I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Taiwan (6)


A glimpse of Kaohsiung




There was a buzz at breakfast this morning.  Sitting at the stern of the ship at a table with friends in my favourite outdoor location, several of them had seen the same submarine as my hero and I had seen from our balcony earlier.





Actually, there were lots of ships around – I counted 45 not including our own as we set sail this evening) because Kaohsiung is the home of the Republic of China’s Naval service (that’s the ROC not the PRC, ok?)




Stepping out onto the balcony as we approached the port we saw pleasant suburbs where people were enjoying the early morning air as much as we were ourselves.




But these pleasant suburbs soon gave way to the port proper, where cranes and containers rule.




And where ships lie at anchor for who knows how long whilst we manoeuvre past them and make our way to the Kaohsiung Cruise Terminal.




With a little help, of course.




We headed through a quiet ship to the theatre to collect tickets for today’s tour.  Where was everyone?




Passing quickly through the immigration halls, I snapped this picture quickly, having no idea who any of those three people are.  But isn’t that a lovely smile?




From our tour bus, we caught a little look into life in Kaohsiung.




But pulled up shortly afterwards at a kind of lakeside park where the concrete, artificially created landmark overshadowed the real, genuine Kaohsiung.




The dried up “lake” (reservoir) was neither attractive nor interesting, and yet that was where our hosts wanted to take us, to show us “places of interest” when actually, several of us would have far rather been in some grotty street or other that had real life in it.




Which is probably why we loved to see the men playing cards.  Simple, real, genuine.  We exchanged greetings – we said Ne Hau to them, they said Hi to us!




We loved the water lilies too – I think they are water lilies and not lotus blossoms, anyway?




In the meantime, the heat was building and some were getting tetchy.




Now, our guide was not of the most professional we’ve come across, but he was doing his best and he could speak way better English that I could speak Chinese, that’s for sure.




Had I been working, doing an observation, I might have commented on his command and control,  maybe referring to the pace he set and failed to maintain.




But I was doing none of that, I was merely getting irritated by the others in the group who began to dissent; to pay scant attention to his advice and instruction and to start to rebel and question him.




A visit to a temple (real) redressed some of the issues although this particular place was soulless and lacking in any atmosphere.




I contented myself with taking photos of the joss papers and other offerings, bundled up for sale.




We were all relieved when the call to move on came, though some muttered when we walked back the way we’d come.  Nevertheless, different men playing different games…come on!




Back to the concrete monstrosities, then and a few more “fairy tales” about them.




Except that, whilst some were mooching around a concrete dragon or something, others had spotted a real temple, with so much more of interest there.




More colour, pattern and detail – guess who couldn’t wait to get a closer look?




It was actually the next stop on our schedule and a few of us were champing at the bit, dying to get over to that side of the road and get a closer look.




When we did, we were richly rewarded.




The more so inside, where colour and pattern had been used with abandon




A couple of us threw the segment shaped stones and had the results interpreted.  I should beware a family member who smiles openly but who secretly has a knife inside waiting for me.




This all took time of course.




But it was surely more interesting than mooching around a concrete dragon?




Eventually we left the temple and made our way back to the bus when the first signs of mutiny crept in. 




Yes, it was hot.  No, the areas we were driving through were not the most photogenic nor were they of special interest.  Yes, some were starting to get hungry.  But hey, we were in a new city, we had a guide who was doing his best in spite of “noises off” and we knew the programme before we signed up for it.




So when we arrived at the fish market, we dug our heels in and overrode those who wanted to return straight to the ship.   After all, why did we come here?




The goods on sale were the same on every stall – mostly dried fish, some of which looked surprisingly like liquorice allsorts.




Dried sharks fin, salt salmon – it was all there and having naiively accepted the offer of a free sample of what looked like preserved ginger,  I’m ashamed to say I didn’t swallow it when I discovered it was actually fish cartilage which came from shellfish, holding flesh to shell, so to speak.  Chewy?  Yes!  Could I be bothered?  No!




We returned to our bus and noticed a ticket attached to the wiper blade.  Was it  a parking ticket?



