibi

We had Egypt food in Habibi (Sounds like Kijiji). The food and music attracted me to pay a visit to Egypt.

P.S. Tired today. Let me go to bed now, and maybe watch the harbor view tomorrow morning, taking some pictures, and post it on this blog tomorrow.

P.S.2 Wendy went to see Swan Lake today.

Living Cost in Shanghai – Service Fee

The third article to answer SSC’s question:

What about service fees, like cleaning, electricity installation, etc.?

If you want to live in a low cost life, and a local life, chances are, you don’t need any service. You clean the house by yourself, and install electric applicants by yourself, and change bubble by yourself.

If you do need service, check it here.

Service

I once wrote an article named Life in a low cost labor world.

It described how to hire someone to work at home. Later, to further clarify the reason I encourage people to hire instead of do by himself, I wrote Helping by Hiring. Hope you read two articles together.

In Shanghai, the general practice is to hire an Ayi (which literally means Aunt in Chinese), or nanny to help you on cooking, cleaning, baby sitting, or other household works.

Price for work per hour is typically 7 RMB. Some areas, like Xujiahui charges 10 RMB. There is a significant difference in hourly pay between Shanghai Ayi, and other places Ayi. Shanghai Ayi asks for 12 RMB per hour in places where others asks for 7. I believe this is clearly discrimination, but to describe the fact, let me just put it as it is.

Installation

There are not too much installation service, since the market is not big enough. I don’t know the price, but you can refer to the average 10 RMB per hour price, and double it (because it requires some technique).

HairDresser

To have you hair cut, it is typically 20 RMB in many chain beauty salons, like Young, or Wenfeng… If you buy their pre-deposited card, it is 10 RMB per hair cut, pretty amazing, since they also have hair wash, shoulder massage (like 20 minutes?) service.

Foot Massage

I hesitate a little bit whether I should include this service as “living cost” in Shanghai, because it is really an add-on instead of necessary services. Anyway, just give you some sense about the world where labor cost is not as costly as industrial product.

Typical foot massage costs 50-60 RMB for one hour. Cheap street shop is as low as 20 – 30 RMB per hour, and better one is 100 RMB.

I met many friends in California who have been to Shanghai. To my surprise, their favorite was food massage (and Xiaolongbao). Some added Xiangyang Road.

Added Today in History

Today, I added a new plugin – OnThisDay

The difference is, you will see the “Today in History” section.

This is the MT code in my Individual Archive Template. In case you are also a MovableType blog owner, you may find it interesting.

<div class=”comments-head”>Today in History</div>

<ul>

<MTOnThisDay>

<MTEntries>

<li><$MTEntryDate format=”%b %e, %Y”$>: <a href=”<$MTEntryPermalink$>”><$MTEntryTitle$></a><br>

<small style=”text-decoration:none”><$MTEntryExcerpt$>

</small></li>

</MTEntries>

</MTOnThisDay>

</ul>

This is useful to me to remind me what I did in the last year, the year before last year, and even the two years ago.

For example, I found the entry Second Day in Hong Kong in Jan. How interesting! I am going to Hong Kong tommorrow. Without this feature, I won’t remember that I was also in Hong Kong the same day last year.

Enjoy it and give me some feedback about this feature.

Living Cost in Shanghai – Driving

Continue to answer SSC’s list of question:

– What about driving costs, like registration, oil, parking, tolls, fines, etc.?

I have a car category in my blog. You can see many article related to having a car.

There are several part of cost related to a car.

Buying a Car Itself

Not surprisingly, buying a car costs a lot. Cars in China is more expensive than in U.S.

Cars under 100,000 RMB are classified as cheap cars, like FIAT, Buick SAIL, VW Polo, VW Gol, Golf…

Cars between 100,000 – 200,000 RMB are referred to as middle-class cars, like Honda Fit Salon, Toyota, Volkswagen Bora, Satana…

Above 200,000 RMB are expensive cars, like Volkswagen PASSAT, Audi, BMW, Benz…

Of cause if you count the luxurious cars, there is no limitation.

Registration Fee

This is the license fee. In Shanghai, license fee is very expensive. Since its price is settled in a bidding process, it varies from 20,000 RMB to recent 40,000 RMB.

People workaround this buy getting licenses outside Shanghai.

Annual Fee

Every year, you need to pay the annual fee, and the so-called “Road Maintenance Fee”. It is around 1400 RMB (again, I have no idea about the real price.

