Thanks to work, I’m over in Asia again. To be more specific I’m spending a week in Taiwan with a quick day trip to Hong Kong on the second day of my trip. This marks the third time in Taiwan since September 2022 for me.
Who knows, maybe I’ll return to Taiwan and the surrounding area later this year for more business travels – as we still have over half a year remaining.
Here are some of my random thoughts while in Taiwan and Hong Kong
I arrived in Taiwan at 5 AM on a weekday morning and was pretty tired, having slept for about four hours on the 12-hour flight. Air Canada used to have a direct flight from Vancouver to Taipei that landed in the late evening. I really miss that flight…much better timing.
Side note… my company’s travel policy changed recently, so no flying in business class anymore. However, I was able to fly premium economy. While certainly not as luxurious as business class, it was nice to have a wider seat that could tilt back further than a regular economy seat.
After landing and checking into my hotel, I started my work day at 7:30 AM with an online team meeting. Afterwards, I went into our Taipei office to meet a group of co-workers. I had lunch with our local sales team members, more meetings in the afternoon, then dinner with some of our R&D team members.
Since there’s a 15 hour time difference between Taiwan and Vancouver, that very first day was fueled by a lot of coffee. I started to fade around 2 PM and had to dig in hard to get some energy (coffee helped).
Dinner that night was extremely tough. Fortunately, it was only with coworkers that I’ve known for years so we were able to wrap up dinner around 8 PM, relatively early and I could get some much-needed sleep.
Although I have been to Hong Kong many times, this was my first time doing a day trip without staying in Hong Kong for at least one night. Due to having a 7 AM flight, I stayed close to Taoyuan International Airport the night before.
Despite that, I still had to get up super early at 4:15 AM to give myself enough time to go through the usual security and customs clearance. After a couple of meetings with customers, my colleague and I took a 7:30 PM flight and landed in Taiwan around 9:30 AM.
It was a long day, especially considering I only landed in Taiwan the day before. When I planned the trip, I thought I’d be waking up early due to jet lag anyway, so an early flight wouldn’t have mattered. This turned out to be true.
It was a long day, but I think it was a good choice to do a day trip to Hong Kong from Taiwan. It saved me from having to pack my suitcase, check into a hotel in Hong Kong for one night, then have to change location the next day.
Given the same choice in the future, I’d do a day trip to Hong Kong from Taiwan again.
I am always amazed at how tall and packed the apartment buildings are in Hong Kong.
These apartment buildings just go straight up and the buildings are all very close to each other.
I’ve been told many times that most of these apartment buildings are government subsidized so each apartment is extremely small.
November 2019 was the last time I was in Hong Kong, just before COVID-19 became the global headline. Back then the headlines were the protests in Hong Kong and I saw a number of examples of post-protest damages throughout the city.
Back in 2019, there were still a lot of people in the airport, and Central & Tsim Sha Tsui surrounding areas.
This time around, however, I noticed there were far fewer people at the airport. I was surprised there was no taxi line at all. There seemed to be far less traffic on the road as well. Also, Central & Tsim Sha Tsui wasn’t as busy as I remembered.
Talking to some Hong Kong locals, they mentioned there’s been a 50% drop in visitors compared to pre-COVID levels. Months ago there were barely any visitors in Hong Kong. It was a completely isolated island.
The number of visitors has been slowly increasing since Hong Kong lifted its COVID-19 restrictions.
Despite the lifting of those restrictions, my co-workers told me that there have been considerably fewer visitors from Mainland China. Considering the much anticipated global economic slowdown, I wonder how Hong Kong’s economy will fare.
The Hong Kong economy appears to be hurting a lot from the lack of visitors.
A co-worker told me that an incredible number of over 6,000 restaurants have closed so far in 2023. Many luxury watch and jewelry stores were forced to close, due to the lack of Chinese tourists (they like to buy expensive stuff). It also didn’t help that Chinese tourists can purchase these luxury items easily from online stores.
Many people and companies that used to rely on tourism had to switch fields.
Would Hong Kong lose its global economic power and its influence in the banking and financial sectors? It’s hard to say but long term I do worry for Hong Kong.
The weather has been incredibly hot in both Hong Kong and Taipei. The other day it was 33 degrees Celsius outside but felt like 40.
In between meetings in Hong Kong, my co-workers and I went to a Starbucks to grab coffees. We couldn’t find seating inside, so we sat outside. After about 5 minutes, I told them I had to move inside because I was melting. I guess it didn’t help that I was wearing a long sleeve dress shirt…
You can get a lot of great Japanese food in Vancouver. But after eating Japanese food in Taiwan (sushi, sashimi, omasake, teppanyaki, ramen, etc), I think Taiwan is probably the best place to enjoy a nice Japanese meal outside of Japan.