Well, yes, it was.  It showed how much we’d paid and for how long we could stay in that particular place.  We hadn’t broken the law…


As we sat waiting for the stragglers to arrive, we noticed the strange phenomenon with the sun I mentioned in my last post.  Tomorrow, we are at sea and I think there are more than a few cranky old folks who could use a rest.

Just sayin’   Winking smile


The Halo


Whilst out in Kaohsiung today, a couple of the Taiwanese guides were spooked by the meteorological phenomeon in the sky at lunchtime.




I managed only the bottom half of the rainbow which formed a complete circle around the sun, and of the second, larger one where the colours were more separate.

On our return to the ship, we all googled for a more detailed explanation than the “ice crystals” our guide had given us.  Here it is.

More from Kaohsiung later.


Taipei, Taiwan


We awoke to a new scene out of the window this morning as we arrived in Taiwan, in the Republic of China.  That’s not the same as the People’s Republic of China, by the way.




The port of Keelung isn’t the prettiest of places and it was just as I’d remembered it from a couple of years ago.




Though the Captain smiled and said that, though he’d been here countless times previously, this was the first time the sun had shone.




Indeed, we remembered getting wet here before and had chosen how to spend our day with care, in the hope of avoiding going over old ground.




So, as we drove around Taipei this morning, there was a kind of familiarity as I recalled those little things I rather liked; such as the detail in the road signs – I mean, this graphic clearly shows a motorcyclist wearing a helmet, just as he ought to be.




The graphic of the pedestrian is similarly detailed too.




Anyway, though we’d chosen our tour itinerary carefully to avoid going to the same old places as possible, it was inevitable that there’d be an overlap.  Our first stop was at the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, which was exactly the same  as last time.




Except that, last time the gateway was the highlight and the memorial hall was under wraps for renovation, whereas this time it was exactly vice versa.




Though the light made it almost impossible to capture the fresh blue and white of the Memorial Hall this morning.




The two performance venues were exactly as I’d remembered, lavishly decorated and a perfect pairing across a wide open centre space.




We climbed the stairs to the memorial hall – all 89 of them, each one representing a year of Chiang Kai Shek’s life.




Once inside, we joined a mass of other tourists, all here to see the same thing; The large bronze of the man himself sitting in an armchair looking suitably statesmanlike.




Even if he did have a rather benign expression on his face.




The honour guard was there attracting almost as much attention as the man himself.  We had just missed the changing of the guard, sadly, but our guide reassured us we’d see it later in the day.




Whilst in the hall, there were other things to see.




There appeared to be a kind of village show going on, with a series of flower arrangements lining the walls of the central atrium.  I know nothing about flower arranging but I think these would be considered a very high standard in the UK.




We bought a few small souvenirs and journal fodder whilst there before returning to our coach which was waiting for us through the other gateway.  At least we were able to record one set of white plaster and blue tile.  Such an attractive colour scheme.

Our next stop was the National Museum which was another place we’d been before.  On that occasion, the crowds had prevented us from seeing the treasures of he collection, but this time, our guide was determined and equipped with headsets so we could hear his commentary, we simply followed in his slipstream.

We had good advice from him to manage the large groups of mainland Chinese people here.  They had been taught to “swim” through a crowd, using their hands and elbows as required and Jun didn’t want any of us to be pushed aside and fall or stumble.  So, if we encountered a few swimming Chinese people, we should yield to them.  Let them through.  I know, it goes against the grain, doesn’t it?  But we followed his advice and thankfully, no one came a cropper!

No photos allowed in there but we got a great look at he Jade Cabbage and the ancient cauldron by following Jun closely.  After that we met in the gift shop, somewhere which always did have good tasteful objects on sale but where today, they seemed to have excelled themselves in sorting out a rich assortment of desirable gifts and the kind of small stationery items for which I have a weakness.  So, with a bag of washi tape, stickers and pretty notepads we met up again to go for some lunch at one of the Shin Yeh restaurants.




An assortment of Taiwanese dishes appeared and really, we did our best to  finish them all, but no way could we manage that.  Every time we cleared on or other on one of the plates it would be refilled.




After lunch we paid homage to Dr Sun Yat Sen.  We’d not been to his Memorial Hall previously, so were especially glad to be here.  By now it was getting pretty warm and our first aim was to find some shade.




