Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sick in Taiwan

The few photos that were used in this article have all been recycled from other articles. There's no food porn here. Move along if that's all you're looking for. This article is written more for myself than anything.

Anyway, this sad story is about a few days I spent in Taiwan. If you haven’t read about the previous day in Sun Moon Lake, please do so before you read on.

That night/morning started out innocently enough. I made a few trips to the bathroom and drank a few bottles of water to replace what I had lost. Ahem... I tried to sleep and conserve my energy, but I just woke up weak. Yup, I got traveler’s diarrhea.

The plan was to continue with our tour and hopefully I’d feel better. Breakfast at the restaurant was spent sitting at another table with my head down. I had no appetite and was just concentrated on breathing and trying to fight off the bug. Once everyone was finished, I remember my aunt firing off a bunch of symptoms to see what was making me sick.

“Do you have a headache?” My aunt began.

I nodded with the little energy I had. The headache was because I was dehydrated.

“Do you have a fever? Do you have the chills? Are you nauseous? Are you dizzy?” She listed off as she felt my forehead.

“No. No chills, no fever, no dizziness. I’m not nauseous,” I replied.

I swear I wasn’t nauseous before, but after my aunt asked those questions, I really did feel nauseous. What the…

I’m pretty sure I dry heaved a few times. I began to feel clammy and hot. I needed air.

With someone's help, I staggered outside and sat on a damp picnic table. We then moved to a table in front of a coffee/ice cream store. While my relatives talked things over a cup of coffee, I focused on keeping my composure. I stopped feeling clammy and nauseous, but I was still feeling weak. 


“Must’ve been the mushrooms.”

“No, no, it was all of the milk tea she drank yesterday during breakfast.”

They were trying to figure out what made me sick. To this day, I still don’t know the answer.

We hopped into the car and began to drive to our next destination. I don’t totally remember where we went. I think it was a place that had a bunch of food stalls along the parking lot. It was hot that day. I couldn’t stay in the car so I sat on a bench, clutching a bottle of water, while everyone else went to walk around. I laid myself down on the bench and tried to sleep. I’m sure I must’ve looked like a bum, but I didn’t care. I had to remind myself to keep taking sips of water every few minutes.

After what seemed like a few hours, I heard a familiar voice call out my name. Finally! I sat up, took a sip of water and a few deep breaths before standing up. Guided by Lucy, I made my way back to the car. And just as we reached the trunk, my knees gave out and I fell onto the car, leaning on the rear lights. The water that I had been sipping on that bench went all over the road.

“I saw that coming,” I heard Lucy commenting.

Not good. Not good at all. I didn’t want to ruin this trip. I didn’t want to hold anyone back from having a good time, but it looks like that failed.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur. I remember we pulled into a parking lot of large restaurant for dinner. I still didn’t have an appetite and felt like I’d definitely get worse if I went in. I was fine in the car.

I tried to sleep and regain my energy. I took sips of a weird-tasting energy drink to keep hydrated instead of water. The energy drink tasted like the clear solution that my family doctor used to prescribe when we used to have diarrhea. It had a muted sweet and salty water taste. Does that make sense? At least the stuff was staying down.

Someone came in to ask me if I was hungry and wanted anything to eat. I just asked for oranges or anything that was a citrus. I was hoping oranges would settle my stomach. They came back with a few slices of oranges and told me not to eat them too quickly.

It was so comforting to taste the oranges. Fooooood! I hesitantly ate half of a slice and then rested a bit. I wanted to see if I’d be fine. I passed out for a bit and then felt that I was fine, so I finished the slice of citrus and took another swig of the energy drink.

After resting some more, I finished the few slices that I was given. I could feel myself recharging. Yes! I began to have enough energy to sit up and think about the stuff I ate the previous day. Thinking about all the food didn’t make me sick at all. I dozed off again before waking up to a scooter’s whiny horn. From that point on, I stared at a tree nearby. There was a slight breeze that was keeping the air fresh. I turned my attention to breathing again. Deep breathes. Nice and slow.

Inhale. Exhale.

Inhale... Exhale…

I felt much better. I laid back and tried to go back to sleep.

Out of nowhere, it felt like my stomach was rumbling – and then I had a bad feeling. I grabbed the bag that was right beside me and, like a volcano, spewed out liquids. Urgh… I tied up the bag and put it down. I took a sip of water this time and rested my head back on the passenger seat’s headrest.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale…

I don’t remember who it was, but a familiar voice asked, “How are you feeling? Did you throw up again?”

“Yeah…” I grumbled. I pointed to the bag that was by my feet.

I remember hearing everyone talk about what to do. Should we go to a hospital or a clinic? We ended up going to a clinic, hoping that they’d be able to give me some liquids intravenously. The clinic we went to didn’t have IVs, but did prescribe me a handful of medicine to take after taking my blood pressure, temperature and weight.

