As I only got to bed at 2am this morning I was still pretty tired when my alarm went off at 7am. I did manage to drag myself out of bed and had a bath for the first time in 9 days. I think other people might have noticed the smell so I thought it was time. Seriously this was the first hotel to have a bath and a shower and so up until now I have been forced to shower only. (By the way, this hotel was rated as 2nd best business hotel in the World – don’t ask the price!). Breakfast at 8am and the seminar started at 9am. The seminar was in the hotel and about 50 people arrived. I was first up. I only got up to speak at 9:20 though as the introductions were done by Roger Chen (our branch manager in Taiwan) who then also allowed the head of the Insurance Institute in Taiwan to speak. They both did so in Chinese (or Taiwanese) so I had no idea what they were saying. While there were no questions again, the audience were much more receptive than HK and they nodded their heads etc at the appropriate points. I also didn’t notice anyone falling asleep. John Gilbert spoke after me, we had a break for tea, John spoke again and then I had the last session again. The people really liked my last session and while again there were no questions, afterwards people came over and engaged with me on the thrust of the presentation. I think it went down well and even John Gilbert said he thoroughly enjoyed it and it made him think.
We had lunch (this time nothing strange) and then at 2:30pm we headed out for the National Treasures Museum. We had a tour guide who started guiding on the bus. She was very funny (in both English and Chinese). She said it was the first time that she had taken a tour group around for 3 hours (3pm-6pm). We had booked for dinner at 7pm at the restaurant right next to the Museum and so she said that we could spend form 6pm-7pm in the gift shop (another first for her to have a group spend an hour in the gift shop!). As you can see that spirit and humor was pervasive throughout the afternoon. As John and I were the only 2 needing English translation, Tuan offered to be our English tour guide so that Sunny (our real tour guide) could just speak Chinese. The museum houses 680 000 artifacts from China – the majority of them from mainland China and brought to Taiwan before Mao’s cultural revolution. That is probably the only reason they were preserved. Only very little of the artifacts are on display at any one time. They change the displays every 3 months and Sunny told us that if you came once every 3 months (i.e. to see the new items on display), it would require you coming 20 years consecutively before you had seen all the artefacts they have.
I could probably write a whole book on the museum but I won’t because I am tired and need to be up 6am tomorrow again and it is now 10:30pm. My impressions from the museum were:
- The Chinese love Jade – and the most valuable and sought after is White Jade – just in case you thought Jade was always a greenish color – you would be wrong!
- The Chinese were miles ahead of the Western culture in 12th and 13th century. The pottery they had was already glazed and if you hadn’t told me it was from then I would have guessed it was made last week.
- They eye for detail is clearly displayed in their carvings (some you could only see with a magnifying glass and yet when you did the detail was incredible – and these were done in 18th century)
- If you own anything “Ming” you are incredibly wealthy – a Ming Tea Cup sold on auction recently for R40m. Forget about a Ming Vase … give me a teacup!
- I learnt about the Qing, Ming and Han dynasty’s. I probably quadrupled my Chinese history knowledge.
- Taiwanese have an excellent sense of humor
- Walking around for 3 hours at a museum is very tiring.
One thing did strike me (as a point of application … especially for Mssrs Pillay & Lewis given recent events). You can be miles ahead in the 12th century and become overly confident about your abilities and cut yourself off from the rest of the world and then the end result is that you end up lagging the rest of the world by 2012. It is a great analogy for business (or what not to do).
After we finished at about 6:30pm (we managed to get in another 30 minutes before they kicked us out of the museum itself), I did get to go to the gift shop and I found another present for Chloe. Still nothing for anyone else though. I am hoping for some shopping time at HK airport tomorrow though! We then went to dinner at Silks Restaurant right next door to the museum. One quick look at the menu and I knew we were in for another interesting dinner. The courses included:
- Water chestnuts (make that another first for me)
- Sautéed Sea Whelk (had that yesterday and sea snails twice in a row didn’t appeal to me)
- Frog’s cream with Crab Meat Soup (ate that … still don’t know exactly what it was but was assured it had to do with frog … so another first)
- Pan-fried Lamb Chop with Curry (skipped that for obvious reasons)
- Shrimps with Jelly Fish (again)
- Jadiete Cabbage with Insects (Yes – was worried about that one – ate the cabbage and skipped on the insects)
- Steamed Grouper with Tree Pod
- Chicken Soup with Yams
- Flied rice (sorry … Fried Rice)
- And then desert…
There were starters as well – never figured out what all of them were but one thing I did eat was bamboo stems – which were ok actually – would have them again. I sat next to John at dinner and we talked about the food (a lot) and avoided the same things. The quantity is just ridiculous though. I was full after the the Soup. I have no idea how they eat so much and yet stay so slim. I will skip breakfast tomorrow as I don’t think I could manage to wake up that early any way and I am sure I don’t need it.
After dinner it was back the hotel. Everyone seemed to be heading off to the mall or the night market but John and I headed to our rooms and bed. It is quite hard work talking to people whose first language is not English. I have to admit that they all tried really hard, are very polite and are friendly and nice people. You get a sense that they enjoy life. I like the Taiwanese people. If you want to see what Taipei looks like from my hotel room have a look on my Facebook site. I have posted a photo there (and also of the menu tonight).