I left off in the last blog with a note that we were off to Taiwan. We did indeed spend altogether eight days there, mostly eating and drinking, indulging ourselves with Michelin starred or recommended eateries, primarily Japanese inspired. They were cheap by Hong Kong standard, but were probably not generally affordable by the locals. We returned to base afterwards, narrowly missing another earthquake which struck the day we left. Some friends who had followed our itinerary were indeed concerned, and we are most grateful.

Su had booked most of the venues from Hong Kong, with military precision. She had higher expectations before Taiwan was hit by an earthquake and had to scale down our wishes.  In any case, many of the eateries, particularly those in Taichung, required upfront payments or deposits, which was somewhat impractical for us, but Su managed to circumvent the restrictions and was very proud that she could book a Japanese dinner at a particular venue just across the street from where we lived. The restaurant was all Japanese, with only eight or nine seats for dinner, so that the management had to lay out an extra table to accommodate us after Su booked ourselves in. We ended up having a three-and-a-half-hour dinner, beginning before 6:30 pm and were pampered all the way by a Japanese chef who spoke Putonghua and a bit of English. We also made friends with a local who was a regular of the restaurant and who was surprised that we could book places that evening. Su had uploaded some details in her blogs afterwards. She also described in some details our experience in other restaurants in Taichung, so that I won’t repeat the details and would simply leave it as such.

Still in Taichung, Su caught up with Teddy, a former colleague, who actually lived in Taipei and drove two hours to meet us early one morning in the hotel in his 20 years old but rather well-maintained BMW. Su said that Teddy had taken care of us a couple of times in the past eight years, except that I couldn’t place him, possibly because he had slimmed down a bit through hiking and running in preparation for some local marathon runs. He and Su had a lot to catch up on his family and children’s education. He took us for a short walk, followed by visits to two local eateries before driving us to the Gaomei Wetlands, officially known as Gaomei Wetland Preservation Area in Taichung. The wetland was established in September 2005 after a typhoon which struck in August that destroyed 6 of the 18 wind turbines operated by the Taiwan Power Company in the area, and features a flat land which spans over 300 hectares. It was a beautiful place and certainly was worth our time there.

After four days, we motored to Taipei, again pre-arranged by Su and we checked in a good hotel very close to the train station reachable from the airport by the equivalent of our Airport Express. I would not labour on the Rotary activities which had brought us to Taiwan in the first place, but would mention the other reunion which Su had organized with her former colleagues – Stan and Josephine – whom I had met in Taiwan and at our wedding before. Stan had an accident on his kneecap from a recent skiing in Japan and was about to have an operation, but otherwise he was in good shape. We had a great dinner, again in Japanese style, in Taipei.

It could have been the food or the ambience of Taipei or Taichung, or something else, but for the three or four mornings from the day we left Taichung, I developed allergies and had rash all over my torso and arms and legs for two hours after breakfast. It was painful. And to add to that, my right forearm had an inflammation which apparently had resulted from a bad insect bite either in Malaysia or elsewhere but which would not go away. I was so scared that I texted my friend Vincent to book me an appointment with my dermatologist the day I returned, and another with him to check my leg muscles.

The good news was that I had a miraculous recovery from my allergies which the doctor diagnosed as nothing but contact dermatitis while the pain on my left leg turned out to be a ligament issue rather than something more serious. There are more serious matters to attend to in the meantime. Natalie took us to a sumptuous lunch to mark our wedding anniversary and in the meantime, we hatched plans to celebrate the birthdays of Su and Vincent.

Now, having announced that April is my Birthday Month, I must add that May is Su’s Birthday Month. We have now found that Vincent’s birthday is only two days before Su’s. The records have shown that we were often going places in May to mark or celebrate Su’s birthday, beginning with the trip in May 2009 two weeks after we were married on a river cruise to the Rhine and Rhone or somewhere close to the two rivers. We also went to parts of the Silk Road or thereabout.  More recently, we were in France most of May last year, and so on.

Not dissimilar to the extended stay in Taiwan in April, Su had organized a trip in Japan, around my Masonic meetings over a weekend in May in Kobe, which spans from 15 to 23 of May, or another eight days, just as what we had done in Taiwan. Again, it would feature plenty of eating and drinking, except this time, we won’t be meeting too many friends, but there will be, and we’d surely meet some new ones.

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