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Days of Traveling for Pleasure

Chinese New Years Trips

One thing Lucy and I both love to do is traveling.  It was in late 1984, when we were with our friends Jack and Maddie Tang, they casually mentioned about getting away from Hong Kong for the Chinese New Year’s holiday in 1985 and to take a trip somewhere.  Maddie liked to explore exotic places, so she suggested taking a trip to the Micronesia islands of Palau and Yap.  Another couple we got to know after settling in Hong Kong was Tim and Mary Wang who were also game for the idea.  So we decided to do it.  Since we had never travelled together before, it would be an experience to see how we would enjoy not only the trip but also each other’s company. 

First leg was from Hong Kong to Guam by Air Micronesia one class 727.  It was the first and only plane that the row number started from behind, so when we requested the front rows in low numbers, they were all available even though the governor of Guam was on the same flight.  Little did we realize the numbering system giving us the worst seats on the plane!

We spent a few days in Guam planning to make a day trip to Saipan.  We bought the tickets on the only flight leaving for Saipan 5 am in the morning and returning the same evening.  When we got to the airport, we were told that the return flight was cancelled which meant our trip was off.  The agent was very apologetic and offered to buy us dinner that evening in a Chinese Restaurant.  When we went to the restaurant, we didn’t get any service for a long time until the owner lady came out and told us that her son, the owner of the airline always sent his customers to her for a free meal whenever he cancelled a flight!

From Guam we flew to Palau, the diver’s paradise in the Pacific.  The driver of the van who met us at the airport asked us as soon as we got on what kind of drugs did we use.  He could supply all kinds.  Apparently, there was no law against the use of any drugs on the island.  Palau was one of the islands General MacArthur “island hopping” back to the Philippines, so it is like a museum of the World War II full of the remains of the Japanese occupations.  There were only two hotels when we were there, one in the mountain and one on the beach both own by the Japanese. Later more resorts were built and became one of the favorite holiday spots for the Japanese.  The country consists of numerous number of islands and we rented a boat to take in all the sights of things related to the war like the concrete bunkers, sunken warships etc.   

From Palau, we took the once weekly flight to YAP, a tiny island under the governorship of US.  There were only two tiny hotels on the island each had no more than six rooms.  The biggest income of the government was the selling of postage. Luckily, there was a rental car agent and we got hold of a four-wheel drive four-door delivery truck as our transportation to go around the whole island under heavy rain and muddy roads.  We ran into a deserted runway with parts of Japanese Zero half buried in the ground.  This was the first time ever I drove along an entire airplane runway.

The unique thing about YAP was all the women were topless but wearing heavy thatched skirts.  Many older women also grew long beards.  It was a rare sight indeed.

From YAP we flew to Manila and back to 20th century.  The hosts of the welcoming dinner for Jack and Maddie were Clemency and Walter Euyang and we as a group was all invited.  Clemency’s maiden name was Ho and when I was in Chungking, my friend Ruth Kuo asked me to do a sketch of her from a photo.  So we knew of each other but it was our first in person meeting when we were introduced to each other after forty plus years.  Walter’s elder sister is Maisung Euyang whom I knew way back during the war years in Chungking when she was working as a journalist under Tony Tseng’s father at the International News Agency and engaged to the late O K Luk.  They decided to get married right after all of us got to the US when World War II ended.  I was asked to be their best man and Walter’s other sister Gloria was the bride’s maid.  The wedding was held at the Wesleyan College.

The dinner was at the home of Clemency and Walter.  Among the other quests were Kay and Arthur Young whom I had not seen for years.  In fact, Kay was telling everybody that dinner was in honor of me instead of the Tangs!

The Euyang’s mother divorced her first husband and married Duck Bing Hsi.  The children of Mr Hsi by his first wife are also very close friends of Lucy and me.

The second evening, P L Lim gave dinner at the Peninsular of which he was the Chairman.  I met P L back in 1954 when he was married to Peggy Euyang, youngest sister of Walter, so we were coincidently all among old friends.  I regret I forgot to ask for Virginia Yaptingchay who knew all these people very well.

