Saturday, 27 August 2011

Wiinnii – My young Cambodian friend

                                     Wiinnii posed happily among
                                      a group of Asean students
                                         Exchange participants   
I first saw her in November 2008 when she came to Malaysia as a member of a 100 over strong Asean Students Exchange Program. Kanhary Heang a.k.a. Wiinnii was one of the brilliant students among the group. The students were their countries’ proud goodwill ambassadors as they took part in stringent selection exercises in their respective Asean nations so as to be chosen among the brightest. The countries that were taking part were The Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Loas, Brunei and Thailand. Surprisingly I did not see any Myanmar students. Three coaches were engaged to provide transport for the cheerful students when they went sight seeing in Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and the surrounding areas. For their exclusive experience they also spent a night at a home stay facility in a Malacca village to learn about the Malay way of life. Together with another two fellow tour guides, a man and one lady, I was roped in to provide information and to answer their endless questions. At the hotel in Kuala Lumpur where they were accommodated for few nights, we were introduced to the students on the first day as we mingled with them to get ourselves acquainted before we started the tour de mission. I was very impressed with their proficiency in spoken English, especially those from Cambodia and Laos 

She was just a sweet little 16 yrs old girl then
                   Moment of happiness captured with her weeping a bit
                              She boarded the bus to talk to us further
                                  You could see that we really liked her
                 A wave of goodbye before we parted    
I found Wiinnii the Cambodian girl intelligent, inquisitive, and polite yet determined to know the answer when she fired a question. Physically and on her outlook she was  petite and demure, dainty and sweet; rather cute for a 16 year old girl. Her English language ability was superb and she sustained a high level of writing skill for the language. We got along fine even though she was not on board my coach when we went from one landmark to another.

                         She totally enjoyed her stay
                              with her friends in Singapore

When it was time to bid farewell to all the participants after a very fruitful stay of five days in Malaysia, the mainly teenage students from various countries queued to present us with unique gifts and souvenirs from their respective nations. We tour guides were caught unprepared as we were unable to return the gesture. The Asean students were courteous and respectful when they showed how much they appreciated our companionship and service. Wiinnii and I exchanged e-addresses before we said goodbye as I told her about my wish to visit Angkor Wat ruins at her home country in the near future.
                                  Wiinnii and her friends in Singapore
                           They're no difference from
                             other pretty Asian faces   

In the month of March 2009 three of us, the same tour guides for the Asean Student Exchange Program 2008 group flew into Siem Reap for our visit to this Indo-China country. After a day of exhaustive tour of the Angkor Wat, we left for Phnom Penh 400km away on board an express bus; the rough riding journey took us 6 hours to reach the capital city of Cambodia. My colleague Dennis had arranged prior to our arrival for a local tour guide to bring us round. We visited the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing fields at Choeung Elk, 15km away from the city. At the end of the day I requested the help of Dar Ing the tour guide to call Wiinnii on the phone. Arrangement was made to meet her but she was held up with her studies and her parents would not allow her to be out of the house after 6pm. Eventually she turned up at the bus terminal before we departed for Siem Reap for our final day of stay in Cambodia. Her best friend Molly brought her over on a motorcycle with Wiinnii riding pillion.

                               She's the tiniest-Wiinnii's mom
                                    reminds her constantly about
                               their Khymer roots and culture        

Meeting her was really exhilarating and Wiinnii was so touched for the fact we came so far to see her, she wept in happiness. When she regained her composure, we exchanged gifts as she boarded our bus for some words before the bus moved. I took some candid shots of her before she alighted from the bus.

              A group picture shot to mark a special day 

By early 2011 Wiinnii had already enrolled in two univeristies with scholarship to study business administration and English Language (Two universities? I wonder how she does that?). Her father is a secondary school physics teacher and her mother a humble housewife who prepares candies for sales to supplement the household income. In our numerous exchanges of e-mails she addressed me as Dad; I was a bit bashful with that but on the other hand it was most natural as that was what we felt for each other. In later part of February 2011, with some savings she had diligently accumulated and some help from her parents, Wiinnii flew to Singapore to meet some of her best friends who were studying there. There were words of us meeting again in Kuala Lumpur before she left for home but that did not materialise as her friends were preoccupied with coming examinations.