The Hall itself is quite a landmark and Jun suggested we hurry along because at 2pm they’d be changing the guard.  Thankfully, it didn’t seem too busy, so we stepped on it a little and made our way to the entrance.




Ha!  that was because everyone – not quite the whole population of China but at times, it felt like the vast majority (!) were in there watching the changing of the guard.




Thankfully, we had a small advantage.  Being slightly taller than most of those in front, we could stand on tiptoe, raise our cameras just that wee bit higher and get those pictures.  No, we couldn’t outdo the selfie sticks but I was ok with this.




My wonderful zoom lens proved useful too.

Though the changing of the guard was interesting and something I’d not pass by, here there wasn’t quite the same show as we saw at the Martyr’s Shrine last time.




The little exhibition to one side of the hall proved interesting too though ten minutes was more than adequate to get the picture Winking smile




From the terrace of the hall, we were able to get a great view of Taipei 101, now the fourth highest building in the world.  That was going to be our next stop.




Jun gave us a little background information abut the tower, including the fact that the record breaking, super fast lift cables are replaced regularly.  Well yes, but what’s different is that the used cable is given to an artist to create something with it and one of them wound it into the shape of a baby.  I know… I’m only passing on information shared with us!!




There came the first hint of mutiny from the group.  Why were were stopping here when there wasn’t time to go up to the top?  (Long queues make it impossible for groups to do that)  Why couldn’t we go right back to the ship?  I sat quietly with my fingers crossed, for I really wanted to step inside and take a look.  Jun compromised and instead of an hour, we’d have 45 minutes here,ok?




So I ran.  Really in search of a particular place I had spotted in a magazine (for which I’ll add a link later, when the internet is more stable), I settled for a bookshop and a few minutes browsing before heading back downstairs to investigate what Jun had told us was currently Taiwan’s main export.

Taiwanese sheet face masks

I didn’t have time to investigate enough to make a purchase but I did snag a free sample!




As I left the building, I spotted what looked like a small protest and took a photo thinking I’d investigate later.




Walking past, I noticed the police moving in to ask a few questions.  I thought perhaps I’d better keep moving right along!




The drive back was a quiet one.  Jun answered any questions we had and as we sat in the warm afternoon sunshine, the comfortable seats got the better of most of us and there was just the sound of a peaceful nap time.




Taipei is a really interesting city and a great port of call.  There’s plenty to see were and if the sun is shining, then all the better!  I’m glad we made a second visit here and look forward to seeing another Taiwanese city tomorrow.


Saturday Morning




Driving south along the eastern coast of Taiwan this morning was a little like being in Scarborough!  The waves were breaking over the seafront and the outlook was a little bleak to say the least.  Never mind.  We were on our way to the Gold Ecological Park and our guide Peter assured us that it rains for half the year here.  This was nothing unusual.




The lanterns were swinging in the breeze however and we rather hoped we’d come adequately equipped for our morning out.




Turning inland and starting the drive up to the former goldmine, high above the coast, it was clear to see that this was an area of heavy rainfall, for the hillside was covered with ferns and mosses.  The river was bright orange, due to the heavy iron oxides coming from the earth.




Mary, this was a road on which the Weston Prayer was required!  Single track the whole way with only one or two passing places, we were fortunate to meet just one other vehicle right by one of them.  The steep hairpin bends and precarious edges wouldn’t have made this a very comfortable drive for me, I must say.




But we were in the hands of a professional and in no time at all we were at the top and getting ourselves buttoned up in macs and kagoules ready for the off.

Aren’t the azaleas lovely?




Peter led the way and set a brisk pace…we followed, pleased to be moving right along, if only to keep warm.  It seemed like we had the place to ourselves, too, which was a contrast to yesterday!




The little snack bar had a cute sign, offering a “Delicious Mineworker’s Lunch Box”, including the Pearl Milk Tea we’ve heard about but been unable to sample.  Oh well…there’s always next time!




As we walked along the path, we occasionally remembered to look back over the valley to the village and catch a glimpse of the houses perched high up there.  We also spotted a golden figure amongst them, which Peter told us we’d see again later.