It is well known that traveling together can turn best friends into bitter enemies.  We were prepared for that to happen but the result was just the opposite! 

This trip went so well and everyone got along with each other, so we had since decided to do it every Chinese New Year.  It was unusual that we never had any problem in agreeing where to go.  Maddie was the one we depended on to do all the research of the the place we were to go.  She was a person of few words except she would say “why not” in place of “yes” and “what for” instead of “no”!

One of the other reasons was that Tim and I had so many things in life we could share.  We both had insecurities imbedded in our mind because of the Sino-Japanese War, the Second World War, and the Communist Revolution.  To this day, I still have the natural tendency of buying two of any material things when I went shopping.  This was due to unsettled times you could never count on replacing anything let alone getting servicing.  This was especially true in wartime Chungking where most the daily necessities except food were only available from consignment shops.  Tim also kept the life long habit of wearing a platinum key chain, which he could sell off, link-by-link, and lives on them.    

In 1986, we flew to Kuala Lumpur and rented two cars driving to Lumut.  Maddie and I each were driving one.  Lumut was one of the Naval base of Malaysia and little known as a vacation stop except it was the jumping off spot to the private offshore island of  Pulau Pangkor Laut which had a rather primitive resort according to today’s standard.  We rented an outboard speedboat and went around the island and explored its beautiful beach which had very good seafood restaurants. 

From Lumut, we drove to Cameron Heights, the place to spend the summer during the Colonial days.  On the road up the mountain, there were numerous roadside stands selling fresh durians.  Since there were only half of the people in our group loving durian and the other half could not stand the smell, so we put the durian and all the people who loved it in one car – later we found out we had to pay an extra day of rental fee because the car rental company had to do away with the smell.

We spent one night at Cameron Heights enjoying the cool weather and fresh air.  We dropped by on one of the EU brothers who had a summer house there just to say hello.

From Cameron Heights we drove to Penang and stayed at Shangri-La’s Golden Sands Hotel on the Batu Feringgi Beach.  Like all the tourists, we took the cable car to the high point of the island where there is a Buddhist temple and had a view of the whole island of Penang.  

In 1987, our destination was Indonesia.  We flew to Bali first.  This was the second time Lucy and I went there – the first time was with YungFong, Tessie and the Stanley Wu family – so everything was a repeat for us except Kota beach where the international young crowd gathered. From Bali we flew to Jogyakarta to visit Borobudur, the Buddhist temple which was declared by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites.  From there we went to Jakarta where we were well entertained by Jack’s friends, the Soeryadjayas. William Soeryadjayas 謝建良, the head of the clan, was one of the most successful Chinese settled in Indonesia.  He started out as a bicycle repairman and built his empire as Toyota dealers.  The welcoming dinner was at the house of his daughter Joyce Soeryadjayas.  Among fiftyish local guests, it was a surprise to everyone in our group that I ran into somebody I knew.  He was the Indonesian distributor of Alcatel Duplicators whom I met several times in Singapore.  

Near Jarkata within two hours of boat ride, there are hundreds of islands owned individually by the affluent people of Indonisia.  The next day Joyce arranged for us to visit the island her family owned and stayed overnight in the cottage they built.  It was rather primitive living with no running water of electricity supply. We had to bring our own fuel for the water pump and the generator.  At low tide, one can easily walk from one island to the other, otherwise people use wind surfer to visit each other.  That evening we had a seafood dinner consisted of mostly freshly caught fish, shrimp etc.  When night came, Lucy and I chose to join Joyce and stayed onboard the 40-foot Hattaras rather than spending the night on the island half exposed.  This was the first time I ever slept in the cabin of a boat overnight and subject to the constant sound of water hitting the hull.  It was quite an experience.  

In 1988, we headed for Mexico, visiting Mexico City, Taxco, Acapulco, Cancun and Chichenitaz.  In Acapulco, we stayed at the well known Hilton resort where each room has its own little pool and did all the things tourists must do.  Cancun was another beach resort.  Most of the visitors were from the East Coast of US.  From there, we rented a car and with me as the driver went visiting several other beach towns along the coast.  We also took a one-day trip to the off shore island of Cozumel and took a bus trip to visit the ruins of Chichenitaz which was the highlight of the whole trip.

