All 11 entries tagged Taiwan

View all 14 entries tagged Taiwan on Warwick Blogs | View entries tagged Taiwan at Technorati | There are no images tagged Taiwan on this blog

July 18, 2005

Photographic evidence

Writing about web page http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/aharfield/gallery/taiwan/

Here are a few photos from Taiwan.

July 17, 2005

Final thoughts

I arrived back in England yesterday morning and the first surprise was the refreshing cool morning air. I enjoyed the view flying into Birmingham as seeing the countryside felt like home. Although I have been keeping myself busy since then, I still find myself craving little things in Taiwan. I am constantly wondering what to eat, looking for snacks, and I have yet to cook a proper meal. Tea consumption has not yet returned to its normal level — instead I am missing the many different iced teas and juices that I became accustomed to in Taiwan. I also went for a drive in the car today, and all I can say is that it is no where near as fun as a motorcycle in Kaohsiung.

I had a really good time in Taiwan. The conference was a splendid event, very well organised and has stimulated plenty of new ideas for me. The summer school was particularly good as I met so many lovely people who I look forward to working with in the future. The remaining few days were a real treat. I was able to experience life in Kaohsiung, and this really made me want to stay for a lot longer. I had my fair share of adventures, some interesting, some challenging, and some that were just plain funny! I enjoyed them all. Kaohsiung, I am missing you already.


Lovely Warwick people in Taipei

It was great to see to friendly Warwick faces, and even better to hear a language that I could understand. It was pretty confusing for the first hour as we were all mixed up with Thai, English and Chinese, but we soon converged to Thai so that we could 'nin tah farang' — gossip about foreigners! After checking into a hotel we headed out on the underground (or MRT). Once again the electronic sign in the train amused me. This time it had a message in English as you get off the tube: "Thank you for your patronage." Now I know my English is not that strong, but I am fairly sure that riding the tube doesn't imply that you have patronage. Maybe someone can explain?

We visited lots of great places for eating, drinking and shopping — I did all three. By 9am, whilst eating ice-shavings and mango (man gua bing), we were wondering what to do the following day. When it was suggested that we visit the hot springs, Lyn said we could do it that evening. After a couple of phone calls we set off across town — Thai girls are so motivated — in search of the hot springs. We found one open in a posh hotel and rushed in to make the most of the little time we had left. It was my first experience hot springs, and what a pleasurable one it was — the water was a very relaxing 43 degrees. I managed to tolerate the heat for nearly an hour before I took a cold shower and we left the hot springs feeling completely refreshed.

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and set off with Lyn to the National Palace Museum. But not before two cups of soya milk. The museum has an extensive collection of Buddha images from all over Asia — even if most of them had been stolen at some point in time. Next stop, after some iced tea and veggie buns, was the Longshan Temple. This famous temple is a confusing mix of Buddhist and Confucian images where we paid our respects to not only the Buddha, but gods of knowledge, money and [most importantly] love. I have been very confused in Taiwan about what sort of Buddhism is here. The conclusion I am coming to is that there is very little real Buddhism being practiced. It has been absorbed by worship and superstition. I have seen glimpses that there are places were monks actually meditate, but it is so mixed up with blind-faith that I feel it is far removed from the way that we practice. The Taiwanese don't seem to know much about Buddhism, unlike Thailand where everyone shows an interest in the practical aspects of the teachings, even if they don't understand it well. I guess some Buddhist culture has been lost as Taiwan become more like the Western world. We should always be aware of the negative effects of globalisation — it dilutes cultures.

Back in Taipei and a big lunch was in order to prepare me for the long flight. After this we headed back to Lyn's place to pick up my things and take a quick shower, before setting off for the airport. I had to say goodbye to Gate, but Lyn escorted me to the airport. When I arrived there was a long queue for checking-in. After 30 minutes I had moved near the front, but then everything stopped and there seemed to be a bit of a panic on. It turned out that there was a mechanical problem on the aircraft and it had to be cancelled. Myself and poor Lyn waited a couple of hours before they got me tickets on an EVA Air flight to Paris at midnight, and a connecting flight to Birmingham. In that time I met a guy who lived in Warwick — strange how you can travel halfway around the world and meet someone who lives just down the road. I had a long wait so I went with Lyn to find the best restaurant in the airport and spend my remaining paper money, as well as thank Lyn for waiting for me. After the meal I sent her off to get a bus back to the city. I found some other Thai people to chat to in the airport for a couple of hours. They told me their exciting story that they worked as magicians, employed by a disrespectful boss in Taiwan, who had escaped because their boss treated them unfairly. We had a good laugh and they tried to teach me some black magic. Before long it was time for me to board the EVA flight, which was much better than KLM — the airhostesses smile!