                               Young children were eager to begin
                                       their task-Tree Planting             
                     That's how it's done for a start 
With her travelling experience and her exposure to the modern world, Wiinnii has set her sight on a wide scope of choices in her studies and future endeavour. She intends to continue her masters program in a foreign university after her first degree in Cambodia, possibly in the US, or else where. With her excellent achievement records, securing a scholarship for an overseas stint will not be a hurdle to her, I strongly believe. After her pursuit of higher education, Wiinnii intends to venture into business. Dear Wiinnii my friend, I want to wish you sincerely that may all your dreams come true; the future is yours to realise, the sky is the limit, your energetic heart knows no bound, you have been a great achiever as always, you sure will make it big someday. God bless you.

Alan CY Kok
Aug 28th 2011

Footnote: In August 2011 she led a group of 38 primary pupils during a Ford & JCI Tree Planting Exercise. The meaningful event would see trees grown in the future 10 years from now along a stretch of road 700m long in Siem Reap. She had been interned at Ford International Inc in Phnom Penh for the past 1 month to learn about management skill. Her internship at Ford was beneficial and relevant to her degree program.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Bearded and suave Zhang Fei 张菲 sings “My Cup Runneth Over”

   Zhang Fei likes to wear a hat 
  and is always well-dressed

It is time we bask ourselves to soothing music and sweet song once again. The Bard (Poet) of Avon William Shakespeare once wrote: If music were to be fruit of life, play on…………... On this post we have the middle-aged and bearded, yet handsome and suave, Zhang Fei张菲of Taiwan to sing to us the 60s unforgettable romantic ballade “My Cup Runneth Over” for our listening pleasure. This is the URL of the youtube for this video clip:

Here at this video clip we watch an elegant Zhang Fei with his well trimmed beard in his satin white tuxedo with swallow tailed suit delivered the song immensely filled with elements of romance, and with relative ease and comfort, keeping the audience in awe and totally immersed with the joy whilst enjoying a ballade he sang. His impeccable performance was played to a packed audience in an outdoor concert with full accompaniment of an orchestra.
                             The perfect pair when they
                        co-hosted their popular TV shows
                  An embarrassed Jiang Hui was hugged by amorous Zhang Fei
Zhang Fei possessed a natural flair to enthrall his audience and fans with his on off screen ethics that were filled with sardonic wits and laughter inducing candour. His main concerned aim had been total devotion to absolute entertainment. He was always presenting his best show to fun loving Taiwanese fans of all ages.  In his younger days he passionately pursued Western Pop music and songs in a band he formed with some buddies, in which he mastered and played the saxophone. To the world of entertainment in Asia, Zhang Fei has been known as a movie actor (’83-‘88), singer, musician, comedian, TV personality and eventually a very successful TV host with a decorated past. So far he had only released two collections of Western Ballades to some success but that was enough to prove his worth in his speciality. They were ‘When I fall in love’ released in 2004, and ‘Romance’ released in 2005.

                            CD release 'Romance' cover    
A divorced man, Zhang Fei has two children (both boys) with his ex-wife, a Korean lady. He had never being lonely all this while as he was always romantically linked with many TV artistes and actresses, but Zhang Fei has been careful enough not to let his private life gained too much attention and exposure from the media for scandals. He had recently professed his admiration and love for evergreen and charming songster Jiang Hui 江蕙 as they have been close friends for the past twenty years. Zhang Fei was seen on TV when he went down on his knees to declare his feeling to a bashful Jiang Hui. The audience was pleasantly surprised but that farce frozen out to the amusement of everybody soon. They thought this was another exuberant display of Chang Fei in jest for his TV act.