There were many graves on the hillside too, not only from the mineworkers but also from the prisoners of war who had been in forced labour here. 




Inside the Museum, there were interesting displays of how the mine was operated.




There were sweet exhibits of the people who lived in the village here




and a very touching memorial to the British prisoners of war who died here.  I knew nothing of this, and found out more here




Also in here were items of jewellery and hair pins such as this one.




I very much liked the way they were displayed, though the lighting made photography a challenge.




The main exhibit was the “largest block of gold in the world”, which one could touch but not take!  22.5 kg, I believe.




Coming out of the museum, it was still tipping down with rain, so we buttoned ourselves up again and continued down the hill towards the village.




We were heading for the Cyunangi Temple, and if our spirits needed lifting at all, this was the place.




The colour was amazing and the whole ceiling was covered with these brilliant paintings and three dimensional friezes.




The temple itself was a little more subdued and unlike yesterday, we were the only ones in the place so felt free to wander about.




The little fountain in the centre was colourfully decorated with a dragon and a crane.




There was a little New Year decoration too.  But spotting the wooden pieces as I’d used to communicate with the Deity yesterday, I thought I’d ask another question.  Will it stop raining tomorrow?  I eventually had #59 confirmed and Peter agreed to translate for me once we were back on the bus.




This was a Taoist temple, by the way, and the bronze statue we’d seen from above is Saintly Emperor Guan.  It’s quite a landmark and can be seen from all over the area.




There was just time to take a quick photograph across the valley before returning to the bus.  See what a steep place it is?




OK, said Peter, let me read the fortune paper.  He’d forgotten his specs though, so wearing mine he read and thought.  He read a little more and thought a little more.  Interpreting my slip of paper was clearly not easy.  He asked again what my question had been…will it stop raining tomorrow?  With another look at the paper and a sigh, he gave me the translation.





Just as well the best weather for visiting waterfalls is in the rain, then!   We made a quick stop at the Golden Falls on the way back to the coast road and were due to stop at the Yin and Yang Bay, so called because the iron oxide-laden water creates a yin/yang sign where the river meets the sea.  But today, the heavy currents and strong waves were dispersing it and no such sign was going to be visible.  Never mind, we’ll go straight on to the fish market.




This was one spectacular place!  A huge variety of fish and shellfish, very few of which we recognised but all of which looked very fresh indeed.




Everything, including these green lipped mussels (which I did recognise) was clearly marked with a price and beautifully displayed.




The colours were incredible.  Even these comparatively plain ?crayfish? have bright yellow legs!




I can’t be the only one to see a koala face on those grey crabs, can I?




Whilst business wasn’t exactly booming, there were customers and Peter bought his lunch – sashimi – whilst there.  We were offered tastings of cooked fish and some delicious dried and very spicy flaked fish too, but needless to say, weren’t in a position to buy anything at all.




But it’s such fun noticing things, especially ordinary things like these bottles of soft drinks which are packaged so differently and in a way which appears to be so characteristic of the place.  We don’t always have to buy, of course.




From the fish market, it was a short drive back to the ship in our luxuriously decorated coach.  The inside was very blue




and the outside very yellow!  We’d had a really great morning and were delighted with our choice of destination.

It was good to come home and change into dry clothes and shoes before lunch, though, that’s for sure.


The next couple of days are going to be patchy as far as internet connection is concerned, because Japan places a restriction on communications within 12 miles of the coastline.  So, if you don’t read anything new here for a day or two, don’t worry…you’ll be able to catch up when we’re back in China!


Friday afternoon




Leaving the temple, we drove along the broad, tree-lined avenues and smaller, more built-up streets of Taipei, passing by the President’s office and eventually pulling up in front of an office block.  On the third floor, it appeared there was a Mongolian Restaurant – “the Gobi Desert” – where lunch awaited us.