We took a few steps outside the clinic when I tried to take the pills with water, but it came right back up. To the hospital!

The Taichung hospital was about an hour and a half drive away. We went to the emergency room and had more tests done. I was admitted and had an IV started. I was guided to a bed inside the packed emergency ward. It was Friday. I just tried to sleep and let the IV and the liquid do its thing.

My rest was interrupted numerous times from ringing cell phones. Unlike here, they allow cell phones to be used in hospitals in Taiwan. I swear I was in a room of phones during a telethon or something. The ringing was nonstop throughout the night.

That night, Dad asked what I wanted to have for dinner. I just wanted something like chicken broth. He came back with some beef noodle soup and told me that people laughed at him when he asked for chicken soup. Apparently Taiwan doesn’t like chicken soup. To lighten the mood, Dad told me that he also tried asking for chicken soup in vegetarian restaurant. Hahaa! That little story cheered me up a bit.

The noodles and soup he bought were really hot. The noodles were in a separate bag, so I just avoided those. The beef soup smelled so good. It had a layer of fragrant oil and was slightly spicy. The soup was definitely homemade. Dad confirmed my thoughts when he said that he bought it at a busy beef noodle soup stall. I took a few sips and then fell back asleep.

The next morning, the doctors came in and said that they’d continue to monitor me and begin to treat me for a UTI. They said that I could start with a clear fluid diet first and then see how I was feeling the next day. I knew that the stomach virus would run it’s course and I’d be fine within 48 hours – with the help of the IVs. Back to sleep.

Some relatives came in and talked about getting me transferred to a hospital in Taipei. The doctors agreed and I was discharged. We drove back to Taipei and went straight to the emergency ward, where I was admitted once again. During the ride to the hospital in Taipei, my parents kept thinking aloud.

“It had to be the mushrooms. You know you have to be careful and not eat everything when you travel abroad.”


“I think it was the milk tea that she had during breakfast. You shouldn’t have had so much. The water could be contaminated. The water here is different from the water back home.”


I had a lot of time to think and I start feeling sick when I think about the pork knuckles. Actually, I start feeling sick whenever I think about everything I consumed that day. It took me a few tries to write this all because of it.

Things went a bit more smoothly at the Buddhist hospital in Taipei. I had more of the same tests done, got an IV near my elbow, and then I was transferred to a room for the night. Before everyone left, Mom peeled a bit of an orange that she had. I ate a few naked slices, that is, they were pith-free (the white stringy stuff), and then fell asleep for the night.

I felt much better that Sunday morning. I had no more symptoms and actually had energy for once; must’ve been the soup. Mhmm! That’s when it hit me. I was admitted in a hospital in Taiwan. The horror! At least everyone else was able to enjoy the sites and food in Taiwan. Oh the food I could’ve been eating… Oh, I didn't get to enjoy the winter melon drink and instant noodles that I bought from 7 Eleven. When those thoughts came up, I knew my appetite was back.

My breakfast consisted of a few oral antibiotics and water. Tasty. I asked the nurse if I’d be able to have anything (solid) for breakfast since I felt much better. Anything. She said that I could just have a liquid diet, despite my attempts to convince her that I’d be fine with some solid food. She compromised and said she’d talk to the doctor to see if it was okay for me to eat some oranges.

I took a nap again and then woke up when the nurses wanted to take my vitals and temperature. The nurse said I’d be able to eat oranges. Finally! Food! Just in case, I took it easy and only had a few slices. I dozed off after triumphantly finished my light brunch.

Someone who wore facemask quietly came in and delivered a container of food to my roommate and I. Lunch was served. I opened the top of the container and a very thick congee stared back at me. The hospital where I was staying at was a Buddhist hospital so there was no meat. Fine with me. It was quite the colourful congee. The congee had specks of carrots, celery, wood ear mushrooms and other veggies. I’m pretty sure I tasted ginger and a bit of sesame oil. I really should’ve taken a picture of it, because the congee held my chopsticks upright – it was that dense. I was determined to at least eat half of it. I really wanted to get better as quick as I could, after all. Just take it one sip at a time, I thought to myself as I struggled with each slurp. I swear I heard the Rocky song when I finished half of the container. The congee felt like a rock. I fell asleep again.

Sometime during the afternoon, I woke up from my nap and felt like I forgot to do something. It was bugging me. I stared at the ceiling and tried to remember what it was. In the end, I remembered I was supposed to meet another blogger for lunch or something. I whipped out my laptop as quick as I could and sent her a message. I was so disappointed and frustrated that I couldn't meet the person behind A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei. We'll have to do get together next time!

Dad walked in to check up on me before dinnertime. I told him about the congee, but he thought I was exaggerated. And as if on cue, a lady came in to drop off a container of food. I was hoping it would be something different, but it was the same thing that was served for lunch. The congee was actually stiffer than the previous one. I offered some for Dad, but he declined the offer. I don't blame him. I tried another bite but couldn’t do anymore. If I did, I knew it wouldn’t be pretty. He asked me what I wanted for dinner and I requested, “beef noodle soup please.”