                              The singer artiste turned
                         Buddhist Nun Rev Hern Xu恆述法師
Born to a Taipei family with siblings all involved in the entertainment circle; Zhang Fei is no.2 as the older brother to well established Mandarin singer Fei Yi Ching (Qing)費玉清. The later has been known as a famed singer who sings at a higher pitch with his head tilted upwards when performing. Chang Fei is more a tenor-baritone as compared to his brother.
                      Both have enjoyed a wide scope of
                            fan support over the years

The two brothers have been close as they co-hosted some TV talk shows interviewing young, aspiring singers as well as those experienced ones. In their stage acts at TV studios, their conversations were always laced with salacious and frivolous connotations that make female artistes flushed with red cheeks, thus creating an atmosphere of hilarious effect. The eldest of them all is Fei Qern Lin費貞綾, their sister who is a former TV celebrity but has since devoted her life to Buddhist faith; she is now a nun with the moniker Rev Hern Xu 恆述法師. They were very filial pious to their mother who passed away in July 2010 at the age of 85. Their father Zhang Wu Yee 張舞曦 at 92 years old is currently staying with Zhang Fei. Senior Zhang was a national tennis player for Taiwan during his hey days. Both Sr Zhang and his wife were civil servants before they retired. He was elected role father model of Taiwan in August 2009.

                  Proud father and grateful son celebrated
                     older man's Role Father Model 2009

The soothing, gentle and melodious number “My cup runneth over” was first sung during the 60s by Ed Ames, and was an instant hit as it climbed quickly to top of the radio charts. It was also made further popular by Perry Como, and even by The Ray Conniff Singers.

                        Happy siblings and their mother 
Listen to this song “My cup runneth over” intensely and I am sure that you will be delighted to present this song to your parents and older friends and folks, if they were young enthusiastic listeners of pop songs in the 60s and 70s. This will definitely bring in good times to them when they reminisce their romances in their early years when they were courting each other. Take it from me; you shall love this immaculate rendition of sweet voice and music from Zhang Fei.

                      Suave and handsome Zhang Fei
                      with his trademark Sunglasses

Alan CY Kok

The Lyrics for My Cup Runneth Over

Sometimes in the mornin' when shadows are deep
I lie here beside you just watching you sleep
And sometimes I whisper what I'm thinking of
My cup runneth over with love

Sometimes in the evening when you do not see
I study the small things you do constantly
I memorize moments that I'm fondest of
My cup runneth over with love

In only a moment we both will be old
We won't even notice the world turning cold
And so, in these moments with sunlight above
My cup runneth over with love
My cup runneth over with love
With love

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A modern day Mr. Scrooge’s finding as he feigned dying

                            A wealthy man should enjoy good health,
                                        mental health included

Mr. S.M. Simpson had been down with depression for a few months. He was easily upset over some petty and negligible things at home and at his business suit at a penthouse of a building he owned in Central London, UK. The 70 year old millionaire ran a conglomerate of corporate companies that had business entity in many fields, be it finance, insurance, banking, shipping and some manufacturing industries. His partners, directors, senior managers and executives, personal assistants and his confidential secretary had found him to be easily irritable and irrational. He became fastidious and seemed to have a bone to pick with every one. Due to his uncompromising and belligerent character lately, no one wanted to be close enough to report to him the latest market trend, the state of affair of his business empire, and the mobility of his staff; as a result his overall business suffered to the brink of near collapse. Fortunately he had some very dedicated directors and capable managers who had been at the helm of his various fields long enough for guiding the corporate companies in the right direction. Coupling with the strong fund as capital reserve the business empire possessed and some conservative investments it owned, they managed to run the everyday affair without much hitches and obstacles. It seemed that Mr. Simpson’s business empire still could operate normally for another fiscal year.

                            An old convalescent nursing sanatorium
                       A modern convalescent nursing home 
Still Mr. Simpson remained lonely and desolate. His wife died more than 10 years ago, and he did not remarry. He could never have a cordial relationship with his adult children as they were always knocker blockheads to him. His children were both married with their own off springs. His son was living in the US and his daughter had migrated to Australia. Since he had no close confidant Mr. Simpson brew an insidious scheme in his self-centred mind to fulfill his fanciful whims. He checked himself into one sanatorium for the critical ill and the aged. He then made known to others that he was suffering from terminal sickness and might not live long soon. Though he was feigning sickness but as a big paying master of his own sojourn at the nursing home for the aged, no one at the home raised any objection. In fact they thought this old man was dying alright. However the details and nature of his illness was not disclosed to any party.


