My Trip to Taiwan, and China

On the 22nd of December 1998, I finally decided to take the plunge and go to China to meet with some prospective suppliers and buy more stock for the shop.

An important deciding factor was that one of my Taiwanese clients ("Mr WU") from another business of mine, had said that if I was to go to Taiwan these holidays, to let him know, and he'd put a thousand dollars into my account to go towards my trip.  So naturally, my buying trip to China had a slight detour on the way back to NZ, via Taiwan.  Then, a few days prior to my departing CHCH, Mr WU rang to say that he wanted to come to Beijing too, as he'd never been there before and like the idea of having a foreigner meet him at the airport and take him around Beijing.

On the 23rd of December, I sent my passport with my Taiwanese visa application, to Wellington to be processed.  Which the staff at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office were kind enough to do for me in one day instead of the normal two, so I got my passport and Taiwan visa back on the 24th

At 5 pm on the 24th of December, I picked up and paid for my plane tickets

At 11 pm of the 25th of December I checked in at CHCH International Airport for my trip to China, first stop being Hong Kong.

Over the years I have met a lot of people in Asia, and have made friends with many of them.  One of which, Kevin, met me at the airport that Saturday, midday in HK, and took me to the Sheraton, (where I stayed my first night).  While going over the old tracks in HK that afternoon, I checked out the China Travel Agent, and found them to be open!  And they could do my China visa for me over the weekend at the same rate as the same day visa service done by the formal office in Wan Chai, so that was great - got that done - saving me a day in HK...

Saturday Night in Hong Kong.. I love that place! J

On Sunday I rang the staff at a factory in Shen Zhen ("Shin Gin") owned by another Taiwanese client, and they asked me to stay that Monday night at their factory on my way up to Beijing.  So on Monday, I took a cab to the ferry terminal at Kowloon for the hour-long ferry trip into China.

As there was a huge queue of taxis at the terminal, I asked the driver if it would be ok to "get out here", he said ok, we started to unload the cab of my three pieces of luggage, then the queue ahead began to move up so we were in a bit if a hurry, and I didn't notice my cell-phone still on the back seat of the cab until 10 minutes later! Unfortunately I had to get on the ferry, and so did not have a lot of time to think how to deal with the problem.  So I just rang the Cell-phone Company here and asked them to bar the roaming service until further notice from me.  On hindsight, I should have at least tried once to call the phone and see what happened..

An hour later, I was standing in the queue at customs in China.  That little formality over, I then proceeded to the door, looking for a familiar face, which I didn't see, but there was a guy holding up a piece of paper with the words "Mr Andrew" scrawled across it.  That's the first time anyone's ever held up a sign for me at the airport.  It's a very nice feeling.  He informed me that my client had to go on a plane trip further into china on business but would be back that evening for dinner.  In all, there were 3 people, two staff and the local driver.  We got into the Mercedes and headed back to the factory.

It turned out to be a huge factory that makes down jackets, often producing sixty thousand jackets per month!

My client asked me that evening how I was planning to travel to Beijing.  I told him I'd take the 32 hour train from Canton as it would be cheaper, also I hoped that his staff could help me book it, as I knew that they should be able to get a reduced rate from the travel agent.

In the end, he asked one of his staff to buy me a plane ticket and in so doing effectively shouted me a trip to Beijing! (they wouldn't let me pay!) He also gave me a beautiful, Italian design, down, Taccini, ski jacket.

So Tuesday, I arrived in Beijing, took a shuttle bus to a place in Beijing called 'Bei Tai Ping Zhuang', got off the bus there and caught a cab to the university that I used to teach English at, where I went to see one of my then colleagues, Jesse YANG, there who has since been a major help in coordinating stock for the shop.

On my way up the stairs to Jesse's room, I was met by a woman who wanted to escort me to his room, so she showed me the way.  Jesse wasn't home, which didn't surprise me.  His being fluent in English through his job at the Uni. as an English teacher, has also given him a few openings elsewhere.  One other sideline that keeps him quite busy, and has him earning double my yearly income, is work helping infertile Finnish couples adopt a Chinese orphan.

