ONE OF our company’s annual staff holidays is memorable for unusual reasons.
It was August 2005, and there were 68 of us - my staff and their families - headed for a four-day holiday in Shanghai. The company had paid $49,000 for the trip.
As usual, our staff would travel on two different airlines. One group was booked on Singapore Airlines while the other group – myself included - was booked on China Eastern Airlines.
The SIA flight took off at around 1 am. But China Eastern Airlines delayed its flight due to bad weather in Shanghai. Later, we found out it was a typhoon.
Then we were told the flight was cancelled and asked to go home. The airline would keep in touch with us when the flight was able to resume.
We felt anxious and disappointed at the thought of our group ‘disintegrating’. Someone suggested that everyone go to my house in Braddell Heights to wait through the night. I quickly agreed.
The call from the airline finally came between 8 and 9 am, and we all flew off at around 5 pm the next day. Our spirits rose, and we looked forward to a good holiday, even though we were lacking sleep.
Our flight was uneventful for the most part, until we approached China. We were shocked to learn that we were being diverted to Xiamen, about 800 km from Shanghai.
Typhoon Matsa had continued to assail Shanghai, and we learnt later that about a million people were evacuated from coastal areas in the path of the typhoon.
We landed in Xiamen at around 9 pm. Xiamen aiport ground staff was scarce and we had to beg for attention. I was concerned for the children and senior citizens in our group.
I can’t remember if it was the airline or the airport that provided coaches to ferry stranded travelers to hotels. We were not told where or what hotels to expect.
We just scrambled for seats in two coaches. It was a rather chaotic scene but we kept a lookout for each other.
Much to our relief, we were able to fly to Shanghai the next day as the stormy weather eased. We shopped at the famous Xiang Yang market which is a massive pasar malam, visited Oriental Peak TV Tower and went on a cruise. After that, we proceeded to tour two other provinces, Suzhou and Hangzhou.”
Listed on the Singapore Exchange, Heng Long International is one of the five top-tier tanneries of crocodilian leather in the world, with an entrenched position in the global supply chain of crocodilian skins and leather used by the luxury and high-end fashion industry.
This article along with several others were part of a package put together by Leong Chan Teik for Pulses magazine a while back and is reproduced with permission.
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