What Mr. Simpson did was to find out what others thought of him, how they felt towards him, their loyalty and trust in him, and had any one harbored animosity or acrimonies towards him, thoughts of dislike or disdain him etc. Soon Mr. Simpson had endless visitors throughout the day while he was there at the nursing home since he had been an active member of The Chamber of Commerce in the social circle. To his abhorrence he discovered that some came to see him after been strangers for few decades, claiming to be distant relatives. He was further annoyed that few old friends and associates turned up at his bedside to bid him farewell bluntly, thinking that he would be dead the next day. One of them even told him that he was older than Mr. Simpson but he had better health and a blissful family. His legal advisor reminded him that his will was formulated 30 years ago, did he want to revise or amend the content and the beneficiary. His partners turned up en masse to check his condition, and were relieved that the senior president was not going to another dimension anytime soon; they left as fast as they arrived.

             It is ideal to have someone close to help run a family business
Much to his chagrin there were total strangers came a calling out of curiosity. Some murmured good wishes to him for an early recovery and left name cards in case Mr. Simpson was kind enough to dispense some cash to them in the form of donations or charity. So did some non-government organizations, old folks home and orphanages. They sent their representatives to solicit funds from him to run their societies. Mr. Simpson was not amused neither did he commit any promise to become a known philanthropist. A few old friends told him that they were seeing him for the last time as a formality. Even some debtors showed up to tell him in a sarcastic way that since he was dying, they did not need to repay him for the moneys they owed him.

Hardly a week past at the sanatorium for the aged, Mr. Simpson was too eager to check himself out a disillusioned and frustrated man. He was still depressed, down and angry. In the psychologist’s consultation room he confided all his miseries in Dr Abraham’s presence. After listening intensely to Mr. Simpson’s plight and his experience at the sanatorium for half an hour, the well-known psychologist took a deep breath and said: ‘Too bad, not much of them wanted you to be around longer. It seemed that your effort spent at the convalescent home drew blank and was in fact futile.’ Mr. Simpson was actually looking forward for some consolation, soothing words and supportive advice from the famed doctor. He was quite infuriated to hear from Dr Abraham.

                  This picture was carrying a caption: Marriage for money
Dr Abraham ignored Mr. Simpson’s facial expression and began to talk with crystal clarity; though not too loud but drove home every word into the latter’s ears like thunder: ‘I think your checking into the sanatorium home had been an irresponsible and foolish act…….’ ‘What do you mean……?’ He almost fell off the expensive, leather clad chair he was seated, half lying down. Dr Abraham continued his relentless fusillade of powerful shots aimed at Mr. Simpson: Instead of finding out what others think of you, why don’t you look back, lay down your pride and prejudice, engage some soul-serching effort, to recall what you had or not done to others, in a benevolent, idyllic, forgiving way? Had you ever made concession to accept others’ ideas, opinion and suggestion while you ran the companies? And did you reward them accordingly for their contribution inasmuch to recognize their hard work? How often you’d let your staff down by refusing to listen to them? Respect went both ways, and did you return any accosting in the morning when some one greeted you? Since you’re the boss, they wouldn’t mind you ignore their existence; but in their mind they’re cursing you, branding you as one old snobbish knave. How about their esteem and potential? Did you sense the presence of someone outstanding and brilliant when you talked to your subordinates, and readily created a cache of think tanks in you corporate companies? Did you set an impossible target and tantalizing task to reach amongst your staff? You should discard your false status of a haughty aristocrat, and don’t thrive in your own imaginary cynicism! By the way, how much had you done in the past to pay back to society in a philanthropic endeavour? What are going to do about that?

                                 Psychologist at work     

Dr Abraham unleashed a series of questions and indictment without a pause, at times pointing an unfriendly finger at Mr. Simpson. As he owed the latter nothing and in fact Mr. Simpson needed to pay him for a earful of lecture. The psychologist chirped happily but softly at Mr. Simpson’s predicament as he sent him out of his consultation office. His long rally of speech aimed at the millionaire was actually a well prepared one; he had heard so much of Mr. Simpson’s idiosyncrasy and his ethics.

