Category Archives: Taiwan

Goodbye Taiwan!

Gotta go when you gotta go ~ and so goodbye Taiwan until next year!

So much going on and so little time ~ so a small selection of other people’s photos of the last few weeks.  Teaching, preaching, eating, drinking, sightseeing and more…

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And, my friends from Taichung who came for the weekend ~ we went on the Pingxi Line and to Shifen Waterfall.  Ah, selfie heaven!

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This is the alternative Pingxi Line set of photos – the ones I took – ah, gotta love ’em all!

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It’s time to go when it’s time to go ~ and all UK people in Taiwan apparently know that to prepare for a 6-month visit to the UK, just before they leave Taiwan they must go to visit the dentist and hairdresser – cos both are so expensive in the UK, and not so easy to arrange either – but here, ah it’s wonderful!

So that done, I’m ready to go!  Prayers appreciated…

Chiang Kai-Shek Official Residence 士林官邸 & Martyrs Shrine 忠烈祠 @ Shilin, Taipei

Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS), ‘leader of the Republic of China between 1928 and 1975, first in mainland China until 1949 and then in exile in Taiwan’, arrived in Taiwan in 1949 with his wife, Soong Mei-Ling.  A year later, they moved into their new home, the Shilin Official Residence 士林官邸 and stayed there until Chiang Kai-Shek’s death in 1975.  Visitors were many and famous, including then US Vice-President Nixon in 1953, and President Eisenhower in 1960. This is the building today….

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During the Japanese Colonial Era (1895-1945), the building was the location of the Shilin Horticultural Experimental Station, and surrounded, of course, by beautiful gardens.  These days, house, chapel, pavilions and garden are all open to the public.  The gardens are free, the house costs NT$ 100 entrance fee for ‘general visitors’ (that’s most of us), and a free audio tour is available in English and other languages.  No cameras or cellphones are allowed inside the house, so I have no photos of the inside, sorry about that.  Just use your imagination…

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The gardens are popular with many local people and visitors.  Deservedly so.  The flowers and shrubs – especially the rose gardens – are beautiful, all well-maintained and with lots of colour.  There are workers everywhere tending to the plants.  As a result, I think the gardens are much better than even the botanical gardens in Taipei. Check out these photos..

The house is also popular with tourists.  Lots of them, and mostly from overseas.  I went to visit the house for the first time today, a little reluctantly I admit.  Chiang Kai-Shek is nowhere near as popular these days as he used to be – as more and more of the truth of what really happened under his rule is brought to light.  But then every country has its own terrible secrets, and the UK is no exception.  So I tried to go with an open mind to learn…

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Firstly, the house, as a house, is really lovely, and each room is decorated and furnished beautifully in a mixture of Chinese and western styles.  And with no cellphones and cameras allowed, the atmosphere is like a real museum.  It’s a serious place.  Many of Taiwan’s historical places, in an effort to attract tourists, have brought in tons of touristy things to do, which many would say lowers the tone considerably.  Shilin Official Residence shows how it can be done properly.  The audio tour though is due for a remake.  It’s similar in style to the CKS Memorial in Taipei, full of how wonderful the Chiangs were, presenting their daily life as idyllic, and their relationship as perfect.  Intriguingly, their Christian faith is central to the presentation.  Chiang Kai-Shek had a large picture of Jesus in his room and the story of how he became a Christian (through his wife and her parents) and the couple’s daily prayer and Bible reading habits are well-explained on the audio tape.  His faith, of course, only adds complexity to the whole paradox of his life and actions, but that is for thought and discussion another time, another place.  There’s also a chapel in the grounds where the couple and their visitors attended Sunday services.

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And there’s a grand piano, made of plants…

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And it just wouldn’t be the same without any mascots of any kind, so at the back of the gift shop near the main entrance to the gardens, are Chiang Kai-Shek Teddy and Soong Mei-Ling Teddy, ready for your photos…

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Oh yes, and Soong Mei-Ling’s Cadillac, with an interesting number plate (Chiang Kai-Shek’s own cars and all his official possessions are at the CKS Memorial in Taipei)…

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From the Official Residence, going around Jiantan Mountain, it is not far to the Grand Hotel, also built by Chiang Kai-Shek, and not far from there is the Martyrs Shrine – officially known as the ‘National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine‘ 國民革命忠烈祠, also built under the orders of Chiang Kai-Shek, and dedicated to the war dead of the Republic of China…

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I’ve passed by this place many times, but today was my first visit.  And the main reason for going to the Martyrs Shrine is to see the Changing of the Guard, which happens every hour on the hour throughout the day (can also be seen at the CKS Memorial and the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, Taipei)…

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I was there for the 12 noon ceremony, the hottest time of the day and just before the rain came down – got there as the tourists were just arriving…

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The guards stand completely still and swelter for a whole hour in their uniforms, while their assistants mop their sweaty brows and generally keep them from keeling over in the heat.  There are 2 guards at the main entrance, and 2 more up at the entrance to the actual shrine.

