Posted by: michaeldavidpower | September 3, 2009

The Taiwan-Hong Kong-Singapore Shuttle

There is a perceptible swell building around my coal truck story – after a mention by Bloomberg (and hopefully more to follow after tomorow’s 8.30am Singapore time TV slot) – it got picked up in the China Daily; about as “high” as it gets in these (English-speaking) parts.  The Taiwanese in particular have reacted positively – partly I suspect because the more I tell the story, the better (taller?!) it becomes!

But it was goodbye Taipei today, getting out just before the Dalai Lama’s Saffron Circus and the likely arrival of yet another typhoon tomorrow. This morning I careered round the visually noisy, anything-but-colour coordinated but charming nonetheless capital city. It was pouring rain whilst the sun was shining, so I tried to explain the concept of a “monkey’s wedding” to my disbelieving hosts. (I am from Africa – perhaps they believed we do indeed have formalised simian nuptuals in our anything-but-normal continent!) A few meetings, some farewells to our nearly all female office staff (in Taiwan, the men work mostly in tech and other manufacturing, the women mostly in services and offices), a quick chortle at the lift sign in our building (“To stop the spread of HINI, please do not talk in the lift”) until I realised in heavily populated Asia it was indeed good advice, the finest Xiao Long Bao (steamed dumplings) I have ever eaten and then a dash to the airport where I just managed to get the earlier Cathay flight to Hong Kong (though not before buying some of the finest tea on the planet – Formosan, mountain-grown, spring-flush, night-picked, if you must ask.)

Hong Kong’s airport just doesn’t make the grade – good,yes, but not great, and there is a lot of greatness in Asia because so much of the infrastructure was built only ‘yesterday’.

The Cathay Lounge is a case in point – someone forgot to give it character in the form of any colour. It could be the waiting room to a five star prison, the sort of place Bernie Madoff saw in his last few moments of freedom.

It’s slick yes, but slick is no longer nearly enough in this increasingly stylish part of the world. There is – as always – so much more to style than money and the fusion of East and West sometimes puts Western perceptions of Eastern style together with Eastern money. The result is too much money is spent on producing not enough. Spend less, celebrate real Asia and the result can be sensational (as is often the case in the designed-and-made-in-and-for Asia hotels) or some of the off-the-tourist’s-beaten-track local restaurants I have eaten at.

Midnight tonight, I arrive in Singapore and there I will see the best there is – it is Asian and yet tropical as befits an airport on the Equator. I know it will be humid but that’s Singapore. A few hours kip in a supposedly great hotel and by 7.30am, I will be checked out and on the road again.

You work hard in Asia. It’s osmosis. It’s the secret of their success.

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