                    This super rich man can never be lonely          
Two months later Mr. Simpson was back to his penthouse office of his Simpson Tower in downtown London. His staff, board of directors, partners and managers, and his business associates had all found him to be a changed man. He had become friendly and cheerful, greeted everybody he met at the lobby and his office. He took initiative to talk to lift attendants and cleaner janitors too. He announced to his staff and management that they would be rewarded with handsome bonuses and pay revision by the fiscal year end. He took pain to talk to his staff that were resigning and offered them better terms to stay on. He had instructed his financial planners and legal advisors to launch a SM Simpson Foundation that would provide aids for the underprivileged, the old and helpless folks, the orphanages, and the homeless, as well as scholarships for promising students. Not too long later his children were seen visiting him with grandchildren in tow. Everybody who knew Mr. Simpson claimed that he was a changed man- a modern day Mr. Scrooge.

                         In Charles Dickens's famous novel, 
                      "A Christmas Carol" Mr. Scrooge  was a
                         miserly rich man who ignored poor
                  and desolate people. He turned over a new leaf 
                           later to become a kind philanthropist.

                                 Charles Dickens (1812-1870)-One of the
                                        Greatest Novelist of England
Alan CY Kok

A telltale story I heard

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Give me back my index Finger

                   Anatomy class in progress-17th Century
                               painting by Rembrandt

Xiau Zhen was a brilliant year two medical student for the Ivy League University of Peking. She was a physically small built 20 year old girl with fair complexion at just 5 ft 2 inches tall, rather different from the usual tall women folks from Shantung where she hailed. Together with 5 other medical students she shared to study, touch, and dissect a dead male body, and at the end of every session, she would prepare a detailed report of her meticulous finding. She could roughly recollect that their forensic pathology professor once told them that a male corpse cost RMB300 whereas a female one cost more at RMB500 for the varsity to acquire for the purpose of research at the teaching hospital. However the professor or the university authority had never revealed the source of the corpses. Currently they were in their 2nd semester of medical studies to be involved in gynecology and obstetrics; they were given more female corpse for their dissection.

                              Medical students at Chengdu University are
                          taught both the traditional and Western medicine

                    Beijing's Union Medical College Hospital

Xiau Zhen was cursing in her little mind that the forensic class on dissection had to be conducted in the evening hours 9pm to 12 mid-nights, though it was only once a week affair. By the time the class was dismissed it would be well past the prime time for entertainment and too late to go for movie before she called it a day to rest. There was a senior guy at the same faculty kept sending her short messages, suggesting a date for dinner and movie. So far she had ignored the texts but things changed when she saw him in person; guess she would accept the invitation sooner or later as that boy looked handsome and sincere.  ‘Perhaps next week I could go on a date for snacks and movie.’ She silently said to herself, wondering which day of the week would be most appropriate. Adding further to her anxiety, Xiau Zhen was equally perplexed that the anatomy class had to be conducted at the mortuary building which was about 200 meters walk from her hostel. She had to endure the cold wind, and rain sometimes, walking and carrying with her heavy books and notes up and down, albeit covered walkways that meandered and linked the varsity blocks, with dim lights that hardly provided sufficient lighting. Xiau Zhen walked down the stairs of the morgue building leading to the walkway precariously as it was wet and cold out there with temperature falling fast; ‘it’s freezing!’ she softly yelped.

A group picture before the anatomy class for the semester commences

                     Medical University Dissection in the 60s     
Just then she caught glimpse of a figure of a middle-aged man in farmer’s soil-soaked clothes in the dim light at the end of the stairway, smoking with his back facing her. Xiau Zhen cleared her throat to announce her arrival as she did not want her path to be blocked. She also detested the awful smell of the smoke. The man did not respond; Xiau Zhen then asked loudly, perhaps to be more assertive: What time now, please? The man turned his head slowly and at close range puffed a mouthful of cigarette smoke to her face, exposing a set of awful, dark nicotine-stained teeth, and promptly replied: It is 12 midnight already! His unexpected presence was so egregious that Xiau Zhen had to lower her head to avoid eye-contact with the seemingly destitute man. She made quick exit from the place to gain entry into her hostel block.