The woman who had been showing me the way, knocked on the door of the room opposite and asked the guy in there to look after me until Jesse got back.  So I chatted to him for about 20 minutes until Jesse's return.  You have to get used to this kind of thing in Beijing, the place where you can really only plan to get one thing done a day, or maybe two - if you start out at 6 am.  10 million people there. So it's hard to be punctual.

The next few days were spent catching up with old friends, visiting the silk dealers and deciding what we could afford to buy this time.  Then on the 31st of December, Mr Wu arrived in Beijing, having confirmed that morning from Taiwan, by telephone. He only wanted to stay 4 days, so we booked him and ourselves (Jesse and me) into The Great Wall Sheraton for 4 nights..

Mr Wu, is over weight, and will fall asleep wherever he is sitting, if there's nothing particularly interesting happening at the time.  He had done that, that morning at the boarding gate for his flight out of Taiwan, his boarding pass in his pocket. Unfortunately, the airline staff miscounted (twice) the number of boarding passes and a few minutes later, Mr Wu woke up to find he'd missed his flight to Hong Kong! Fortunately the embarrassed staff were able to get him onto another flight leaving 30 minutes later, and also contacting their colleagues in HK to be on the lookout for a Mr WU, to meet his connecting flight to Beijing, this left him only 30 minutes in HK for his transfer.  The new HK airport is huge.  Since I had been out all day, they couldn't contact me from Taiwan, as he'd had a bit of a guts-full he had thought of cancelling, but didn't like the idea of me waiting, at the airport in Beijing so he came on anyway.

It being New Year's Eve, that particular evening, we were loathe to hang around in the hotel, so we went to one of Beijing's up an coming social spots - a place called San Li Tun ("saan lee twin") where we found a nice little café to see out the new year in.

That evening we discussed many things including my plans for this shop, I said that I felt it would be prudent for me to find some work teaching English, while I was in Taiwan, as I was concerned I wouldn't be able to support the shop just on it's own.  Mr WU asked me how much he felt my entire trip would cost me, and I said, well, since I'm not having to pay for much accommodation, it's mainly airfares, so I guess around 2500 would just about cover it.

"OK - when I get back to NZ, I'll tell the bank to put another 1500 into your account"

"That's very generous of you, Mr WU, do you think you really need to do that?"

"Well I don't want to see you go bankrupt"

Over the next few days we visited The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, and other well known tourist places - all "Mr WU Style" meaning anywhere was ok to visit as long as we didn't have to walk too far!  Great!

One morning in the lobby of the hotel, while waiting for Mr Wu to come down, I began thinking about my return date to NZ... For me to stay as long in Taiwan as planned, actually meant that I would arrive back in NZ a lot later than most of my clients, but I had friends who could look after things here if need be.  I had inquired both of my travel agent and of Singapore Airlines (SIA) about coming back at the end of January, but most people rolled around on the floor laughing when I suggested that, as the waiting lists were so long.  None the less that morning, I felt lucky, so I approached the travel office at the Hotel and requested a wait list for the 29th of Jan. They told me they'd inform me if it came through.

At the end of his trip we put Mr Wu back on the plane and used the car to go and visit a department store - some of the management staff of which, I had taken on tour around the South Island in October.  As time was running short, we put it off to another day to order stock.

A few days later I was able to order some very nice stock and pay them by credit card. They then gave me a very nice Umbro ski jacket!  I plan to wholesale this stock as it is more expensive.. So if you know any retailers in your area that may be interested, please let me know.

Buying all this extra clothing was of course putting an immense strain on my excess baggage limit!

"Relax", another friend, JI Fang, told me, "You can take that big bag onto the plane back to Shen Zhen, no one will say anything!  Or you can talk to someone with not so much baggage and ask to check in with them".  That sounded like a good idea.

