Woke up at 5:30am this morning and even though I tried to sleep in for another 30 minutes I just couldn’t. So I got up and packed up and was ready to leave at 6:30am for the golf course. One of the Taiwan office staff came to collect me (Chiren). He drives what looks like a Lexus what is a Taiwanese manufactured car that is a Lexus copy. The trip to the golf course (Lung Tan Golf Course – which means ‘The Lakes’ – should have been a sign about the amount of water on the course) took about an hour. What I learnt is that if I ever come to Taiwan on holiday, hire a driver. The roads are incredibly confusing. And a large number of signs do not have English markings. For example, the golf course was only ever signposted in Chinese characters. They clearly aren’t keen on visitors.
The club house was enormous. I don’t think I have seen a golf club house that large anywhere. You get your own locker with an electronic code. Though I doubt anyone would steal anything anyway. You can’t play at Lung Tan unless you are a member or you arrange a golf day (like today). My 4-ball consisted of me, the MD of HSBC Insurance (Lee Wood – an American but now living in Taiwan) and two local Taiwanese insurance guys (both apparently from companies Lee reckons are technically insolvent). One of them was able to speak English much better than the other. Both were very friendly. The reason I have not mentioned their names is because I could not pronounce them let alone type them and my keyboard doesn’t have Chinese characters. Chiren (the guy who picked me up) lent me his golf clubs. I felt bad that he had to sit out and not play. He took photos, organized the food etc for the day. Roger (our branch manager in Taiwan) did not seem concerned – he said he must sit out to enable me to play. I hate playing golf without my clubs but I really liked his irons and hit them so well I reckon I am going to buy myself a set this weekend when I get back home.
Golf in Taiwan is an experience. We had 2 caddies – both women and both wrapped up like to was 10 degrees outside. It wasn’t, it was more like 30 degrees with 90% humidity. By the second hole my shirt was wet with sweat. By the ninth I could wring sweat out of my shirt and my hat was drenched so that the sweat just ran down my face. The one Taiwanese guy looked like it was 15 degrees outside – I never saw a drop of sweat the whole day! I drank a bottle of water, 3 cokes, a glass of water, a Sprite and never needed the toilet at any stage. I reckon I have lost at least 2 kgs today. My pants keep slipping off as I walk – really irritating. In addition to the 2 caddies, you also take a cart. They are 5 people carts. One of the caddies drives, 3 on the backseat (only Taiwanese size people can fit). The other caddy holds on the side. I wished I could do that as I am sure the air flowing would have cooled me down a touch. The caddies do everything. Give you clubs, tell you yardage (even in English in my case), keep the score, mark & clean your golf ball when you’re on the green, give you the putting line (not always right I discovered) etc. Paul would have hated it. My sons would have loved it. It was a really enjoyable round, I played quite well (despite not having my clubs) and I only hit one ball in the water (which I was able to recover even). For the golfers reading this, I had no blow outs at all (a shoes round Paul) and 32 putts despite having the strangest putter I have ever seen. It had a grip with a diameter of about 4cms. They don’t just have a halfway house – they have points also at holes 5 and 14.
After golf we had lunch at the club. Who knows what I ate. Some I recognized (like Sea Whelk … seen that 3 times now so I recognized it) and some I have no idea what it was. Very nice prawns but try de-shelling a prawn with chopsticks. Believe me you can do it. I watched one of them doing it and then I copied. Was 80% successful in getting it right. As usual there was a HUGE amount of food with about 8 courses for lunch. The Taiwanese also love to toast and the visitors get individual toasts. It happened last night as well. One by one they toast you and each time you must drink. Fortunately I can drink a lot of beer and certainly a lot more than any of them. At lunch it was just toasting with Iced Tea (fortunately). Very special technique to toasting – I will show you when I get home.
Chiren then took me to the airport. It was about 30 minutes away. My flight was only at 7:35pm back to HK but there are almost two flights an hour so I asked them to move me onto the next flight they could. They put me on the 4:15pm flight. The plan was that it would give me time to shop at HK airport. The flight ended up being delayed for about 30 minutes but I still got to HK just after 6pm. My flight leaves at 11:45pm this evening for Johannesburg so lots of time to kill. I checked out every shop. Most of them are ridiculously overpriced. They are the big brand names – Dunhill; Armani; Ralph Lauren; Jimmy Choo, Boss etc. Nothing cheap. Shirts on special at R2500. They felt great but I cannot believe any shirt is worth R2500. I did manage to buy two things – a present for Helen and a present for Helen & me (combined one though I suspect Helen will use it more than me). Nothing else of interest though. Pretty disappointing as it was my only real chance to shop. I am now sitting in the Cathay lounge. I am pretty tired – combination of early morning, golf in 30 degrees, long trip, lots of jet lag etc. I will have some dinner in the lounge (they have a fantastic buffet including sushi) so that when I get onto the plane I can go straight to sleep. Unfortunately I am slumming it in Business Class this time as there is no First Class on the plane.
I remembered one other thing from the National Treasures Museum last night which I forgot to include in yesterday’s blog. It is for all the Gen Re people reading the blog (and CBD people). I learnt that you know a promotion is imminent when you see a Monkey riding a horse. So when you see that happen you can ask me when your next promotion and related salary increase is due. Otherwise don’t bother …
Until tomorrow which should be (all things going well) written from home! Looking forward to seeing the family. Looking forward to my nightly hug from Chloe. Playing Call of Duty with Michael (we have to finish that stupid mission now). Beating Stephen again at squash and snooker (though the latter is not a certainty these days). And no, I haven’t forgotten Helen … just can’t put that in writing.