                       A covered walkway of a modern
                        building provides good shelter
                        An old covered walkway that
                        links two blocks of buildings 
The following week when the anatomy class was resumed at the forensic laboratory just like the past few weeks, Xiau Zhen and her team mates got a male corpse for their learning of the human physiology. This week they were to study and understand the lay out of the arteries, veins and tiny capillaries of the human arm and hand, with relatively complex research into the limb tissue and muscles where the blood veins would run through. Xiau Zhen casually stole a glance at the face of the deceased and found it uncomfortably familiar. She took a step backwards as the face resembled very much that smoking peasant man she saw the week before down the walkway that led to her hostel block. Shortly after she regained her composure she continued her task together with her course-mates and soon they were chatting happily throughout the night. At the end of the dissection session, when she was on the way back after a tired and long day, she saw the man again at the end of the sheltered walkway just before she could enter her hostel block. She made up her mind that pale faced man was not her shadowy fallacy, an apparition or a heinous phantom out to harm her but a real human man. So she gathered enough courage and asked loudly: ‘What time now?’ Came the instantly ready reply: ‘It’s well past midnight.’ Xiau Zhen ran up the stairs to her hostel room within record time; she shut the door behind her for her night of rest.

A medical examiner is a forensic pathologist
who determines the cause of death as well as
the manner of the death occured.

                   A surgical knife-a scalpel in a container

At the following week Xiau Zhen was reluctant to attend the anatomy class; however after much persuasion and coaxing, her course-mates bundled her into the large dissection laboratory room for their studies of the day. Amidst the strong smell of the formalin, again they had to come to close touch of the same corpse they had the week before. The dead man’s mouth was open ajar to show his visually disturbing dark tainted teeth that eventually one of them covered his head with a piece of green linen. Xiau Zhen had already decided what to do next. When her course-mates had gone to the toilet en masse for a while, she did a drastically bold move, she murmured to herself: I think my supervising lecturer won’t mind, and no one knows…this is the only way to find out are they the same person…this one lying here for our dissection and the man I met at the walkway. With gripped determination and raw courage she amputated the index finger of the corpse’s right hand with a razor sharp scalpel, all three phalanges of it. She placed the bloodless, cut-off index finger in a small zipped plastic bag and lamely slid it into the pocket of her white gown as if nothing unusual had happened.


It seemed that her weekly encounter with the apparitional character of the night near the end of the walkway would repeat as she quickened her pace for her way back to her hostel room. Sure enough he was there; the smoking, tall and broad shouldered farmer was standing there at the end of the walkway, waiting for her. With branches and leaves of the trees bellowing amidst strong guts of wind, the ambience was obviously eerie, intimidating and unnerving. As Xiau Zhen got closer, the man suddenly turned his face towards her with great indignation and fury, pointing at her with his right hand minus the index finger, shouting at her with his foul mouth wide open: Give me back my index finger!

                                     The Index Finger

Xiau Zhen regained her consciousness at the clinic for traumas in the company of all five of her course-mates one hour after they found her missing. In their frantic search for her, they saw her lying unconsciously on the walkway with her books and notes strewn all over the floor. As they were anxiously asking her what she saw and what had happened when she came to, their senior supervising lecturer Dr Lin pushed his way to get closer and to interrupt them, waving a small plastic bag containing an amputated index finger; he asked: I found this on the floor where you laid unconscious. Can you explain this? Xiau Zhen there and then fainted again.

Alan CY Kok
A telltale story I heard

For those who may be interested,
This book is essential for Nursing Students and practising Surgical Nurses: .

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

My Trip to Taiwan was marred by the arrival of two typhoons

                                      Colorful provincial map of Taiwan
                 Taiwan is just a mere 130km from Mainland China
                            Our old faithful VW 9 seater MPV

Last October 2010 I kept my wife and her family company to embark on a 8 days tour to Bao Dau宝岛, the treasure island of Formosa viz. Taiwan台灣, in the Pacific Ocean, just about 130km at its narrowest point from the mainland China. Amongst us, my folks knew very well I was the only one speaking and understanding the Chinese Language; so I could be an instant interpreter and ready translator in their presence for the duration of the tour. Our small family group was comprised of my wife and I, her two spinster sisters, their only brother and their mother.