I joined the end of the queue for checking in, the woman in front of me also had a huge pile of luggage.  The two women who lined up behind me however, seemed to have no luggage at all!  So I began chatting to them, and after a while asked if I could check in with them as I was a bit overweight in the luggage dept.  "Of course!" they said, "No problem".  So I suggested to the sweet young woman in front of me that she ask the woman in front of her, if she could check in with her.  "No I couldn't - I don't know her!"  "You might as well give it a try, what have you got to lose?"

So she asked the woman and then after a few exchanges turned and with a big smile, gave me the OK sign!

It became their turn to check in together, and that's when something quite funny happened - the kind woman who had agreed to check in with the woman in front of me was told by the harassed check-in staff that she was booked for a flight elsewhere! She'd lined up in the wrong queue! SO embarrassing for the woman left behind! I helped her put her bags on the scales - 30 kg. Fortunately the check-in girl didn't cause any trouble over it.

Then it came our turn, "How many bags?"

"Just two" I said

"You're travelling together?"

"Yes we are"

"Do you KNOW each other?"

"Of course"

Now I'm thinking: "My God! I don't even know their names!"

So I picked up their boarding passes and read their names to myself, as quickly as possible in case the check in girl wanted to ask the next question: "Ok: What'are their names then?"

We live and learn!

Fortunately things were all a bit rushed so we weren't hassled. Our seats were not allocated together either - I was on my own.  Guardian Angels.  I was 40+ kilos!

In Shen Zhen I was met by the driver, who by now recognised me, so no sign saying "Mr Andrew"

A lucky man, his wife and he being able to have two children, as they were "farmers". That night I spent, uneventfully in Shen Zhen, at the factory.

The next day, the driver took me to the ferry terminal.  I spent the last of my Chinese dollars and some of the last of my HK dollars buying my ferry ticket back to HK

Kevin met me at the terminal - since there was a sea of people going into HK that day, he had to wait over an hour for me to clear customs.  Coincidentally it was a Saturday again.  This time we stayed in a cheaper hotel!  That afternoon I went to the Kowloon Police Station to report my lost phone.  The cop was very sympathetic but said "Don't hold out any hope - it would be very unlikely to be handed in".  It was a good phone (Nokia 8110).  Unfortunately for me I would have to start from scratch with the new phone - restoring the 250 stored numbers and names I'd had in the phone I'd lost! L

Later, In Taiwan, I asked the cell-phone company, Vodafone, via email, to send me a new SIM card to use in my new phone, they did so.  On its arrival I then emailed them that it had arrived safely, and so they could remove the roaming toll bar.

In Hong Kong the post office is only open from Mon. to Fri, so that meant I only had Monday morning to send approx.10 kg of silk to NZ. Fortunately there was a PO just around the corner from the hotel, so I managed to get that little job done in time. It's cheaper and easier to send from HK than Beijing.

So now: onto Taipei and then Kaohsiung (KHH).

Now I had arranged, over the last few days, with one of my older ex-students to meet me at the airport, so he could take me to a travel agent's to buy a cheaper ticket to KHH.  He'd asked me to tell him my arrival flight details, which I thought I had in my last email to him.  I had also told him on the telephone that since there were only two of my airline's flights per week that all he had to do was to ring the office that day and ask what time the flight was due in as I didn't have the details with me right there.  I also told him that he should do this on the day anyway, just to make sure the flight hadn't been delayed.

As it happened, he didn't turn up.  After waiting half an hour, I rang his home number, his mum said he was "At work" so I said, "Ok, I'll just take a bus to the local airport then" so I did.

An hour later I was in KHH, where Mr WU met me at the airport, and took me back to the 2 bedroom flat that he gave me to use for the next month, plus the keys to the 1998 3L, BMW parked in the downstairs' carpark!

The next morning, I tried to find my KHH friend, Carlos's home phone number, I was pretty sure he'd still be there, although I hadn't seen him since last February, in Auckland.  I couldn't find the number..

I rang Kathryn, back at the flat in Christchurch....