Gas

It is 4.90 RMB per liter today. Two year ago, it was 3.2 RMB per litter.

Parking

In Shanghai, most of places (90% places I go) charges 10 RMB per hour for parking. Underground parking is more likely to charge according this price.

Some places charges lower, like 5 RMB, or 20 RMB per day, 50 RMB per day, depending on how many customer they have.

Fine

Typical fine is 200 RMB, for example, if you park at the wrong place.

Car Insurance

Depending on how expensive is you car, you need to pay for the insurance. It is mandatory. It is like 2000 RMB for a car of 100,000 RMB per year.

P.S. Correct me on any numbers I gave for sake of readers’ benefit. I am not sensitive to money, and I cannot remember the price clearly.

Living Cost in Shanghai – Medicine

SSC asked more about the living cost. Let me try to answer these “new” questions.

– What about medical expenses, like insurance, hospital visit, drug prices, and even “red packets”?

For medical expenses, it is really hard to give a guideline. It depends on what kind of illness you got. Also, for the insurance, it depends on how much you want to cover… Let me just give some examples, so people have a sense.

A typical hospital visit costs at least 100 RMB. If you just feel not good and want to go to see a doctor, no matter you just feel a little bit fever, or your teeth feel pain, or stomach does not feel good, you need to prepare some money. It works this way:

1. You need to pay the Registry Fee (挂号费). I don’t know how I should translate this into English. It is the fee you have to pay first at the counter to get a ticket. Without the ticket, no doctor will talk with you. Sometimes I just pay the 8 RMB (sometimes 13 RMB) to say hi to a doctor. :-) Just kidding.

2. The Laboratory Test Fee. Recently, doctors in most hotel I go to ask me to do the laboratory test before they give me any suggestion. Blood test and other test is typically 100 – 200 RMB.

3. Medicine Fee. Since recent hospital reform have put the revenue of medicine sell into the hospital’s P&L, and some even connect the doctor’s revenue of sales of medicine with the doctor’s bonus, most doctors are willing to give you more medicine than you actually need. I am often confused about the different types of medicine they gave me. Last time, I got a little bit fever, they give me several boxes of expensive medicines, and many others. I believe although the doctor was hurry to sell more medicine, he still care my health a little bit, so he told me: just eat this (the cheapest one). If you feel good, ignore the rest. If you don’t feel good, then you can try others. It seems he gave me enough backup drug that I even don’t need to take.

Well. For this part, it costs 100 – 200 RMB.

I don’t have any experience to end up within 100 RMB for whatever ill I got in the last three years. Most of the time, if I don’t go to hospital, two tablet of normal fever medicine works great for me.

OK. This is about the medicine and hospital part. As you can see, I am not a professional and I don’t have the ability to tell exactly whether it is the right medicine or not. I just feel I am over charged every time. Medicine is such a special good, that people seldom negotiate with doctors. The root cause is, the sale of medicine now happens in a hospital, instead of in drug store.

Insurance

Most citizens in Shanghai enjoy basic medical insurance. I didn’t really argue with the doctors because although it was expensive, it came directly from my medical insurance account, and I don’t have to pay.

Employees pays a certain amount of social medical insurance from their salary at certain percent, and the employer pays the other part (majority). If I remember it correctly, employers pay 8% of the monthly salary and employee pays 2% of salary. After that, basic medical care is covered.

Besides social medical insurance, you can also buy commercial medical insurance. This really depends how much you want to cover, and it varies greatly from company to company, from contract to contract, and even varies for different age.

Just an example, I know a major disease medical insurance costs 2000 – 3000 RMB per year…

Red Bag

I don’t know exactly the situation of red bag, since I never encountered any serious health problem that requires a red bag. I heard it is not as popular as before. Many hospital hang big banner to claim they don’t tolerate receiving red bag for their doctors. I don’t know the real situation now.

How Expensive It is?

For most people with a job in Shanghai, it is OK to be sick, since the medical insurance covers most of normal disease. However, if there is serious disease (those may cause death), you have to use commerical insurance to cover.

Many people who don’t have that kind of insurance face serious challenge, and to raise money from family and friends, or people in the same company is typical solution.

For foreigners, or expats in Shanghai, i don’t know exactly that the sitution is. If someone has any experience, please feel free to share.

Living Cost in Shanghai (2007 Edition)

This is the third report on living cost in Shanghai, following the previous two (I, II). The data is updated according my personal experience in Jan 2007. The data is pretty like the city in my eyes. Please be aware, different people may have different impression of the same good (depending on when to buy it and where to buy it). It is intended to give overall guideline to living cost in Shanghai.