In 1989, we went to Kota Kinabalu of east Malaysia for a few days at the Shangri-La’s resort.  We spent one day at an island off the coast.  It was most interesting to see a typical Islam man with four wives walking near the beach all covered up with black long gowns while within sight were topless European girls sunbathing on the beach.

From Kota Kinabalu, we flew to Bangkok and rented a van to drive us to Hua Hin.  It was a five hours drive so when we arrived at our destination – the old railroad hotel converted into a resort – it was early morning already.

After two more days of beach and sunshine, we headed back to Bangkok where Bil Hwa, husband of the late Julie Howe, accompanied us to Ching Mai.

It was interesting to note that when we first travelled together, the organizer – Tim Wang – was very conscientious and booked all flights economy class least some of us might be concerned about the cost.  However, after the first trip, we discovered that all of us usually took first class when we travel on business and most of the time on our own and being polite none of us suggested otherwise when we took the first trip.  Once we discovered that, we decided to upgrade ourselves and began to go by first class whenever possible.  Although not quite as people said “getting there is half the fun”, it certainly took the stress out of flying and made “getting there without hassle”.  

In 1990, we went to Kenya: Mombasa, Nairobi, and the Mt Kenya Safari Club.

From Hong Kong, we flew to Dubai on British Airways connecting Kenya Airways to Mombasa.  The resort hotels there are all along the beach together with a private club.  Casinos are the main attraction.  Unfortunately I came down with flu when I got there so missed enjoying the beach.  Three days later we took a flight to Kenya to join the Abercrombie and Kent Safari Tour. Before we board the plane, we were treated royally in the airline’s First Class Lounge and picked our seats only to be told after we stepped into the plane cabin that there were no such seats on this particular plane!  Starting from Nairobi, we were travelling in a nine-person van in a caravan  first to the Aberdares National Park staying overnight at the famous Treetop Hotel where the wild animals came during the night to the water hole under the hotel and guests would be awaken by bell for viewing.  The next day, we drove to the Samburu Game Reserve where we stayed overnight at the Mt Kenya Safari Club where dinner jacket still required for dinner (no mentioned about pants and shoes!).  From there, we went to the Masai Mara Game Reserve in the Serengetti National Park, one of the largest wild life reserves in the world.  Indeed one can see miles and miles of open space with all kinds of wild animals.  When one of the vans in the caravan spotted a herd of lions or elephants, the driver would sound the horn so all vans could follow him.  Once we had the rare chance of seeing not less than 36 lions resting together.
In 1991, our destination was Australia, visiting Brisbane, Port Douglas, Hayman Island and Sidney.

Unlike other tourists, we flew to Brisbane staying overnight there but did not go to the Gold Coast which was the place to see.  We flew from Brisbane to Cairn and rented a car driving to Port Douglas checking into the Sheraton Resort.  It was the first hotel we stayed in that the building is surrounded by salt water pool where you can step into the water from your room and swim.  Port Douglas is the spot where you start to explore the Great Barrier Reef but since our destination was Hayman Island, we skipped that and explored the nearby mountain spots instead.  After Port Douglas, we flew to Hamilton Island where Heyman Island Resort had a luxurious over 100-feet yacht waiting for us to take there.  There is no other resort on the island and the Resort is self-contained with five restaurants, shops, all kinds of water sports plus its own submarine to take you out to explore the coral reef.  Its main building again is set in the middle of huge salt water pond among which there is an island with a fresh water pool for swimming.  This represented the latest resort design where one can enjoy the salt water smell and fresh water swimming.  Rupert Murdoch owns the only other house on the island; we were told he was the person in developing the rather exclusive resort.

In 1992, we went to Egypt, stopping at Cairo, Abu Simbul, Aswan, and Luxor.  Tim did not come that year.  YungFong joined us.