July 16, 2005

Taiwanese Trains

I took the train at 9am and struggled to find my seat carrying my heavy gift-laden luggage. I sat next to a pretty girl who I managed to say a few words of Chinese to, but then she got off at the next stop! That left me with little entertainment except for the electronic sign which announced the next station in Chinese. The only English that it proclaimed was the following insightful message: "Railway crossings are extremely dangerous. If you see a car stuck on a crossing, press the emergency button located on the warning rod. Only press this button in case of emergencies." This sign had me confused for ages. How could anyone on the train see if a car was stuck on the crossing before hitting it? Even if they did encounter such an event, I couldn't find the 'warning rod' anywhere!

The Taiwanese seem to be very safety conscious, which I hadn't expected for an Asian country. They wouldn't dream of crossing the road anywhere except a pedestrian crossing, and even then they always wait for the green man. I guess they have inherited this fear from the Americans.

Back to the train journey and my next entertainer was an insane guy who sat next to me. He was continually talking to himself, like complaining about things, and occasionally he would shout at some kids to be quiet. Luckily he didn't stay for long, and afterwards I was able to get a bit of sleep. When I woke up near Taipei there was a friendly woman sat next to me. We had a little chat and as we got off the train she helped me find my way to the exit and let me use her phone to locate Lyn and Gate who were waiting to pick me up.


Last day in Kaohsiung

My final day in Kaohsiung was a busy one. In the morning I visited the famous Fo Guan Shan temple on the side of a mountain with its thousands of Buddha images. Back in the city for lunch and an extremely large portion of vegetarian dumplings. Next I headed to the university where I borrowed a motorcycle and took off on my own to do some shopping. I couple of hours later, when they were all worried I was lost, I returned to the university. Then I was taken to the department store by Prof David Yang who very kindly bought me some Taiwanese tea to bring back to England. By this time the sun was beginning to set which marked the beginning of my last night in Kaohsiung and therefore the last chance to fill my belly with delicious snacks. It was a very special night which included dinner at the night market, drinks at the former British Consulate overlooking the harbour, a motorcycle ride halfway up a mountain, soya dessert at another night market, and finally, mango by the lotus lake. I returned home very late and set my alarm for 6am to pack my bags ready for the journey up to Taipei.

July 12, 2005

My orange motorcycle

The day after my climb, I woke up early again to set off to the beach. I met up with the lovely Jia-zhen and we set off with some friends to Kenting. Another long drive, but this time in a smart car at speed, and we arrived at this famous tourist spot in the south. The sea looked great, but as is normal in Asia, we must eat first. After our lunch, we found cheap (but very friendly) hotel to dump our bags and then we hired a motorcycle.

In case I hadn't mentioned this before, last week I learnt to ride a motorcycle. Well actually, I didn't really get any tuition, I just experimented (Empirical Modelling style!) and found it to be quite easy. The difficult part is when you introduce other vehicles to the road, and traffic lights, and odd driving conventions (like when you need to turn left you have to go right first and then wait to go straight on). I once got asked if I have an international driving licence, and I said, "Yes, of course, I have a British licence". As the week went on I began to get more confident at this city driving and now there are few people that overtake me. I can't wait to try my skills in Bangkok!

Anyway, back to the story, we hired a motorcycle. Not just any motorcycle though, I managed to get hold of the funkiest, gayest, bright orange scooter you every did see! I became my friend and we went everywhere together. I even took it for what was a 2 minute walk to the beach. So we spent the rest of the afternoon under an umbrella on the beach, occasionally jumping out into the blistering sunshine for a dip in the sea. The water was quite rough for the Taiwanese, although nothing like Burton Bradstock can be. As soon as I got past the rollers I start going for a good swim. Within moments there was a whistle blowing at me and some old guy was waving me to come back. He looked quite agitated so I obliged his request and returned to the shore. I couldn't quite understand if he was a lifeguard because he didn't look like he had the ability to swim. The water was lovely though, fairly clear despite being rough — perfect for swimming. I didn't spend too long before getting back underneath the umbrella and cooling off with some iced tea.