Please note: 1 USD = 7.75 RMB as this article is written.

Transportation

This is easiest one.

Bus:

most buses is one price for all route: 2 RMB. Some specially and urban buses are higher (4 RMB) and some non-air-conditioned bus are 1 RMB, but pretty rare now.

Metro:

Lowest price (one stop) is 3 RMB, and the longest stations are 6 RMB. Typically transportation via Metro is 4 RMB.

Taxi:

11 RMB for the first 3 km, and 2.1 RMB for each additional kilometer.

Ferry:

Ferry is not often used, and it costs 2 RMB (with air-condition), and some are cheaper than 1 RMB.

Drinks

Coke:

A can of Coco-Cola is 1.2 RMB in super market, but it is at least 5 RMB if you order the same thing in a restaurant.

Purified Water:

A bottle of purified water (500 ml) is around 1.5 RMB.

Beer:

A bottle of beer (600ml) is typically 4 RMB (for example, Tsingtao Beer). Foreign beers are a little bit more expensive.

Food

Grocery is much cheaper than going to restaurant (it is the same everywhere in the world).

I don’t want to give price of every fruit, or meat. Just give you some idea, 10 RMB raw material for a meal for two persons is good enough (at least for persons like me).

Meal at restaurants varies greatly. Here are some example:

Dumpling in small dumpling shop is 2.2 RMB per 50g (I used the shop of Xiaohui at the gate of Jiaotong University). 4.4 RMB is good enough for really nice dumpling or Xiaolongbao.

Shanghai-style Noodles at street shops is between 3 – 5 RMB (if you visit residential areas), or 10 – 12 RMB in tourism area (like most places visitors go, People’s Square, bund…). The food is the same, and the difference is just the rental price of the venue.

Above are the traditional food shops you find on small streets.

For modern food shops, like those in big shopping malls, a meal cost 20 – 30 RMB.

40 RMB per meal per person is called “average”, and there are some better places with 100 RMB per meal per person. (How much better is “better” varies from person to person).

The next level of restaurants are those with fantastic views, like the top of the Jin mao Tower, the Huangpu River scene restaurants. They typically have minimum fee of 300 RMB per person.

For western food, most decent restaurants (run by expats) charges lower price than San Francisco, or New York, but is still way to expensive. Don’t be surprised if you get a bill of 500 – 700 RMB per person in restaurants in Three on the Bund. (Last time, my friend from San Francisco told me her feeling: it is not cheap, but it definitely worthwhile for the view and environment).

House Rental

Flat sharing (three or more person share the same residential apartment) is typically 500 RMB per person per month. This is the cheapest place I can think of. There are lots of this apartments in my residential area.

For a standalone apartment near Metro, I believe 1000 RMB is the minimum price you need to pay. However, be prepared that it may be the terminal station of Metro #1, or #2, which is very far from city.

1000 – 2000 RMB is the most typical price for an one-living room, one bed room apartment. 2000 – 3000 RMB for two bed room apartment. Be prepared that these apartments are not in downtown, and maybe in an unfamiliar residential area that could not be found in any tourism guide.

If you want to live in downtown – I highly recommend you to do that to fully experience the beauty of Shanghai, be prepared to pay more.

For example, in Xujiahui area, 3000 RMB is the minimum price I can find. It is for an apartment with one bed room and one living room (or only two bed room), like 60 sq. meters. Also, be warned that apartments with this price must be a pretty old one, with smell, and dirt…

All the apartments described above come with kitchen, bathroom.

The next level are much better. It is like 3000 – 8000 RMB. These are not bigger, just nicer – in newly built residential area (built in the last 10 years), and with very nice garden view, and environment.

I also know some expats who spend like 5000 USD to 10000 USD for a historical villa in downtown every month. It is out of the scope of this article.

Water and Electricity

Water is very cheap, compared to the items listed above.

Water is like 100 RMB per 1000 kg. Just to give you some idea, I paid like 30 RMB for water for two persons who take shower almost everyday.

Electricity for a household is typically 200 RMB (for household like me).

All rent prices do not include water, and electricity.

Telephone and Internet

Telephone is 0.12 RMB per minute, and domestic long distance varies depending on your comm. plan. It is less than 1 RMB per minute.

Internet fee (for example, ADSL) is 100 RMB for the whole month. You can buy higher speed with more money.