We decided to join the A & K tour instead of planning the trip on our own.  In Cairo, we were taken to see the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx twice, once during the day time and once at night for the sound and light show.  It was such a far cry from my first visit in 1946 when there were still sand bag under the chin of the Sphinx.  Of course climbing to the top of the Pyramids had been banned.  From Cairo we boarded its own riverboat which could take only about 35 people.  There were about 34 persons in our group, about half from the Far East and the others from Western countries.  It was interesting to note that all the Westerners were sick on the trip from drinking the local water.  None of the ones in our group was affected especially because there was one doctor friend, John Boey from Hong Kong and his family was among us and he supplied us with some preventive medicine.

The cruise down Nile was not eventful except as after dinner entertainment; the crew on the boat chose to show the movie Agather Christie’s “Death on the Nile”!

We stopped at Aswan first then went on to Abu Simbul and back to Luxor.  We were all awed by the Egyptian history.  No matter how much you had learned before, the actual sight and the story of the restoration efforts of the ancient monuments were so overwhelming; one can never forget the experience of being there.

After Egypt, Lucy, Mary and I went on to Greece, Athens and Corfu.  In Athens, we stayed at the Athens Hilton.  I located Taki Dimitracoupolos who was the designer of the Autoslide which was licensed to the Gray Manufacturers Company when I was its consultant.  Lucy and I developed a friendship with him and his wife Linn.  They were divorced later and he was living in Athens not far from the Hilton.  I invited him to dinner and we had great time recalling the days in Hartford.  He is now developing the island property his family owned and stayed single at that time.  Later I learned he remarried.  From Athens, we took a side trip to Corfu, a popular summer resort island.  Since it was off season, the whole island was deserted and the Hilton Hotel where we stayed two nights only kept a skeleton staff.  We rented a car and tour the whole island in one day.  Most of the business was seasonal, lucky that our driver knew the places to go and took us to a good sea food restaurant for lunch.  Corfu was opposite Albania and there is only a narrow strait between the two, so in the summer there were always people escaping from Albania to Corfu by boat or swimming.

1n 1993, we went to South Africa visiting Johannesburg, Victoria Falls, Mala Mala Game Reserve, George, and Cape Town.  At the suggestion of Jack, we invited Clemency and Walter Euyang to join us, so our group now consists of eight persons.

At that time, South Africa was one of the few major countries having diplomatic relationship with Taiwan.  It was indeed a heart lifting feeling when we set sights on the Chinese Nationalistic Flag flying at various places.  We were also impressed by the infrastructure in the country.  Most visitors would go from Johannesburg to Sun City which is one of leading tourist’s attraction in the country.  Typical of our group, we decided to skip that.

We went from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where we spent two nights at the “Grand Old Lady of the Fall” -- The Victoria Falls Hotel.  There is a private walk from the Hotel to the Fall.  It took only about ten to fifteen minutes to get there and the thundering noise could be heard at the Hotel.

After coming back to South Africa, we headed toward Mala Mala, a deluxe private game reserve within the Kruger National Park where all the wild life including the big five -- lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo can be seen.  From the reserve there were two outings a day, one in the morning and one in the evening.  Unfortunately I came down with a cold and missed one day of outings.  Armed guards were provided to escort us all the time even from our two-bath cottage to the main dining and drawing room.  Food was mostly game which all referred to as venison and dinner was usually served outdoor.

From Mala Mala we chartered a private plane to fly us back to Johannesburg.  We took a one-day side trip to the executive capital of South Africa, Pretoria.  Unlike other countries, there are three capitals in South Africa; the other two are Legislative Capital Cape Town and Judicial Capital Bloemfontein.  We also took half a day visiting Soweto – South West Township – for short.  It was such a contrast between the modern infrastructure of the city and the black township.  We were told that there some twenty families had to share one source of running water and at night lights mounted on high poles provided the only source of brightness.

From there, we engaged a local tour operator who provided us a nine passenger van taking the “garden route” from Johannesburg to George then onto Cape Town.

We checked in at the well known traditional Mount Nelson Hotel.  Cape Town is a beautiful city and from its famous Table Top Mountain, one can have a 360 degree view of the whole peninsular.  We spent one day driving to Cape of Good Hope and another two days visiting the nearby vineyards.  We were taken back by the warm welcome given us by the staff at one of the vineyards as the owner was Singaporean and all the help including those in its fine dining room were from Singapore.  Apparently there had been very few visitors from the Far East so they were so happy to see us like meeting long lost brothers.