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The Changing of the Guards Ceremony involves 5 of them marching up to the shrine, changing the 2 guards up there, then they march back again and change the 2 at the front, and perform at both places.

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Amazing choreography.  Worth it for that alone.

Due to an incident at CKS Memorial a few days ago, when protesters threw red paint on the statue of Chiang Kai-Shek (see that news report here) the actual shrine was closed to visitors today.  All the other buildings in the compound were closed too, like this one….

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And probably will be for some time to come.  So we watched from afar – along with at least 3 coachloads of tourists, mostly from the USA, who arrived for the Changing of the Guard just as it was starting and left immediately it finished.  This was taken after they’d all gone. Quiet once again…

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Just before the rain came down…

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So, do go to visit both places with an open mind – in order to learn something of the recent history of Taiwan and the Republic of China.   No country’s history is devoid of war and conflict, and Taiwan has plenty of both, much untold and unresolved.  It’s well on its way in trying to bring to light events of the past, but progress is slow, protesters are restless, and many are the struggles and stumbling blocks in the road ahead.

Farewell Sanzhi & Hello Taipei!

Yes, said a fond farewell to Sanzhi 三芝 this week – the town / district where I’ve been living for the past 3 years ~ and of course said a sad (!) farewell to all the termites who had seriously taken over my house – and my life!   This photo below shows where I was living in Sanzhi – in this vast housing estate of flats / apartments  ~ and it was great!  I was on the ground floor facing into the central area of the estate.  Lovely neighbours ~ and very safe, central and convenient for buses and shopping.  The building next door, on the right, used to be a bowling alley, now it’s a large shop selling everything, and very reasonably priced.

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Sad really that I moved, cos I like Sanzhi (well, in spring, summer and autumn!) especially the early morning walks along the river, watching kingfishers, water lilies, lotus flowers, enjoying the mountains and fresh air ~ and the nearness to the sea.   My farewell tour on Wednesday evening was to the local scenic spot – the lighthouse at Fugueijiao 富貴角, on Taiwan’s northern tip, looking splendid in the sunshine – originally built in 1896, and only open to the public in recent years.

Now I’ve moved back to St. John’s University ~ which is officially part of Tamsui, not Sanzhi.  Actually I’ve moved my stuff back there, and I’m now staying in Good Shepherd Church, Shilin, Taipei for the next month – where I have 2 weeks of classes starting on July 30.  Shilin is an urban / suburban area of northern Taipei, famous for it’s night market, National Palace Museum and for the foreign community who live in the hills above Shilin, enjoing the cooler weather.  The church is at the other end of Shilin, near the river and on a main road full of traffic, but with nice sunsets like this one last night.  The mountain in the distance is Guanyinshan 觀音山, over at the end of the Tamsui river, and the large round building in the foreground is part of Yang-Ming High School across the road…

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And the local scenic landmark in Taipei is of course Taipei 101.  Must go, must see!  Today the weather forecast was rain, and as I write this, it is pouring down ~ but this morning the rain stopped for a few hours, the sun came out and I took this photo from Elephant Mountain (Xiangshan 象山), behind Taipei 101.  The best views of Taipei are to be had up there, and from the mountains behind too – but oh so hot and humid to climb in the summer.  Worth it for the views though, can see for miles!

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And why have I moved? Well, I’m off to the UK in mid-August for 6 months ‘home leave’, and the plan is that when I come back to Taiwan, all being well in February 2019, then I can live once again at St. John’s University – though in a different place than I was in before I moved to Sanzhi.  In case you’re wondering, no I’m not moving because of the termites, I think I’d become quite fond of them 😉😉….  and anyway they give me a good illustration for tomorrow’s sermon. Thanks guys 😍😍!