                        Interesting find: Ice cream sold in
                           Japanese-styled wooden containers
                            Chatty retiree on his motorised 4 wheeler

                                    The dishes in this small restaurant
                                        was just too good to resist
                                  Be warned : You're eating too much! 
                                  Not me alone, 5 others were here too
                           Tourists were attracted by lines
                        of Chinese clay teapots  on display  

                       Brisk business as usual for this breakfast eatery 

We landed at Taipei's Taiwan TaoYuan International Airport臺灣桃園國際機場 in the early evening of 20th Oct in the midst of heavy drizzle when we tropical country bumpkins first felt the chill. They don't call it "ChiangKaiSek Airport" any more as it was named after the deceased totalitarian first president of Kuomintang of Taiwan, who ruled Taiwan with an iron fist. My wife's cousin Chew BC picked us up in a large tour Volkswagen MPV which was equipped with a wheel chair. (For the grand lady-my mother-in-law who is in her 80s) Together with him came along the driver Bob and a gentle middle aged Tai Chung friend named Liau.

TaiChung Temple remained sunken after
the Sept 21st 1999 Earthquake

             It was hard to avoid death when crushed under the collapsed building. This used to be the school Hall, no one was injured or killed here as the disaster occurred in the early hrs of morning.
             The natural calamity killed 2,415  wounded 11,300persons,
             and totally destroyed 51,700 houses, damaged another 53,000.

                     Lovers' Rocks? No, these are the damaged pillars
                      of elevated rail track of  TaiChung; they suffered     
                             their ill-fate during the 921 Earthquake
This trip proved to be very rewarding and fun as we really saw many facets of Taiwan with the generosity of our cousin Chew and his friends, including the driver, and despite it rained most of the time. The hiring of the MPV (One 9 seater vehicle) was at RM1700 per day but since he was the owner and a close friend to cousin Chew, he only charged us at NT$5000 (RM500) per day. The tough looking (used to be a rugby player) MPV driver who spoke some Japanese and a little bit of English even bought us dinner together with his daughter at Tai Chung. She was a graduate of Sports Medicine and was currently working at the University after her graduation. The older man aptly named Bob kept us entertained with sudden outburst of old English songs and fascinating stories of his ‘unspeakable suffering’, a phrase he picked up during his military days.
A tiny railway staion named Jiji was built by the Japanese in early 1900s. It's still operating.
                         A picturesque scene on Sun-Moon Lake captured
               from a cable car on the ascent to the hill of multi-tribal village

                           Amidst tensed situation with Mainland China,
we still could have this picture taken with the
naval war ship at the background.
No military guard was seen around here.

                      We have a group picture taken before
                      entering the 921 Earthquake Museum

Tour guides? Yes, Chew's friend Liau, a millionaire around the age of 40 was our guide at Tai Chung and the driver doubled as our guide too at Taipei. We even stayed at the humble bespectacled wealthy man’s  (He was browsing at his blackberry all the time to look at the stocks) exclusive condo unit at the top floor The Penthouse - for free for three nights in Tai Chung whilst he went back home to his family for the night. The apartment he owned was worth a whooping NT$ 20 million (About RM2 million). For breakfast they brought us to small eateries at 3 different places when we were not sleeping at the hotels. At hotel's accommodation, breakfast came along as standard.

                         Japanese liquor store at the 101 Building, Taipei.