For dinner we went to the vegetarian restaurant, and then wandered around the busy night market. There were plenty of snacks on offer, and I did my best to sample as many as my stomach could handle. I must recommend the fried mushrooms — I don't know what they are called but they really are amazing. I also had another of my favourites, pearl milk tea, and a selection of sugary sour plums before giving up for the night. A walk along the beach watching the stars finished the day off perfectly.

The next day we woke up late and had a kind of brunch which included warm soya milk. Then we boarded the cute orange motorcycle and headed off along the coast, stopping at various viewing areas and the occasional beach. They were all very quiet and unspoilt. However, my skin was beginning to get spoilt. I had made the big foreigner mistake of not bringing lots of clothes to cover my skin — let alone sun-screen! I knew I was burning up so I went for the shade and some coconut juice. On the ride home, the sun continuously battered my arms, and likewise, having honed my driving skills, I battered the motorcycle driving it flat-out through the country roads. Great fun!

By the evening, my skin was a little bit sore, but we ventured out to watch the sun go down. We drove right out into the middle of nowhere to a place that had been recommended to us. I was worried at one point that we were lost, but then we turned a corner and there were hundreds of motorcycles and cars. It appeared that half of Taiwan had turned out to see the sunset. These people really do go crazy for sunsets. So we watched, with the masses, as the sun disappeared into the sea. The people cheered and took photos — anyone would think this only happens once every hundred years.

Back in the town, we went for a Thai meal — which I ate with chopsticks! Then it was another walk around the night market, including snacks, before riding home on my orange motorcycle.


Climbing a mountain

Last week I was pretty busy with the conference, and even busier going out in the evening. On Thursday night we had the conference banquet at the Grand Hotel. Indeed it was 'grand'. A very posh place, with an even more impressive buffet — I have some photos!

Friday was the final day of the conference, so we said our goodbyes in the afternoon and the evening a few of us went up the 85-floor tower again. The band were there again, playing some quality tunes to accompany the romantic image of Kaohsiung city at night. When they played 'Killing me softly', I was starting to think this was the most perfect place to spend an evening.

I arrived home pretty late, to find everyone in bed and to be given the news that tomorrow we would leave at 6am to climb a mountain. I was not in the mood for sleeping, and I had to force myself to get a few hours rest before rising again. As usual I had no idea what I had let myself in for, but as ever I was optimistic that this would be an interesting (and unpredictable) day. We set off on what was to be a long drive, having met a couple of Canadians who would join us, and got a quick bite to eat at a local street seller — my favourite: soya milk and red bean buns.

The journey was long, and reminded me of the Mexican roads in Baha California. Once out of the city we were in the mountains for several hours, on twisting mountain-edge roads, before reaching our chosen mountain named Taguan — reaching 3220 metres into the clouds. The roads were not as bad as Mexico, but the mountain path was more of a challenge. We started off at a good pace, but soon we slowed down as our bodies complained at the lack of oxygen. My head was pretty light for the whole climb, and although the air temperature was cooler than the city, there were sections in direct sunlight which I could feel were burning my skin. As we got higher, the climbing got more difficult, the path got narrower, and we seemed to be getting closer and closer to the edge. There were places were the path seemed to be on edge of hundreds of metres of nothingness. The view was spectacular though! It took us over 2 hours to reach the summit of Taguan, by which time we were completely in the clouds and couldn't see much. It was colder than England up there, so we ate snacks to keep warm and other climbers offered us coffee. We didn't hang around too long before beginning the descent. This was slightly less demanding than the climb except that it was quite stressful for the knees — and my flip-flops! Most of the Taiwanese were pretty impressed that I accomplished the climb in flop-flops as most of them looked like they were going to climb everest.

It was a great feeling to reach the bottom again, and I celebrated by eating plenty of food. The drive home was long and by the time I got back I was ready for an early night.


July 06, 2005

A quick dip in the ocean

Last Friday we went on a trip to Tainan, a historical city on the coast only an hour from Kaohsiung. The first place we visited was a large Confucian temple, where I learnt a great deal about this great guy — I would have definitely been one of his disciples given the chance! Next we visited an odd Chinese Buddhist temple, which seems to be run by a Tibetan. I am still having great trouble trying to work out what the differences between all these temples are — I have also seen temples for the dead, temples for important people, but not many 'normal' Buddhist temples with monks and nuns. And I haven't met anyone that is interested in Buddhism (and speaks English) that can explain it to me.