Hehuanshan 合歡山 Main Peak 主峰 (3,417m), East Peak 東峰 (3,421m) and Mt. Shimen 石門山 (3,237m)

Three big Baiyue 百岳 mountains in one day ~ Nos. 34, 35 and 66 of THE list!  The Baiyue list refers to the list of the ‘100 Peaks of Taiwan‘, the 100 were chosen from among Taiwan’s 260+ mountains which are over 3,000m, and were selected for their ‘uniqueness, danger, height, beauty and prominence’ ~ an ambition for all those enthusiastic about mountains.  So we did 3 of them on Saturday.  Impressive, eh?  Ah, but looks deceive!

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In fact, these 3 peaks in the Hehuanshan range are considered by far the easiest of the Baiyue Peaks, mostly because the main road across Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range from east to west coasts goes right up to the saddle, Wuling at 3,275 m – which is right there at Hehuanshan. So, none of these peaks is more than an hour’s walk from the main road, and none are considered too strenuous ~ though the high altitude and weather means visitors still have to be well-prepared.

Meet my good friends, Jasmine, and her husband Kenny ~ photo taken on Friday at Nina’s Chocolate at Ching-Jing Farm (yep the chocolate is amazing, as is the decoration!)….

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Jasmine kindly invited me to join her family group for the weekend in Nantou County, central Taiwan ~ and to spend this past Saturday climbing some of the mountains in the Hehuanshan range, our annual mountain trip. In June 2016, we went up Hehuanshan North Peak and the never-to-be-forgotten killer hike to West Peak (see that blog post here) – but until now I had never done the Hehuanshan Main Peak or East Peak.  So for 2018, this was our challenge!

This is Hehuanshan Main Peak, viewed from East Peak, with the saddle / carpark at Wuling ….

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Actually there were 10 of us in the group, and on Saturday everyone did different combinations of mountains in the Hehuanshan range. Jasmine’s amazing 77-year-old mother, husband and daughter started with the smaller – but very steep – Hehuanshan Jian Peak 合歡尖山 (3,217 m), which unfortunately is not on the Baiyue list.  There were lots and lots of people on that mountain!

We all started off together at the car park below Jian Peak, near the Song Syue Lodge 松雪楼, Taiwan’s highest hotel (run by the Forestry Bureau) and looking towards Chilaishan 奇萊山 Mt. Chilai  (known as Black Chilai). Our path started behind that hotel…

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We climbed Hehuanshan East Peak 合歡山東峰 (3,421 m): No. 35 of the Baiyue.  The ascent takes about an hour, and is really spectacular.  Loved it!  This is East Peak, taken later in the day, by then with its summit just in the clouds….

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Mornings are the time for mountains in Taiwan, by the afternoon, clouds are rolling in and it often rains.  We spent the morning on the East Peak and it was glorious, hot but with a cool breeze.  This is the view from East Peak – looking west to the Hehuanshan road that we had driven up that morning….

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Hehuanshan is a busy place all year round. In the winter, people go up there to see the snow, and in the summer they go up there to escape the heat of the plains below.  Always crowded!

It is a major cycling challenge to ride up to the saddle at Wuling (3,275m).  And so it was that the area was even busier than usual this past Saturday with the summer edition of the Taiwan KOM Challenge (King Of the Mountains), a cycling race of 105 km from the east coast at Hualien up to Wuling, starting out at 6:30am. Rather amazingly, it so happened that we were on the top of the East Peak about 11:00am right as the first rider reached the finish line, we could hear the cheers going up as he got nearer and nearer.  Spot the winner below…

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Until 1980, Hehuanshan was a military base, and the remains of the barracks are still there – see all those buildings in rows – a bit dark and gloomy down there!

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On the East Peak is the remains of what used to be a ski lift – used by the military and elite, it was closed in 1985. But these days there isn’t enough snow anyway.  Fascinating to visit the abandoned ski lift building….

There’s also lots of flowers….

In the afternoon we went to Hehuanshan Main Peak 合歡山主峰 (3,417 m): No. 34 of the Baiyue, where there’s a working weather station, also the remains of military fortifications…

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And a road winds it’s gentle way all the way to the top.  It takes only 30-40 minutes to get to the summit, and lots and lots of people make the trip every year.  It’s almost a rite of passage for Taiwan youth groups, families and even toddlers.  The place was full of people ~ including us!

And finally 5 of us went to climb Shimenshan (Mt. Shimen) 石門山 (3,237m): No. 66 of the Baiyue, which is considered the easiest of all the peaks in the area…

I had climbed this mountain a few months ago in the fog.  And it wasn’t much different this time.  This was the descent just before that big bank of cloud came rolling in!

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By the time we finished, about one minute from the car ~ it started to rain. We’d done it in time! YES YES YES!