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I'm looking for a phone number.  It's in a little black diary around there somewhere.  It's a 1994 diary, and somewhere in March, there'll be written, in blue biro - and not my handwriting, a name called 'Carlos HUANG' with the phone number underneath it.

Finally she actually found it and I was able to call his home.

A woman answered

"Are you Mrs Huang?"


"I'm Andrew Boyd, I'm a friend of your son's back in New Zealand"

"Where are you from?"
"New Zealand"

"And you're his friend?"

"Yes, I actually live in Christchurch, but I used to see him whenever I went through Auckland - the last time I saw him was February last year, I just arrived in Kaohsiung yesterday.  Is he there?"

"Carlos was killed in a freak occurrence last March"

"Dead?! How - What happened?"

"A person with an abnormal heart (Chinese for mentally unstable person) went looking to steal something from the international student hostel where Carlos was staying with his Austrian girlfriend.  He couldn't find anything worthwhile where he was looking on the 2nd floor, so he set fire to it.  All the people in the rooms above were killed in the fire.  It was an older six story, wooden building.  Carlos and his friend were on the 3rd floor.  It all happened about 5 am.  A couple of weeks later the police were given an anonymous call to say that a man had hidden a bomb at one of the night markets in Kaohsiung.  They traced the call and caught the guy, who then confessed to lighting the fire."

"Oh Mrs Huang, this is so sad - your only son!"

"Life is like that - so tenuous - you never know"

After finishing the call, I cried.  So tragic.  This is the first good friend I've lost.

In A small town called Ping Tung ("Peeng dong"), about half an hour's drive away, another client had organised some students for me to teach English to in the afternoons, Tuesday to Friday, for the month's time that I would be in the area.

She had an unused room above her shop with a whiteboard and tables etc, that I was able to use as a classroom.

Most nights, after teaching, she took me out for dinner.  One afternoon, there was a cancellation, so she took me to a place up in the mountains that had hot pools next to a small rushing river, a beautiful place - the nicest place I've seen in Taiwan.  (called "Duo Na Thermal Resort")

One weekend she took me to another place in the East of Taiwan, that is also famous for its thermal pools, ("Tai Dong Zhi Ben") unfortunately, by that time I had contracted a particularly virulent flu bug that was going around, so wasn't really able to enjoy it.

One night, about 11 pm, not long after my arrival in KHH and still learning how to get back to KHH from Ping Tung, I got a bit lost, and so pulled over on a bus stop and had a look at the map, which was completely in Chinese.  I very quickly lost interest in the map and decided to keep driving straight as I was sure I would come to a road I knew.

I pulled back out of the bus top, and carried on across the intersection.  In Taiwan they drive on the wrong side of the road.  Suddenly a motor scooter shot across in front of me from my right hand side! "My God!"  I thought  "Am I going through a red light?"  Then I looked to my left and saw another motor scooter hurtling directly towards my driver's door!  "I HAVE to accelerate out of this", I thought, unfortunately, being an automatic, even though the engine is 3 L, there is still a bit of a lag, before everything kicks in and we really start to fly, so the poor guy hit my rear bumper (I hate that sound!) I crossed the intersection and pulled over, got out of the car and looked back at the light, just in time to see it change to orange!  So that was a bit of a relief!

To my horror I saw that there was actually two people involved - one trying desperately to get his companion to get up off the road and get out of there! Meanwhile I'm thinking "For Christ's sake! Don't move him!"  And here he is shaking and pulling the guy - trying to get him up!

I noticed a guy, shutting up shop next to where I'd double-parked the car.  He reluctantly looked at me, and I asked him if he could help me ring 911 and get an ambulance down to help this guy out, which he did, then I borrowed his phone and rang Mr WU, who said "That's Taiwan for you - even if you drive without hitting someone, eventually someone will hit you anyway".  So after I'd given him directions, Mr WU's driver brought him around on his motor scooter, a few minutes later the police arrived.