After visiting the former British Consulate and a British built lighthouse on Thursday, we visited another European style building that was originally a town hall and now is a museum. By this time, we were clearly in need of some lunch, so we were ferried to [what we were told was] the best elementary school in Taiwan. It was very posh, and we felt like royalty as we rolled up and everyone started clapping. Next, the mayor of Tainan came to join us for lunch and gave us a warm welcome. He even gave me his business card — I guess so I can call him up sometime for a cup of iced tea. Actually, I have a whole bag of business cards which I am wondering what to do with. After lunch, we were given a tour of the school which is quite impressive. They were very thorough in showing us absolutely everything: 'this is the classroom for 3rd grade students, and this is the classroom for 4th grade students, and this is a desk, and this a book, and a ruler'.

The previous day I had seen a beach, and at that time I didn't have any shorts or a towel. I wasn't going to make the same mistake again. So when we stopped at the beach in Tainan to have a 'quick' look at the sea, I was well prepared. When I told them I was going for a swim, they were so surprised — actually I was surprised that no one else had brought their swimming gear! I stripped off and had a lovely refreshing swim. It was so warm, I don't know how I will cope in the English sea after this.


July 04, 2005

Lovely Warwick people in Taipei

It was great to see to friendly Warwick faces, and even better to hear a language that I could understand. It was pretty confusing for the first hour as we were all mixed up with Thai, English and Chinese, but we soon converged to Thai so that we could 'nin tah farang' — gossip about foreigners! After checking into a hotel we headed out on the underground (or MRT). Once again the electronic sign in the train amused me. This time it had a message in English as you get off the tube: "Thank you for your patronage." Now I know my English is not that strong, but I am fairly sure that riding the tube doesn't imply that you have patronage. Maybe someone can explain?

We visited lots of great places for eating, drinking and shopping — I did all three. By 9am, whilst eating ice-shavings and mango (man gua bing), we were wondering what to do the following day. When it was suggested that we visit the hot springs, Lyn said we could do it that evening. After a couple of phone calls we set off across town — Thai girls are so motivated — in search of the hot springs. We found one open in a posh hotel and rushed in to make the most of the little time we had left. It was my first experience hot springs, and what a pleasurable one it was — the water was a very relaxing 43 degrees. I managed to tolerate the heat for nearly an hour before I took a cold shower and we left the hot springs feeling completely refreshed.

The next morning I checked out of the hotel and set off with Lyn to the National Palace Museum. But not before two cups of soya milk. The museum has an extensive collection of Buddha images from all over Asia — even if most of them had been stolen at some point in time. Next stop, after some iced tea and veggie buns, was the Longshan Temple. This famous temple is a confusing mix of Buddhist and Confucian images where we paid our respects to not only the Buddha, but gods of knowledge, money and [most importantly] love. I have been very confused in Taiwan about what sort of Buddhism is here. The conclusion I am coming to is that there is very little real Buddhism being practiced. It has been absorbed by worship and superstition. I have seen glimpses that there are places were monks actually meditate, but it is so mixed up with blind-faith that I feel it is far removed from the way that we practice. The Taiwanese don't seem to know much about Buddhism, unlike Thailand where everyone shows an interest in the practical aspects of the teachings, even if they don't understand it well. I guess some Buddhist culture has been lost as Taiwan become more like the Western world. We should always be aware of the negative effects of globalisation — it dilutes cultures.

Back in Taipei and a big lunch was in order to prepare me for the long flight. After this we headed back to Lyn's place to pick up my things and take a quick shower, before setting off for the airport. I had to say goodbye to Gate, but Lyn escorted me to the airport. When I arrived there was a long queue for checking-in. After 30 minutes I had moved near the front, but then everything stopped and there seemed to be a bit of a panic on. It turned out that there was a mechanical problem on the aircraft and it had to be cancelled. Myself and poor Lyn waited a couple of hours before they got me tickets on an EVA Air flight to Paris at midnight, and a connecting flight to Birmingham. In that time I met a guy who lived in Warwick — strange how you can travel halfway around the world and meet someone who lives just down the road. I had a long wait so I went with Lyn to find the best restaurant in the airport and spend my remaining paper money, as well as thank Lyn for waiting for me. After the meal I sent her off to get a bus back to the city. I found some other Thai people to chat to in the airport for a couple of hours. They told me their exciting story that they worked as magicians, employed by a disrespectful boss in Taiwan, who had escaped because their boss treated them unfairly. We had a good laugh and they tried to teach me some black magic. Before long it was time for me to board the EVA flight, which was much better than KLM — the airhostesses smile!