                             Auntie with painted face riding motorcycle with
                               umbrella enjoyed having her picture taken

                        We enjoyed some small eats at this tiny shop since
                          the pasar malam was closed after a downpour
In Tainan, South Taiwan, an ever smiling, extra-ordinary helpful friend of cousin Chew boarded our MPV as our guide for a day. This charismatic person Charlton Sim who was a New Yoker few years back as a journalist, (20 yrs), volunteered to be our guide for free! (He is a US citizen but came back to Taiwan to be with his aged mother few years back till she passed away last year; his dad died about 10 yrs ago.) He has been a bachelor all these years but admitted that he has a steady old beau. He's 62! Charlton is a qualified tour guide and at the same time he's a lecturer of English language at a private college in the afternoon till early evening. I told him I wanted to buy a book named: 1949 Big River Grand Ocean 1949 大江大海, penned by famous Taiwanese woman writer Long Ink Tai 龙应台. He told me promptly: No, you don't buy. I have the book and have read it. I'll send to Tai Chung and you will get it next two days. True enough our Tai Chung friend Liau, the millionaire handed me the book with a goodwill card later the week. I was truly touched by Charlton Sim's kind deed. Unfortunately it was raining most of the time at Tainan that I could not have a picture taken along with him.

                                 Picture taken next to a huge bill board
                                  promoting Taipei Floral Expo 2010

                    We were celebrating cousin Chew's birthday
                    in the hotel Cafeteria. Bob the driver was at far right
It was a food holiday and of course lots of shopping for the women folks. I bought two books, one autobiography of Andrea Agassi the tennis player and another one on notorious Mao Tze Dong. I pampered myself to pay for a light jacket due to the cold weather. I also bought one portable hard disc with 500G memory storage just in case my pc going bonkers again.

Eating the very tasty oyster mee-sua of Tainan
 A very crowded morning market of Tainan
                           Cycling club members stopped for oyster mee-sua
                                       we had to eat fast to make way for them
               This shop sells the ubiquitous Bak Yeun-large meat balls soup
                                      BBQ large sotong - squid anyone?             

The mega Typhoon Magi’s tail hit Taiwan after her devastating route to The Philippines. But the worst affected areas were at North Eastern Taiwan - Yilan 宜兰 district which was just about 50km from Taipei. There were 26 deaths and a score of Chinese mainland tourists unaccounted for with their tour coach half buried. We were lucky as we were not planning to go there. Just before our departure another fierce typhoon threatened to land at Taiwan; this time it came from South-Westerly Indo-China areas like Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

                      Ususally it was very crowded; Xi Men Ding
                           looked deserted after the typhoon visit
                            The magnificient Imperial Museum, Taipei
                        A poster of the great wisdom Master Hsing Yun
                       星雲大師 adorned the wall of Fo Guang Shan's
                                   Exhibition Hall in Kaoshiong                          

The highlights of our short sojourn and travel were many. The devastating earthquake remnants of Tai Chung were an eye-opening experience. Many severely damaged buildings were left as they were for visitors to witness. The enlightening Fo Guang Shan 佛光山 of KaoShiong, the Sun-Moon Lake日月潭and Ali-san 阿里山were pleasantly memorable tourism hotspots to visit. Night market strolls at Taipei’s trendy Xi Men Ding西门町 was a breeze after the rain; it was a good place to shop for the trendy and the young, fashion conscious Taiwanese people. Despite our trip was marred by not so ideal weather conditions, we managed to visit palatial places like the magnificent Imperial Museum and the majestic Presidential Palace中華民國總統府.

                 View of the fore-ground of the entrance as seen
                           from the Presidential Palace
                  Taiwanese people love dogs, you can see dogs everywhere
                 This one was friendly enough to allow me to pat him.

This trip was 10 times worthier than we were there 15 yrs ago for which I could not remember anything about Taiwan at all. All I could recollect at that time was that we traveled day and night from North to South along the highways most of the time. It was a 400km journey. Of course this time we had my wife's cousin Chew BC and his 'cronies' to thank for. As for the betel nuts girls, (Well known for dressing scantily to lure customers) well, hard luck for us men folks. We saw lots of them but due to the cold spell, most of them were fully dressed up to their chins, wearing the turtle-necked blouses. Even mosquitoes and flies were unable to fly into their clothing.

The Betel Nut girls 檳榔西施 we didn't get to see due to the cold weather, too bad. 
                       The stormy waves hitting the shores relentlessly 
                                and repeatedly was a quivering sight

We left on time around 6.30am local time with temperature at 18 Degree C at the airport with bellowing strong gust of wind bidding us goodbye.  It was another typhoon coming.

 Alan CY Kok