Fortunately I had my passport on me, the cop didn't even ask to see my International driver's licence (which I didn't have), all he really wanted to check was that my visa was still current.  I was then reminded by one of the cops, that in Taiwan, after an accident, you don't move the vehicle until the police have arrived to see who's in the right and who's in the wrong.  I apoligised and said that in NZ we don't like to block the traffic and if there's no body wounded, often the police don't need to get involved - we just leave it up to the insurance companies to sort out.

Fortunately there were plenty of people to act as witnesses for me, including the fruit stall owner on the corner.  The smell of alcohol and the lack of a crash helmet were also not really in the motor scooter driver's favour.

I was concerned that Mr WU may not be compensated, but he said don't worry - the main thing is that he survives his head wound - if he doesn't - or he gets brain damaged - then it becomes your problem!" "How the hell is that?" I asked

"That's just the way Taiwan law works" he said "It's like a sort of moral obligation"

I replied "Well if you're going to use that sort of logic, you might as well blame the KHH city council for putting that bus stop there - if it hadn't been there, I wouldn't have stopped there briefly to read the map!  And while you're on the job, you could blame my parents too, for not holding off a couple of nights!  If I was born a couple of days later, it could well be that I didn't cross this intersection until a couple of days later!"

"You.... you keep talking like that and Taiwan Government will have you deported!" He was joking.

"Let them try" I said.

Since his motor scooter was a mess, and the ambulance had taken his brother away, Mr WU offered to take the driver of the motor scooter to the hospital, which as it happened was only a couple of blocks away.  In the car, on the way, the driver admitted it was his fault and that he'd been drinking, so he was very grateful at Mr WU's generosity.  However Mr WU was concerned that there might be repercussions for me if in fact the accident victim did indeed die or get brain damage.

At the hospital, Mr WU said to me (sotto voce) "If any one asks; make sure you always stress that you crossed a green light, even if you're not sure" "Don't worry - that's just the way it was" I replied"


A few hours later, we finally left the hospital and went home.

A few days later, the patient was out of intensive care and a few days after that discharged, so I should be in the clear!

The rest of the month passed by reasonably uneventfully - no more car crashes!

On the 31st of January I had two different clients leaving Taiwan to come back to NZ. The first one I took to the airport in the morning.  As her luggage was pretty light, she had kindly offered to help me bring some luggage back here, so I gave her about 7 kg of silk!

I thought I knew it all, I'd already been to the airport once that day!  Afternoon came and it was time for Mr WU's kids to be taken to the airport.  Since there were quite a few of us, I took the son and his two friends in the BMW, the rest of the family took the Merc.  This was where I made my first mistake of the day.. "You know how to get there, Andrew?"

"Yeah - I've already been there once today!"

"OK see you there"

So off I went - through the city - the way I knew - the way I'd gone that morning. Mr WU took the motorway that runs not far from where he lives, so they got there in half the time.. No big deal, a small mistake really..

I duly arrived at the airport and dropped the boys off at the International Departure terminal and went to park the car.  As I drove off the ramp, I felt it seemed to take longer to park the car than it had in the morning... although I remembered it seemed you had to go round in a big circle just to get to the carpark right outside the terminal.  Well, I parked the car in the same park I'd used that morning, jumped out and ran up the stairs to the terminal, saw all the other clients lining up at the Dragon Air check in counter, however Mr and Mrs WU were waiting outside for their son.. Uh oh. I thought, that seems odd.. Where is he? I went outside to where I'd dropped the boys off, there was Mr WU looking a bit flustered.

"You took the wrong route - you should have taken the motorway"

"Yeah, I realise that now, sorry about that"

"My son?"

"I dropped him off just here, I can't understand why you didn't see him"
"I've been here all the time waiting to see your car - I never saw it"

To make a long, tense, story short: in their wisdom, KHH Airport authorities had put the new terminal beside the old one, the signage on the old terminal had not been removed, the old international terminal was now a national terminal.

Mr WU's son had not bothered to call anyone's cell-phone (I hadn't yet bought my new one) the boys had decided to just walk to the new terminal, so while everyone was panicking and thinking thoughts of kidnap etc., Mr WU's son and his friends were idly wandering along the hallway between the two terminals!