June 27, 2005

The first jie jie in Kaohsiung

After spending two whole days in Taiwan, I am starting to get settled in. It is a little frustrating that I don't know much Chinese, but still it is more than the other gwei zi (foreign ghosts). In true flashman style, I will surely have this figured by the end of the week. However, my poor communication skills are complimented, as ever, by charm and a sharp wit — the perfect combination for an adventure.

Late yesterday afternoon I returned to the hotel and, as surprising as it may seem, I did some work. I have never had the experience of working alone in a hotel room before, and I quicky decided it was not for me. Luckily, there is a slightly busier environment down in the lobby with a television and constantly playing fairy music. You know the jewelery boxes your little sister used to have that wound up and played that awful twinkling music while the fairy twirled around — that is what it is like, except that it is played through loud speakers. Then there is the wireless internet connection down here. Today it is working, but only for ten minute intervals. The only interesting thing down here is the people. I have been one of those annoying people that speaks to everyone — the receptionist gets asked a question about Chinese as often as the Internet goes down.

I went for several walks yesterday afternoon and evening. I was wandering around in the dark last night, and I found a temple. There was a nun there giving a talk, very passionately I may add. I did my best to get near to the inside of the temple, but I felt a bit nervous about going inside — I felt I was being watched. Which brings me to another point, as I walk around Kaohsiung I know I stand out as a foreigner, and I know everyone is secretly watching me, but very rarely does anyone look at me directly. Completely different to Thailand where you get looks and smiles, here everyone keeps their eyes under strict control. Once you get into a conversation there is no problem, but initial eye contact is a real problem. Anyway, I wandered around the streets a bit longer and then returned to the hotel to learn a couple more words from the receptionist before heading to bed.

This morning I headed down for breakfast, and without a word from the waitress we got served eggs, toast, ham, coffee and juice. Not quite what I was expecting, and hardly a match for the previous day, but I was still positive the rest of the day would bring good food. So positive I was, that I set out for a walk in search of something fresh. Luckily I didn't have to go far before I found a lively little market. I wandered about smiling like a confused foreigner before eventually buying some pineapple. Then I had the buzz — so I bought some lychees too. I already had enough fruit to keep me going for a couple of days, but as the day went on I ended up giving most of it away. After a bit more work in the morning, I took my supervisor and a friend we had made on a hunt for a vegetarian restaurant. As we meandered about the streets, I was trying to identify the chinese symbol for vegetarian. I couldn't. Next plan was to unleash a few words on unsuspecting street stall owners. This proved highly successful, and eventually I was directed to a very small vegetarian street vendor who had only a couple of tables — all of which were empty. I confidently strode over, and to my delight there were about 20 vegetarian dishes laid out. We were told to help ourselves and given rice and soup. The food was pretty good, but I am not sure Meurig and our friend were that impressed. Later on in the day, Meurig didn't come out for dinner, and our friend told me that she had been advised not to eat on the streets. I told them there was no way I was going to travel halfway around the world and go for a MacDonalds — a suggestion that had been made to me earlier!

As it happens, the evening meal was a great success. This time I was more cautious, and waited until we found a nice looking restaurant. It happened to be Japanese and I had a good feeling about it as soon as I entered. This was probably due to the cute waitress that was smiling — and speaking a little English! Until this point I had been very disappointed at the skirts in Taiwan, I had been here for two days and not one worth a second glance. But this was a real treat. I told her I was vegetarian and she said that she would order for me. She made a good choice too. The food was really good. By the time we left, I was full, with food, and excitement that Taiwanese girls might not be too crazy after all.


Quote of the day Go to 'Today's Quote'

Ausonius
"Forgive many things in others; nothing in yourself."

Galleries

Search this blog

Tags

RSS2.0 Atom
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder
© MMXVII