Others

Here are some items I can think of:

A middle-sized Mocha in Starbucks: 22 RMB

Ice cream: 2 RMB (Haggen-dazz is like 30 RMB)

A typical McDonald meal: 15 RMB (the cheaper package)

Salary: 1400 RMB per month is the city’s average. 3000 RMB is treated fair for university graduates. 10,000 RMB is regarded as high salary for employees.

Anything else that I missed?

You can come to the newly established BBS to discuss more about how to live in Shanghai.

Update September 18, 2007

This is a minor update of this Living Cost in Shanghai (2007 Edition). Since it is September, and especially after the increase of price of many goods (the Consumer Price Index increased by almost 6% in August), the price needs some updates. I have a reader who are so kind to list all things he wants to know, so let me update it according to these items:

Car Fuel:

    I am using 100 RMB per week (30 km on weekday and 10 km on weekend)

Car expenses: Insurance, taxes, ….

    (this is complicated.)

Groceries: We love to cook, we would cook almost everyday at home.

    If you cook at home, the cost should be pretty low compared to dining outside. I have a groceries cost list here. The price is recorded this March, and please add about 10% increase for current situation.

Entertainment (bars, ice cream, cinemas,…)

    Bar is expensive here. Budget 100 RMB for a bottle of beer for one person or 200 RMB for two. If you really want to drink a lot, there is no limitation. Typical movie ticket is 60 RMB. Ice cream is pretty cheap – I mean the normal Icecream, 2 – 4 RMB, but if you love HaggenDaze or Iceason, it is 30 – 40 RMB per person

Internet: Unlimited broadband high speed access

    This is easy: 1400 RMB per year

Water, Electricity, phone line with international calls

    300 RMB for water (for normal use), 300 RMB for electricity, 100 RMB for gas, and phone line monthly now is typically included in the broadband Internet access (the 1400 RMB package), and international call is 4 – 6 RMB per minutes, but you can always find Skype which is almost free to make phone call.

Cell phone plan: average plan

    Budget for 100 RMB for normal use, or 300 RMB for intensive usage

Transportation: Occasional buses, taxis, metros

    Bus is cheap – 2 RMB per ride. Metro is 4-5 RMB per ride, and taxi is more expensive. Common taxi ride is 20 RMB

Health: 2 private insurance plans, everything covered

    3000 RMB is typical insurance plans for one person.

Chinese lessons

    Budget 60-100 RMB per hour for one person. Typical class is like 1000 RMB per person

OK. I am happy I finished all the questions. However, please do remember that it is not easy to answer general questions like this. Everything really depends on how much you use it, how good is your standard of good. So I didn’t bother to check any exact price of anything (for exact price, check my other entries under Living Cost category.) My suggest just give you a range, or impression about how expensive it is. So you understand at least “is it expensive or cheap”, or “is it in 10s range, or 100s range, or 1000s RMB range. Above all, life in Shanghai is an adventure, and you may not be able to plan for everything. People in Shanghai don’t like planning.

The Scar in People’s Heart

Yesterday, before Wendy’s parents went back home, we finally had some time to sit down together as a family and chat. It was a wonderful hour. We had the chance to know more about their experience in the old days, when they were young.

I don’t Know China Well

I admit (as I always do) that I don’t know China well. No matter how people claim, the history of this country is a mystery for many people, including me.

We chatted about the “three dark years” from 1959 to 1961, which is officially named “Three Years of Natural Disaster”. It is actually NOT. The three years is a blurred image for me. I know many people starved to death during the three years, but it is still hard to connect this piece of history with the person before me, and myself. It is not a far away history anyway.

Why and How

From 1959, before the Great Leap started, there came the order from Beijing. People in the whole country were not allowed to own any private property, and were not allowed to cook at home. Anyone who setup fire to cook would be sentenced as criminal. Everyone had to go to public dining rooms to have “free meal”.

It was not bad in the first year, since there was so many food that was more than people can eat. However, at the same time, people were almost not allowed to work in the field.

The second year, not surprisingly, there were not enough food left from the previous year. Since the order from the top were the same: No cooking at home, no private property (especially food), and no working, people started to starve.

During the three years, so many people did nothing, just wait to starve to death. I read about this in history books (of cause not the current official version), but I was still stocked when parents described some real stories. They emphasized this is not a story on TV or film, this was the real life. They saw it with their own eyes.