Finally they appeared and all was well.  Most embarrassing.

When it came my turn to leave, Mr WU took me to the airport, we were able to see how easy it was for an out-of-towner like me to mistake the old for the new.

To stay so long in Taiwan actually meant that I would arrive back in NZ a lot later than most of my clients, but I had friends who could look after things here if need be.
I had inquired both of my travel agent and of Singapore Airlines (SIA) about coming back at the end of January, but most people rolled around on the floor laughing when I suggested that as the waiting lists were so long.  None the less, I felt lucky, so while in Beijing I requested a wait list for the 29th of Jan. They told me they'd inform me if it came through.

The time to leave was approaching so, I went to see Singapore Airlines about my return ticket, since I'd changed from overnighting, return 13/Feb to direct flight returning 10th/Feb I was due a $50 hotel refund, but I had to confirm with them at least 3 days beforehand.

"Sorry sir, I can't find a booking for you on the 10th of February" On printing out my file she said: "It says here you were a 'No-show' on the 29th of January, you had requested a booking for the 29th of Jan, on the 2nd of January, in Beijing"

"- Yes and I was told that there was little or no chance of getting a seat, and most importantly that you would let me know if you had a seat for me!"

"It says here that you were unable to be contacted, you didn't show up in KHH, so all your bookings were cancelled"

Having to constantly remind my self that it wasn't this particular woman's fault I asked her "So what are you going to do for me now?"

"There are two flights to NZ on the 10th of February, there'll be more chance of getting you on the morning flight that leaves S'pore at 9 am, but it will mean you'll have to leave here on the 9th and overnight in S'pore, so I will have to book your hotel"

To replace the cell-phone I'd lost in HK, I'd purchased another in KHH, together with a tiny card (1 cm wide and 1.5 cm long) called a prepay SIM card that you insert into the guts of the phone, so I left that number (886 930 262 021) and my flat's number for contact. That afternoon she contacted me to tell me that she'd managed to get me a booking leaving KHH on the 9th and overnighting in S'pore.. What a relief!

So, as I said, Mr WU took me to the airport.  As I had only 25 kg of luggage Mr WU managed to squeeze an 8kg cotton bedspread (in a convenient carrier) onto my luggage load with out too much protesting from the check-in boy.

The flight to Singapore was a chance to try and catch up on some much-needed sleep.  Unfortunately an aisle seat is not so conducive to sleep, but I did manage it off and on.  Then before the meal trolleys appeared, a few hostesses were putting stickers on the backs of the seats of those that had requested "Special Meals" i.e. vegetarian.  "Dang" I thought, every time I buy a ticket, I never get asked if I want the special meal, and I always forget to ask.  So I thought, "Might as well ask now" so I said

"Excuse me, do you think you might have any vegetarian meals spare?  If you do could I have one please?  When I bought my ticket I wasn't asked, and I forgot to ask"

"No I'm sorry sir, we don't have any spare.  Would you like the beef or the chicken?"

"No, just don't worry about it, I won't have anything"

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, it's fine"

"Would you like a bowl of noodles, perhaps?"

" No, I'll be fine, really".

I don't know what they thought, but after a while one of them came back and asked me,

"Where is your luggage, sir?"

I thought: "It bloody well better be in the checked luggage compartment, in the belly of the plane!"

"You mean my hand luggage? - some of it's above me and some back a bit, over there"

"Could you bring your luggage, sir, and I will find a better place for you to sleep, there's too much disturbance here for you".

So halfway through the flight I was upgraded to business class... was it really just because, as she said, she "Felt sorry for me"?  Or was it because the airline was trying to make up for cocking things up?

I was just disappointed it was only for the 4 hour haul from KHH to SIN and not for the 10 hour haul from SIN to CHC!