Well, lunch for ourselves and several other coach parties, because the huge room was full of visitors from all over the world and the noise and hubbub was overwhelming!  To begin with, I chose to visit the Taiwanese buffet, choosing a selection of hot and cold food on the basis that some looked familiar and other things looked, well, curious.  Our choice wasn’t made easier by the Asian practice of mixing sweet and savoury and yes, that pink thing is indeed a slightly sweet, faintly strawberry flavoured piece of upholstery foam…  (No, of course it isn’t, but to tell the truth, it might as well have been!  Serves me right for being silly)

But in spite of the crowds, there was plenty to eat and the Mongolian buffet was a good way of ensuring everyone got to eat exactly what they wanted, regardless of their mealtime preferences.  But oh, the noise!




So, bearing in mind I was eager to get a picture of the road crossing signs, I slipped outside a little early with a couple of friends, to take a few minutes to stand and stare, to watch life go by in Taipei on this Friday lunchtime.  Sure enough, there was a pedestrian crossing nearby, so I could snap the animated sign.  Well, I could indeed snap the “stop” one, but the green man is animated and moves so quickly that this was all I could manage




Wearing his hat, the green man walks quickly along and this little sign has as much detail as the motorcycle sign we spotted earlier.  I find these little things so fascinating and took a short movie which I’ll sort out later.




Across the road was a bustling street, which we’d have loved to have explored, but time was pressing and we needed to be at our next destination before 1 o’clock.




We were going to see the changing of the guard at The Martyrs’ Shrine.




We needed to unbonnet beforehand, too.




No sooner had we arrived and taken our places, than the five guards appeared from the side door and began the ceremony.




They had a slow, five-stage marching pattern which was so controlled and precise, if a little strange to watch. 




Not a wobble, not a waver.  One of our friends commented that they must practise yoga, so controlled were their movements, so perfect their balance.




We were kept at a respectful distance as they neared the Martyrs’ Shrine itself and noticed the path worn on the stone, because one movement involves their sliding their feet along the ground.  How many times do they follow this literally well worn path?  On the hour, every hour!




It took quite a while to go through the somewhat balletic moves to change the guards on the podium, but everything was conducted with the same precision as the march.  Remarkable.




Whilst we stood and watched, two young men in dark suits watched and controlled the small crowd who were watching.




And, most amusingly, as we followed the retiring guard back to the gatehouse, one of them did a little titivating of the new guard.  Adjusted his hat, pulled down his tunic and generally tidied him up, as our mothers did before we set off for school.  Fascinating!




We made our way back to the gate behind the retiring guard, who continued the slow, controlled pace and five step pattern as they went.




What handsome young men; what a fitting tribute to the people who gave their lives for their country.  What a great ceremony to watch!




The last stop of the day was the National Museum.  It’s a special place because it contains the best collection of Chinese objects of historical interest as they were brought here when the Nationalists came here to escape the Communist revolution.  There are significant pieces here and unsurprisingly, everyone wanted to see them.




The place was awash with large groups and in spite of Tina’s efforts with a microphone and headsets, we didn’t seem to be able to hear and see at the same time.  Most of the particularly popular items to see – including the Jade Cabbage – had lengthy queues and we rapidly got frustrated with the pushing, shoving, claustrophobic headsets and particularly the huge groups gathered around, and hiding, many of the exhibits. So, discarding headsets, we peeled off and explored on our own, deliberately avoiding the crowds and heading for the quieter areas.




The two highlights for us were the porcelain and the calligraphy and portrait sections. The delicate shapes and subtle light green glazes in the porcelain displays were lovely, but we were both stunned by the artistry and precision of the 15th century Zhu Yunming’s calligraphy. Large scrolls, perfectly preserved with still dark blacks and vibrant reds in styles ranging from almost-printed precision to artfully casual scrawl. Wonderful – and all the more impressive when my hero pointed out that it was all completed around the time that Richard III was alive!  We also admired the stylised, yet clearly true-to-life portraits of Genghs Khan and Kubulai Khan as Emperors, with their podgy faced concubines.

We’d had enough by then, so we pottered around the (equally crowded) shop, and took some photos outside, since none were permitted in the museum. As fast as one group finished, another took their place however and yet again, it was the presence of the group who predominated over the individual.




Such a full day left everyone a little overwhelmed and the journey back to Keelung was a quiet one, accompanied by Tina’s beautiful rendition of her favourite songs and the quiet, slow breathing of a few sleepers!

Would we be back in time for Trivia?!