We cut our Saturday night hedonism off fairly early, though, because of the plans for Sunday: golf. Philip had decided that he was going to get some bloody fresh air after the city pollution of Bangkok and Beijing, and golf was the solution: it so happened that a colleague of his was also playing golf with a friend at his club, so we all teamed up to make a foursome, Philip saying that it was his treat, and that I would owe him a round of golf if he ever made it back to England. We set off on the 8.30am ferry to Bintan Island, home to a resort and three golf courses for which the brochures looked not only professional, they positively glittered: I was about to experience a side of ex-pat life that was not just well beyond my budget, but well beyond my lifestyle even when I did have a job. Good old Philip.
Andy and Chris, the other two in our foursome, shone on the golf course. Philip held his own. I stank. Actually, my game did improve as we progressed, and Philip began to show his true colours with shots landing in the impenetrable rough1 and the copious lakes... between us we lost sixteen balls in eighteen holes, a fairly good record. But however the golf went – and it's never the important part, especially when you don't mark down the scores, as Philip and I made sure we didn't – the setting was immaculate, with glittering seas, manicured greens and even two local lady caddies for our foursome, who handed us clubs, polished the balls, raked the bunkers we kept landing in, and made me feel like royalty. I almost couldn't believe this was Indonesia: yes, Bintan is in Indonesia, so we had to go through immigration and customs (or, rather, slick versions created to ease the golfing on Bintan) and I got another 60-day visa. Not surprisingly, I didn't opt to hang around in Indonesia any longer than the one day, but it felt strangely odd to be able to converse in Indonesian with the girls in the pro shop, the waiters at the bar, the towel man at the pool... the others were most impressed.
After the game the lap of luxury well and truly grabbed me and plonked me on its knee. We drank beer by the pool, we swam among high budget holidaymakers, we ate classy junk food in the hotel, and a little voice in my head reminded me that, not that long ago, this was the stuff of my life. I swatted it quicker than a mosquito on my thigh: given the insane work ethic of Singapore, you sometimes have to earn luxuries like golf clubs by sacrificing your freedom.
1 Never have I experienced such anti-social rough! I have no idea what it was made of, but once it had your ball, it kept it. As per usual, if you looked for long enough you'd probably find someone else's ball – every time emblazoned with a company logo, making me wonder if employees didn't lose their balls on purpose as a sort of subtle advertising campaign – but once you'd hit the rough, your ball was lost until the next frustrated businessman came along to rake the greenery. On one hole I casually mentioned that that piece of rough over there, on the cusp, was almost definitely going to get my ball, and funnily enough it did: henceforth the rough was known as 'cusp' to all and sundry, a word on a par with 'Thatcher' for in-built phonetic venom. I hit the cusp a lot, and so, therefore, did my caddy, helping with the search. She didn't find many balls, but on one memorable occasion on the 14th hole she did find a snake lurking in the undergrowth. Indonesian rough really is a hazard.