On arrival in SIN, I inserted the new SIM card from New Zealand, into my phone, so I could call my friend, Mark, in Singapore to say that I'd landed, and that I was taking the free bus to my hotel, The Concorde.  However, it soon became obvious to me that, Kerry at Vodafone, Christchurch, had not seen on my email that I'd received the card, and so the toll bar was still on! I had originally planned to contact him from on the bus!

It soon became obvious to me that I should have taken a taxi - the bus was visiting every hotel in S'pore before it came to mine!

So what would have been a half-hour trip in a taxi became an hour and a half drag in the free bus!

Concord hotel should really be called "Rocket" as it looks far more like one! Once I alighted from the lift to my room, I checked the wall for directions to room 1625. The sign said "Rooms 1601 - 1625 this way". I looked around .. I was in the inside of the cylinder of the main body of the rocket.

"1625" I thought.. "Knowing my luck, it's exactly opposite the lifts" I set off in the direction of the arrow, got to halfway around from the lift shafts: Room 1612.. Fuming, I completed a lap around the girth of the hotel. And came to another sign: "Rooms 1625 - 1601 this way"

Into my room, I picked up the phone to call Mark and it hardly worked, so I asked them to fix it, and they sent a janitor up to swap a new phone.

Mark said he'd be there in half an hour, in the meantime I rang Vodafone, NZ and asked them if there was still a roaming bar on my phone, yes there was he said, so I asked him if we could get it removed.

"Ok, you need to take the SIM card out of the phone and tell me the 16 digit number on the back of the card - leave out the first four"

"3348 2776 1349"

"Ok, put it back in, but don't switch the phone on yet"

After about 30 seconds, during which time he was removing the roaming bar, and registering the new SIM card details, he said "Ok, switch it back on now"

And there it all was on the screen of the phone: Local, Singapore, access! All just from a tiny card, a cell phone, and a man on a computer in New Zealand!

"That's great! It's all go! Thank you very much!"

"That's ok - enjoy what's left of your evening in S'pore!"

I promptly rang Mark, who by now was already waiting in his car at the front door.

He took me for dinner, then to a few bars around S'pore.

"I want to call Jenny, in Malaysia, it's '6 - 0' to Malaysia, isn't it? What's the prefix to call out of S'pore if you're using a cell phone?"

"You don't need to leave the cell-phone network - just dial her home phone number - it's so close, your cell phone will reach from here - it's only about 10 cents per minute"

Great tools these cell phones

So caught up with Jenny, had a pleasant evening in S'pore with Mark - great meal on a table outside the restaurant!  Mark also told me an old friend he'd studied at Lincoln with, was also starting a silk shop!  So he's going to try and track down his phone number for me.

Got back to the hotel about 2 or 3 am, asked the hotel staff for a morning call of about 5:30 am as the free bus would arrive at 6:20 to be in time for my 9:00 am flight.. I may yet take a taxi, I thought.

As it turned out, I did, not being a great morning person, I tend to be a bit slow. in the mornings.  It was exactly $15.00, and only about 20 minutes.

The flight back was uneventful.  I was one of the first off the plane and through immigration.  I got right up to the outlet for the luggage carousel just as it started up. Waited about ten minutes and then a message from the loudspeaker: "Those people that have just come in from Singapore; both carasouls 2 and 3 have your luggage. Please watch both, as they are not connected.  So for another half-hour I watched both, while chatting on the phone to my friend, Yi-Ming who was waiting for me outside.

Finally I realised my luggage had probably gone on holiday somewhere else, so I wandered up to the luggage office to ask them where they thought it might be. and before I got there I saw my three pieces of luggage stacked against the wall!

"How did those get there!?" I asked

"Oh Singapore airlines got it wrong and sent them in on an earlier flight"

"Nice of them to tell me!" I said, thinking: "Nice of YOU to tell me!!!!"

So, it was straight through the X-ray machine and out!

Back into the shop the next day

However the Taiwanese flu I'd contracted in Taiwan just a few days before I left, finally caught up with me the next day and I had to have a day off.

Finally, after taking Doxycycline I was able to rid myself of sudden copious floods of green and psychedelic yellow mucus!

The End