Pearls of wisdom on air quality choke out peals of laughter Ever wonder why the air quality in Hong Kong is often so bad? Our Pearl River Delta neighbours are just as hazy on the issue as we are, it seems. The Post was privileged to have as panel members at our third annual PRD conference, held in Zhongshan this year, the vice-mayors from Zhuhai and Foshan - Xian Wen and Huang Weiguo, respectively - and the deputy secretary-general of the Shenzhen city government, Zhang Yiwen. When asked what cross-border co-operation opportunities existed to improve air quality, the three gentlemen steadfastly denied that the problem lay on their side of the border. The replies were worthy of a comedy sketch, with the replies along the lines of, 'Really? There's bad air?' Mr Xian said: 'Zhuhai's pretty far from Hong Kong. We don't know which way the wind blows.' Mr Huang said: 'Foshan is even farther away from Hong Kong than Zhuhai.' Mr Zhang delivered the punch line. 'Shenzhen used to have good air too, but now it's not that good. Maybe it comes from Hong Kong?' It pays to be a Veteran reporter Jilted journalists? Disorganised organisers? Long waits in line under a blistering sun? Children left in tears - and parents threatening to kill? It must be Zhuhai's world-famous air show, held once every two years for the past decade. Citing unforeseen 'personal circumstances', Lai See was able to shunt responsibility for covering this year's event to a young, talented colleague lacking the seniority to object. When an outraged e-mail from said colleague arrived last night, complaining bitterly about the chaos surrounding the show's opening day, Lai See's guilt was mitigated by the memory that he, too, had paid his dues at that circus. Some of the scheduled press conferences had been cancelled, she said. Many reporters covering the event were turned away from the official welcoming ceremony on Sunday night because the venue was too small to accommodate them. But that was nothing compared to the chaos that emerged at the gates yesterday morning. Reporters and spectators alike were made to wait in line for two hours under the hot sun before the security guards deemed the crowd to be sufficiently angered and opened the gates. 'Everyone then made a mad rush to get in, like hungry refugees,' the colleague reported. Parents taking their children to see the latest aircraft were left flabbergasted - and quite ready to erupt into a violent, homicidal rage - when told that kids were not allowed into the show. Thank goodness for 'personal circumstances'. Corruption goes a bit too far in india India has reason to shine, with US$125 billion in forex reserves and foreign investors beating down the door to tap its low-cost, English-speaking, skilled labour force. But the country has yet to shake its stubborn reputation for corruption, both grand and petty. The latter variety is particularly irritating for travellers. Just last month, Lai See checked into the Radisson Airport hotel in New Delhi, a convenient if utilitarian place to bed down for a brief sub-continental sojourn. One would expect a hotel travel desk to charge a considerable convenience premium for, say, taxi services to the industrial enclave of Noida, just across the New Delhi border in Uttar Pradesh. So there was no surprise at the steep price of 1,500 rupees (HK$257) or so, compared to the 325 rupees charged at the airport pre-paid taxi stand. When the travel manager asked for an additional 500-rupee 'border tax', however, Lai See baulked. Having travelled across that very same border in all manner of vehicles over a decade, it was quite obvious no such tax existed. Yes, grievous fraud was afoot. After a dusty rickshaw ride back to the airport, where a 325-rupee taxi to Noida was procured, Lai See stopped at the border to investigate. Indeed, there was a border toll of 25 rupees for certain kinds of cars - and 35 rupees for those using the new toll bridge linking the two cities. Returning triumphantly to the Radisson, Lai See promptly presented his eyewitness account to the hotel manager. The travel manager was summoned and, to defend his integrity, he produced a receipt for 440 rupees from the Uttar Pradesh transport authorities. Alas, upon closer inspection, the said receipt reflected a licence fee, granting a car the right to use Uttar Pradesh roads for a period of months. The irony is that if the travel desk had asked for 2,000 rupees in the first instance, Lai See would have happily and quietly complied.