From Cape Town we took the famous Blue Train back to Johannesburg.  I guessed the train was so named because it was made of blue steel, similar to the deluxe “Blue Steel Train” the Chinese railroads used before the World War Two between Shanghai and Beijing.  Each coach carried about twelve passengers and had one compartment with bathtub which Lucy and I occupied.  The ride took one full day and night.  In spite of all the publicities, it was a disappointment.   From Johannesburg, we flew to Mauritius, staying at the Royal Palm and entertained by YungFong’s sister and husband who both worked for Esquel in Mauritius and looked after the house Y L had there.

In 1994, we went to Sri Lanka, Male and back to Krabi in Thailand.

Colombo was still a rather backward city.  We stayed at the Colombo Hilton, one of the two top hotels in the city.  We had planned to spend three days up the hills at Kendy where most of the tea plantations were but because of the rainy weather and the hotel we booked were more like a hostel; we decided to cut the trip short and came back to Colombo after one night.  From Colombo, we flew to Male, capital of Maldives which consisted of hundreds of islands and known for all the resorts on them.  Either motor boats or seaplane were waiting at the airport to take the visitors directly to their destinations.  It was the place to go for people like water sports.

From Male, we flew back to Bangkok where Bil Hwa was waiting at the airport to take us on a connecting flight to Phuket then to Krabi by boat to a brand new resort developed by Dusi Dani group.  There were no docking facilities at Krabi, so each of us had to be carried on the back of the hotel help from the boat to the beach.  The resort had only individual two-story cottages.  All the dining, recreation and shopping were at the central compound.  The pool was borderless, so one would feel like swimming in the ocean. The best part was the massage service which was Thai specialty.  Staying there was indeed relaxing and had a feeling of being out of touch with the rest of the world.

In 1995, we went to New Zealand.

We arrived at Auckland and stayed for one night.  While there, one of ours and Tim and Mary’s common friends, Larry Li and his wife Rebecca who had migrated to New Zealand few years back came to our hotel and we had a brief but rare reunion.  The next day we flew to Rotorua to spend two nights at the famous Huka Lodge which had only less than twenty cottages and everyone was treated like one of the family.  We spent one day hiring a boat cruising the nearby lake and caught some fresh fish which the Lodge served as sashimi during dinner.

After going back to Auckland, we had lunch with Larry Li and his wife then the next day we flew to Cook Islands, one of the off shores banking center. One of its outer islands had the most calm and beautiful inlet and beach which had not been swarming with tourists.  The place had been used as one of the intermediate stops for the Boeing Clipper Flying Boat when Pan Am was flying the Pacific route.

From Cook Island, we flew back to Fiji spending four days at Malcolm Forbes’ own Island Laucala which has a village of about 300 people and four or five cottages for guests.  One had to book from Forbes headquarter in the US.  It only takes one party at a time and the charge was around $500 per diem per person which includes everything, meals, liquor, wines, laundry, sports facilities, local transportation by jeep around the island, and power boats for exploring the nearby islands, etc.  Two maids would come to prepare breakfast at the cottage and the party could choose where to have lunch or dinner.  The place was managed by a couple living there who gave us a welcome dinner the day we arrived.  Our choice for lunch next day was at the Forbes ‘own house at the top of the hill.  The photographs in the house gave us an insight of Forbes’ life, including his marriage to Jane Fonda and his love of Harley Davidson motorcycle.  When we checked out of the place, the payment was treated like a donation to support the village.  Of all our travel, this must have been the most exclusive enclave for a vacation.

In 1996, we made the most adventurous and memorable trip to Antarctica on the M S Explorer, which was the Lindbald Explorer previously and was sunk by hitting an iceberg in November 2007.  On the way we stopped at Santiago, Ushuaia where we boarded the ship.  With this trip, I can now say that I have crossed both the Arctic Circle and Antarctic Circle and had been to the world’s two southern most land points, the Cape Horn at South America where Atlantic Ocean meets the Pacific and Cape of Good Hope at South Africa where Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean.              