Their neighbours were found death. One with 5 persons – all found dead in their own home, quietly. The other family had 3 persons. The parents died, and lied on the bed. The child didn’t tell anyone, and went to dining room to collect three persons’ food. Although the food was still less than one normal meal for one child today, he ate them all, but it was too much for this child who barely didn’t eat for months, and die because eating too much. People found three bodies in their home long time later, two in bedroom and one in kitchen. In other families, after people died, the neighbours could do nothing because they were so weak to carry the bodies.

The lives of our parents, and their brothers were at the edge of death. Mom said she opened her eyes but was not able to see anything clearly. Even when bird flow by and drop shit onto ground, people would put it into their month…

Well. This was the real situation in the year 1959 to 1961 in the normal small village. Record shows overall, the weather for the whole country were good, and there were no natural disaster, but millions of people died. No one know the exact number.

It Changes Lives of a Generation

Before, when I talk about common sense, my example was: parents always keep food left from this meal to the next, and I only want fresh meal the next time. My parents’ common sense is “to save money”, and my common sense is “to get best experience”. I compared and claimed: there are two different common sense, and people seldom communicate about this, and this is the reason of conflict.

Now, I’d like to say, I was partially wrong. The common sense of parent generation was not “to save money”, it should be “to save food”. I deeply understand when a person witness his/her family member or friends starved and died just because there was nothing to eat, how uncomfortable he/she would be if he/she throw away food – for the rest of their lives.

It also explains about why the whole generation (above 60 in age) went along from the Culture Revolution have such a strong sense of “insecurity”. They save money, because they don’t know what may happen; they are very cautious to talk, because a political movement easily swipe their lives away. The more I learn about what they have experienced, the more I appreciate their decisions, and their behavior, and the more I understand about this country.

This is a scar in the heart of that generation. I saw it, but I didn’t realize why there is a scar before.

Removed “Chedong” Copyright

Finally removed Chedong Copyright under the title to keep it more clean. In case I need it in the future, let me do a backup here.

<!–<p><small>Author: <a href=”<$MTEntryAuthorURL$>”><$MTEntryAuthorDisplayName$></a>.

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Where are the Train Tickets?

Remember about how tough it was to buy train ticket?

Well. The question is, even if you WANT to stand on the train, you don’t have the chance, since there are so many people standing there already. Standing tickets were sold out.

Wendy asked: “How about tickets after 11 days?”

She asked because all tickets are sold 11 days in advance.

The person said: “No. Don’t try that.”

Wendy was upset: “Then where are the tickets?”

The person replied: “If I tell you, I put all the ticket in my own pocket, do you believe it? Next!”

We tried every ticket office and there is nothing for the next 11 days or even after.

The Real Secret

Finally, we were approached by someone (not one, there are so many of them everywhere) who claim to be able to provide us with any ticket we want. Wendy decided to buy two tickets from them. We call them “yellow cow” (Huang niu, or 黄牛).

They charge 50 RMB more for each ticket as service fee.

A traditional “yellow cow” is a person who takes the time either to line up to buy the ticket and resell it at higher price, or buy back tickets from ticket owner at lower price and sell it at higher price.

But for the railway tickets, it SEEMS that they even didn’t bother to line up in the ticket window. The amount of the ticket they have seems not to be bought at “retail” window.

Reports say many of them have been directly or indirectly affiliated with the “insider” of the railway ticket system.

The Result. Aha!

No matter how terrible the ticket availability seems to be, we find out the real situation.

Yesterday night, when Wendy and I sent our parents to the railways station, and to the train cart, we found the train was only half full.

On the sleeper train No. 3 of K282 from Shanghai to Chengdu, the first 4 sleeper section only have to passengers – our parents.

There are three deck of beds for each number. All of them are empty. That means, in the first 4 rows, 2 out of 12 beds were occupied. The rest 10 are completely empty.

Bad System Brings Bad People Together

Well. Spring Festival is the time most people will go back home. It is for sure that tickets are hard to get. On one hand, all tickets were sold out, and many people cannot go home. On the other hand, trains ARE EMPTY!

Who gets the benefit? Thousands of “yellow cows” who gets 50 RMB each ticket (1/6 of the ticket price). It is for sure that they need to share the revenue to those in the railway system who control the source of the ticket. But who cares.

When we are back, we past by the ticket window. There are still thousands of people lining up to get a ticket. I am sure many of them will find their effort to stand in cold for hours in Vail. No ticket at all! There is no tickets! It is not because there are too many people there, and too few seat, it is just because of the corruption of the railway system.

I realize the current problem of railway system is no longer the problem we faced 10 years ago, when I can still find a standing place on the crowded train.