Best of all, high quality Japanese food is usually much cheaper than in Vancouver.
Sometimes I wonder if I come to Taiwan for business or if I really come to Taiwan to eat Japanese food. Ha!
It’s not a surprise that I like Apple a lot. Why? Because of its extremely sticky and strong ecosystem. Many users get an iPhone, then a Mac, then an iPad, Apple Watch, and then eventually even more Apple products. But it’s not Apple hardware we need to pay attention to. It’s the software and all the different services.
If you look at Mac OS for example, over the years you will see that Apple has integrated iPhone and iPad into its Mac OS. You can use iMessage on iPhone, Mac, and iPad; you can make and receive calls on Macs and iPads; you can use iPads as a Mac monitor; you can pair iPhones with your Macs as webcams; you can seamlessly browse and work from iPhone to Mac to iPad. It may not seem much but all these user “easiness” and “accessibility” are ways to tie users into the Apple ecosystem.
While in Taiwan, I observed that about 70-80% of people had iPhones. About a third of them also would had an Apple Watch on their wrists. Interestingly, the majority of my coworkers have an iPhone. When I asked them why they use iPhones, the common reasons were
- Their family uses iPhones so iMessage is preferred
- Have Macs or iPads at home so using iPhones makes their lives easier
- Prefer iPhones over Android phones
As an Apple shareholder, this is news to my ears!
Typically, I don’t check our dividend portfolio that often. While on the road I have yet to check how the market is doing. Partly because I have been busy, partly because of the time zone difference, but mostly because since we’re not buying or selling anything, I didn’t feel like there’s a need to check.
Not having to monitor the market on a daily basis is one of the biggest advantages of dividend growth investing and index investing. I have said this many times before… time in the market is far more important than timing the market.
Remember, your stock portfolio is like a bar of soap – the more you touch, the smaller it gets!
12 thoughts on “Random thoughts from Taiwan & Hong Kong”
Can you share what’s your role in the company?
Enjoyed your update. I fully agree about Apple as it is one of my favorite stocks.
On a side note, is Taiwan a good place to visit as a tourist?
Yes Taiwan is an amazing place to visit as a tourist.
Another great update. I own Apple directly as well as indirectly through BRK.B in my taxable corporate and personal brokerage account. Biggest holding for Berkshire is Apple.
I’m wondering your take on Taiwan Semiconductor TSMC and the “greatest investor “ Buffet.
Buffet keeps stating how he’s buy and hold but he bought tons of TSMC in 2022 then 6 months later sold it all.
Supposedly geo political reasons yet any investor should do due diligence and realize before buying especially a billionaire with infinite research and analysis of companies.
Any thoughts on TSMC or chip makers ?
Thank you Dad MD.
I think a lot of people have geopolitics concerns but I talking to ppl in Taiwan they feel that’s overblown.
Beijing is serious . Especially when Taiwanese air space is violated on a daily basis. I hope you would encourage them not to take it to lightly , because they are indeed serious. From Beijing‘s point of view, Taiwan is a country club of China, and they are bound and determined to break that country club up. Beijing and the CCP are not bluffing – they wouldn’t spend trillions in doing so.. Take them seriously.
The growth of the Apple financial services division in the US is growing rapidly and is challenging main stream banks already. It makes sense for Apple power users to have everything integrated right down to payment and banking services. On their first day this spring, depositors put $1 billion dollars into Apple savings accounts in the US. I’m a huge Apple fan and because of these integrations across platforms & devices is why I stick with them.
Is Apple regulated by the Fed or other , as a bank or? ( banking ) . Are rates for loans that much better ( or savings?) . Dont know much about them, as a bank or liquidity in the economy. However, and principle it could give Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citibank a run for their money… so to speak.
Apple works with Goldman Sachs so I believe things are regulated.
Just came back after being in SE Asia for 4.5 months ( Philippines , Indonesia, Singapore and KL ) . Mostly business but a lot of pleasure too . I laughed at ‘…it’s a lot cheaper in Asia…’ . Getting back to Canada I’m amazed at how costly it is here for simple daily things like food and other basic necessities. Canadian service generally a average to poor as well, and they demand a tip or the scowl at you. Lordy, Canadians are sleepwalking!! Hopefully we can keep Taiwan free, flying over the East Coast after one, and watching the Asian news, China is encroaching on its territory every hour, not daily. Supplemental, I saw a lot of “Chinese fishing” vessels just off about 180 nautical miles off the east coast of Taiwan. Let’s pray for peace !
I did notice that items are a bit more expensive in Taiwan than September last year.
Inflationary pressures is everywhere, isn’t it? Even in Malaysia there was an increase in prices that I noticed YOY. At best though the cost of living is 40% of what it is in Canada.