It was on this trip when Maddie showed up without Jack at the Maimi airport where we were all to meet and joined the Abercrombia and Kent Tour that we were informed that Maddie and Jack after fifty years of marriage had finally agreed to get an amicable divorce!  The third party involved was the former wife of Lincoln C K Yung, son of H C Yung (Hung Ching Yung).

From Ushuaia, to reach Antarctica we had to spend 48 hours going through Drake Passage where Atlantic Ocean meets Pacific Ocean and is regarded as the roughest ocean crossing in the world.  With our less than ten thousand tons icebreaker, somehow we all survived without missing a meal.

It was difficult to describe the experience of visiting Antarctica.  On board of ship, there were experts to give daily lectures on the animals in the region: whales, sharks, penguins, sea lions etc.  Once we reached Antarctica, the ship provided zodiacs to take you ashore twice a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  We were told the water temperature was so cold one could only survive up to ten minutes in the water but we were assured by the crew that they were trained to pull you out in less than three minutes.

The ship had an open bridge policy which meant one could go to the bridge and watched the captain navigating through sheets of ice anytime day or night.  Since ours was a smaller ship, the captain put us through some of the routing no other human being had ever been through.

One of the more famous spot ships usually visit is a volcanic island with an inlet where at the beach the water is more than hot.  Most of us took a quick dip for the sake of having photos taken.  On the same beach, there were some remains of former expedition party.  There were a few shelters with cooking utensils.  Because there was absolutely no air pollution at all, they all still looked like putting there yesterday instead of years ago.

In 1998, we joined a land tour with Travcoa to South America covering Brazil, Argentina and Chile.  There were eight of us: Bil Hwa joined us.

Travcoa only conducts deluxe tours so everywhere we went we were always staying at the best hotels.  The meals were always a-la-carte.  In fact, you didn’t necessarily follow their choice of restaurant, you could choose your own and have the bills reimbursed.  In Rio de Janeiro, we were put up at the Copacabana Beach Hotel and visited the Sugar Loaf Mountain.  Speaking of that, I remembered years ago while we were all at school, Mary Jane Soong’s younger sister Kay, Shirley Young’s sister Genie and I had a pact to meet at the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain on January 1st 2000 with all our children and grandchildren.  Of course this never materialized but it was something we never forgot.

From Brazil, we went to Buenos Aires in Argentina, then up the mountain to the Lake region on the way to Santiago in Chile.  The highlight of the trip was to Peru visiting the ancient ruins of Inca.  We flew from Lima to Cuzco which is more than 4000 meters in attitude and we all felt the lack of oxygen made us somewhat feeling weak and sick.  The next day we took the train to Machu Picchu where the ruins are.  It is hard to imagine how the ancient people built the temples and whole community so high in the mountain and what is more puzzling was how and why it was deserted.

The place we did not make was the ancient Nazca lines rumored made by astronauts during the Cahuachi Culture.  

Because of the breakup of Jack and Maddie, the group was broken up after that trip.  Clemency and Walter, Tim and Mary together with Bil Hwa went on for two or three years but we for various reasons did not continue to join them.

Food Trips

The other regular group excursion we enjoyed for a couple of years was with the H T Liu family.  It all started in 1990 with H T and Liang Hung celebrating their 70th birthday in Europe and we were among the few of their old and close friends asked to join an eating trip to Lyon arranged by Peggy, daughter of H T.  We and the Liu family met in Paris at Hotel Vernet and then took the TGV down to Lyon.

Among the group were Liang Hung and Elsie, C S and Loretta Wang, Nelson Chang (Edith did not come), Robert and George Chang, Peggy and Philip Marcovici, Mabel (H T daughter) and H T.
From Lyon, we rented two vans and our first stop was Paul Bocuse for dinner.  The food was great but the place was too commercial.  Paul himself would greet us at the conclusion of the dinner and he took for granted that we would ask him to join us for a picture to be autographed.   Also there was a gift shop promoting his cook books and other souvenir items.  The second stop was Alain Chapel where we stayed overnight.  There were twelve rooms at the Inn and our party took up eleven so we practically took over the whole place.  After dinner, we were taken on a tour of its wine cellar and when we came out somehow Lucy was left behind and locked in.  We had to get the manager to open the door to let Lucy out and everyone was blaming her not to smuggle a few bottles out with her!  The third Michelin stared restaurant we visited was Blanc de Blanc for lunch.  We even worked in a tennis game before lunch.  There we were served a cheese which taste just like the Chinese smelly bean curd.  Back to Lyon, we had the main event -- the birthday dinner at Leon de Lyon.