With that in mind, he left and returned about half an hour later. My eyes were glued to the clock when he left. Come on, I was excited to finally get to eat my first meal in a few days (I didn’t count lunch as a meal). When he arrived with beef noodle soup, my mouth immediately flooded with saliva. I probably looked like a 5-year-old kid opening Christmas presents, although I didn’t squeal and jump around.

From what I remembered, the noodles were chewy just like the noodles I had on the second day in Taiwan. The soup was less greasy than the one I had in Taichung, but was not as beefy as the other soup. I didn’t care though. Afraid of taking one step back in my recovery, I only had a few bites of noodles and sips of soup. Dad went back to the hotel for the night and I went back to sleep.

Monday morning was another step in the right direction. I was hungry. Need food! When a container of the same colourful congee was placed on my table, I played out the scenarios in my head. Would I be able to keep it down after yesterday? If I couldn’t keep the congee down, would the nurses and doctors think that my stomach just isn’t ready for solid food yet? Would the doctors tell me to go back on the liquid/clear fluid diet again? If the congee does stay down, would I feel okay afterwards or begin to feel sick from the flavour and mushy texture? What if the congee would make me feel better – quicker?

I didn’t want to risk it, so I left the heavy container alone. Half of an orange was sitting on my desk, so I took my time peeling and enjoying the pith-less oranges for breakfast instead.

The doctors came in and said that I was doing fine. I know that. I asked them how long they thought I needed to be in the hospital until I could be discharged, cause my flight to Shanghai (the last leg of my month-long trip to Asia) was scheduled to depart on Tuesday. They knew about this when I was admitted and told me that they couldn’t discharge me if I was still feeling sick. The doctor, who studied in UBC, explained to me that they would have to do a few more tests on Tuesday morning. I asked her if I could have the tests done as early as possible, since my flight was supposed to leave early in the afternoon. She said that if I was feeling the same or if I felt better in the morning, and the test results come back negative, then I’d be able to be discharged in time for my flight to Shanghai. I thanked the doctor as she left. She left me high in spirits. I was sure I’d be discharged in time.

鍋貼 (Potstickers 八方雲集)
Photo coutesy of My Inner Fatty. Thanks for letting me use your photo!

Lunch was the same thing. I took a peek inside the container to see if the it was filled with something else. Nope. The congee was stacked atop of the container I had received for breakfast and I chose oranges over the congee. Dad walked in with two bags in his hands. He had bought himself a bento that had rice and some marinated chicken, some beef noodle soup, and two orders of a long type of pot sticker. He said that he bought all of it for under $5 CAD! You could feed two people for under $5 in Taiwan.

I was able to eat more noodles than the previous day. I tried a few pot stickers. Dad said that there were two flavours. I can’t remember them right now, but one had more veggies. The dumplings were standard fare, but they tasted so good! Being sick reminded me of how good food actually tasted. I guess it’s the same thing when you’re really hungry – everything tastes good when you’re starving. I ran out of steam and had to stop eating. Dad left after lunch and said that he needed to go pack.

That afternoon, I watched a bunch of Studio Ghibli films that I had on my external hard drive. I’m so glad that I thought ahead and put a few movies on it. I blew through Porco Rosso, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Cat Returns, Tales from Earthsea and My Neighbors the Yamadas.

By the time dinner rolled around, I had three heavy paperweights stacked up on the counter. Just the thought of opening the lid of one of the containers made my stomach turn.

The ginger in one kind of the dumplings was very comforting. Looking at the photo above reminds me of how happy I was eating those humbling pot stickers. The quirkiness of My Neighbors the Yamadas made dinner more enjoyable.

After dinner, I re-watched some of the movies in their English dubbed versions instead of the having English subs. (I just want to say that Japanese voice actors are amazing! The English dubbed versions ruin the movie. Why are the Japanese voice actors so convincing?) When my eyes began feeling heavy, I put Porco Rosso on repeat – with the English subs. For some reason, it was the most comforting movie out of the selection. I fell asleep with the sounds of him chuckling. Hopefully I'd be chuckling in 24 hours and not crying from having my trip be cut short.

Sun Moon Lake and the Aboriginal Culture Village

Leaving Taiwan: Taoyuan International Airport

More links from the Tea in Asia 2011 trip:


    1. Hi Christine - I'm glad you got through ok. It's no fun being sick while away from home.

    2. The worst article I have read in a long, long time...

      You sound like a complete spoilt brat!

    3. Thanks for dropping by. I'm a terrible writer. I know.

      I'm a spoilt brat? Hardly.

    4. The style was very good but the overall subject matter and tone came across as very whiny and spoilt...

      Keep up the work, you'll get better!


    We'd love to hear your thoughts!


    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...