The trip went so well and it was a truly gourmet tour of France.

In 1992, we decided to repeat it.  This time to Italy.  Peggy and Philip Marcovici had a villa by Lake Lugarno on the Italian side.  They found a charming little hotel on Swiss side for all the rest of us.  The first lunch was at the estate of a friend of Peggy’s.  Dinner was in Milan.  Unfortunately the restaurant we picked was not too good.  The third day we had lunch at a place called Orlando in the nearby hills to where we stayed.  The pasta was about the best we ever had.  Following the three days there, we headed for Florence, Venice and then Como.  At Como, we met with some friends of the Lius at the Villa d’Este and were taken to an island to have a special dinner at which everybody toasted Nelson and me for our 70th Birthdays although mine was one year earlier.

In 1994, we made it to Napa and Somona Valley arranged by George Chang.  His secretary did a superb job in planning.  We met at Sausalito where H T, Nelson and Robert Chang shared the ownership of a house halfway up the hill.  Our hotel was the Alta Mira, the local landmark.  Peggy’s good friend from Singapore, Patty and Bryan Miller joined us this time.

P Y Chao, another good friend of ours whose late wife Pansy was the cousin of Jane’s husband K Y joined us for part of the wine country tour.  So did my niece Adrienne Yang who was attending U of C at Berkeley at that time.  Our first overnight stop was at Silverado up in Napa Valley then we went up to Sonoma country visiting St Helena Wine Estate and all the nearby vineyards.  On the way back we went to Carmel and spent a few nights there before going back to Sausalito.

In 1995, Peggy’s friend in London planned the trip for us.  They lived in a town house in downtown London.  They prepared a welcoming dinner at their house.  They were in the restaurant business, so it was superb.

Our base was the Hyatt managed hotel at Hyde Park and we spent one night each at a few of the famous chateau restaurants all within driving distance from London.  One of the best meals was lunch at Waterside Inn frequented by the royal family.

For this trip, from Hong Kong we bought a first class round the world ticket on British Airway, so we were entitled to cross the Atlantic by Concorde.  This was the one and only time we broke sound barrier.  Not many years later, Concorde services were discontinued by both British Airways and Air France.

In 1996, I took on the job of planning the trip to Ireland.  Philip has a client who owns a castle about 45 miles from Dublin, so we took over the whole castle for a week and then drove on to Cork via Waterford to stay at a famous farm and cooking school for a few days.

We skipped the 1997 trip to Spain which was arranged by the Millers.

In 1998, the gourmet trip went to Bordeaux.   It was all arranged by Priscilla Liang who passed away shortly after the trip.

In 1999, it was Burgundy in France.  That was the year I broke my left rotator cuff from a fall on Jones Street in San Francisco just a few days before the trip.

In 2000, Lucy and I took a tour of southern France with the Tauck group, then met H T and Mabel in Paris to watch the semi-final and final of the French Open.  Mary Pierce was the women’s champion after beating Conchita Martinez 6-2, 7-5.


In 1994, Lucy and I went on a Sun Line cruise to the Aegean Sea.

We started from Athens on to Mikonos, Izmir in Turkey, then through the Dardanelles to Istanbul.

In 2001, we went on the Crystal Symphony from Rome to Venice.  Since we were by ourselves, we did not like the first dining table assigned to us, so the Maitre d’ switched us to a table with three other couples all our contemporaries.  It worked out great since we had so much to talk about.  One thing I surprised everyone at our table was at the conclusion of the cruise, I asked who knew what country the Crystal Line belonged to.  Most of them said the U S.  Then I told them that actually it is a Japanese Line belonging to the NYK group.  What a shock to the rest of us because most of them had either fought in or affected by the Second World War and never thought of cruising on a Japanese ship.  I gave credit to the NYK people for marketing the Line as a U S owned company with headquarter in California and had an America CEO.  Very similar to what SONY did.

In 2002, we took the river cruise from Chungking to Yichang, the last one went through the Yangtze before the Three Gorge Dam was to shut off the direct water way.  From Yichang, we flew to Shanghai staying at the Garden Hotel which was across the street from Shirley’s apartment.  Shirley took us to dinner one night at a place called Uncle Shanghai which is owned by Clearance Lee, son of the late K C Lee and Virginia Lee, cousin of Mabel Chow.  We were all in Hong Kong before Pearl Harbor and saw each other very often and they were the family we started travelling together from Hanoi to Kweilin but had to break up because of reason stated in one of the earlier paragraphs of these recollections.  The third day Shirley was busy so Lucy and I rented a taxi and we went to Chow Village.  By accident, we noticed my hometown Tongli was on the way, so on the way we made a quick visit and had a photo taken.  Tongli today is almost as well known as Chow Village in its heritage. There is a museum housing some of material about the famous citizens from Wujiang among whom are Dr Alfred Sze (I have never known before that the Sze family is also from Wujiang) and my eldest uncle Tsian Li.

In 2002, we went on the Crystal Symphony again with Vicky and Julian Wong to the Baltic’s.  We boarded at Southampton and docked at Copenhagen, St Petersburg and Helsinki.  At Helsinki the highlight for me was seeing the work of the late architect Eliel Saarinen.  Most of the buildings he designed including the railroad station used copper roof which turned beautiful green as time goes by.

In 2003, we went on the Holland American MS Prinsendam (formerly the Viking Sun) with Flora and P K Fung, H T and Christine Liu and Raymond Shaw’s brother and his wife to Shanghai, Tianjin, and Dalian 大連 and Osaka.

In Shanghai, Shirley was there and this time she took us again to Clearance Li’s new Uncle Shanghai restaurant in Pudong.  It was in a high rising office building and not as charming as the original one.  After dinner, Shirley brought us to the Paramount Ballroom.  She even engaged two dancing girls for me and Jerry.  Over all, one still can recognize the place except no more spring dancing floor or the mezzengei glass floor.  The only thing looked like left over from the old days were the jazz band and the vocalist.

The next morning, Shirley invited Lucy and me to have breakfast at her place but the unexpected happened.  Just as we were to disembark, the ship was ordered to move to another dock so the gangplank was up and we had to spend twenty US dollars to make a ship-to-shore call informing Shirley we had to miss a great meal.

The ship after leaving Shanghai ran into such heavy fog, she had to drop anchor at the month of Yangtze for almost twelve hours.  Because of this, we had to skip one port call at Cheju.

During the at sea days, I joined the shipboard pair duplicate bridge and we usually played in the afternoon.  I was paired with a retired gentleman from US.  In one of the tournament, we came out to be the top of 12 tables.  Ninety percent of the players were ACBL members so they all got some IMPs no matter how little.  Since I was not a member, I was awarded a bear mug instead!  Bear Mug vs IMP, I decided to join the ACBL.

After we arrived in Osaka, the SARS situation in Hong Kong was getting worse, so all of us decided not to fly back.  We all diverted our trip to San Francisco except the Shaws who flew to France where they have a home.

To China

The first trip to Communist China was in 1985 as described in Chapter 8.

The second visit was the cruise down the Yangtze in 2002.

The Third trip was to Shanghai with Y L Yang, YungFong and some of Esquel’s people.

My fourth visit was in October 2005.  Lucy and I were invited by YungFong to Hangzhou to celebrate her 80’s birthday.  The event lasted three days and was at the Hyatt Regency by the lake.  We flew directly to and from Hangzhou and were quite impressed by the progress China had made in the twenty years.  After Hangzhou, we spent two nights at a golf resort and hotel with villas for sale nearby which was developed by the Yu Fung Yuen group of Taiwan before flying to Hong Kong.

The latest trip was on the routing of the 2003 cruise with stops at Shanghai, Tianjin, Beijing and Osaka.




                   next CHAPTER 10