By then it was 3:00 pm and we sat in a traffic jam in the rain, not moving for over 30 minutes, as we arrived at the Wuling saddle just at the end of the KOM race, and all the vans loaded with bikes were departing down the mountain…..

On a good day, Hehuanshan is about 30 minutes drive above Ching-Jing Farm and resort area, and we had stayed there the night before, fortifying ourselves for the mountains ahead with Nina’s Chocolate, ha ha….

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Earlier that day, Friday, we had had lunch at Tarowan (塔洛灣) looking down on Bihu 碧湖 Lake Bi, (also known as the Wanda Reservoir 萬大水庫) below…. how’s this for a lunch-with-a-view?

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Anyway, as well as a chocolate shop, Ching-Jing Farm also has a new skywalk – so we tried it out….

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There’s a great view from Ching-Jing….

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We even saw rainbow colours in the clouds….

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And dawn and sunrise the next morning were good too!

By the time we got to Hehuanshan ready to start walking on Saturday morning, it was already almost 10:00 am, but hey, it meant we got to see the winning cyclist of the KOM!

Thank you to Jasmine and all our lovely group of people for a great weekend, and especially to our 2 amazing drivers, Kenny and A-Kuei.  Mountain climbing in Hehuanshan 合歡山 needs not just energy and strength to climb the mountains – but also skilled drivers with plenty of patience to find parking spaces!  We finished our trip in Taichung, and Jasmine and I even managed to attend part of the morning services at St. James – her first visit.  Then we went sightseeing in Taichung!  And here we all are…

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Got home about 5:30 pm.  Thanks be to God!  Such amazing scenery, good company,  safe travels, and wonderful mountains!

Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 and Paiwan 排灣族 Harvest Festival 豐年祭 @ Nantian Village, Daren Township, Taitung 台東縣達仁鄉南田村, Taiwan

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Yes, the Alangyi Historic Trail 阿朗壹古道 is THE trail to hike!  And especially when the sea and the sky are blue, blue, blue ~ like they were on Saturday ~ YES YES YES!

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The Alangyi Trail runs maybe 8-10 km along the S.E. coast of Taiwan, and walking it takes about 4-5 hours ~ from the very southern tip of Taitung County across into Mudan Township 牡丹鄉, Pingtung County, finishing at Xuhai 旭海 Village, famous for its hot springs and grassland.  The trail is significant in that it is the only section of the whole Taiwan coastline where there is no road. No road means no cars, no lorries, no coaches, no random tourists, no 7-elevens (always a sign of economic development!) ~ and to preserve the natural environment, the area is established as a nature reserve, and strictly managed.  But this only happened after years of protests and disputes about whether to build a road or not.  Fortunately wisdom prevailed, and the Alangyi Trail is just fantastic!

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Nowadays, only 300 people are allowed on the trail per day, permits are required, a guide is needed per 20 people and there are police on duty at either end of the trail.  During the summer, the temperatures are boiling hot, and there are few people hiking on the trail.  In fact, we only met one other group, 30+ youngsters from Changhua – going in the other direction.  Fortunately we had a nice breeze to blow us along!  A typhoon was slowly heading towards Taiwan, but still far off, and as often happens a day or two before a typhoon, the weather was really great (as I write this on Wednesday morning, 3 days later, the typhoon is roaring around outside as it passes northern Taiwan)!

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It is truly an amazing walk, with incredible views!  Is it easy?  Yes.  Is it difficult?  Yes. Both / and!  Much of the walk is right down near sea-level, along the upper part of the stony beach, but at the rocky promontory that is called Guanyin’s Nose 觀音鼻, everyone has to ascend 150m to go up and over the top and down the other side.  It is very steep, so ropes are supplied to grab onto, and there’s steps in some places.  But hey, the views are spectacular – and see the turtle-shaped rock down below!

For centuries, the Alangyi Trail was used by the local indigenous peoples to get from place to place along the coast.  The local indigenous people in that area are mostly the Paiwan People 排灣族 (pause here while you open that link to the Wikipedia site to read about the Paiwan People – it’s fascinating)…. Wonder if in years gone by, they enjoyed this stream as much as we did at the end of the trail?  Yes, we got soaked, but it was oh so refreshing!

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My good friends from Advent Church, 選櫻 (Hsuen-Ying, Grace) and her husband 生豐 (Sheng-Feng, Simon), invited me to join a group of their friends (mostly Grace’s former high school / college classmates and their families – all very lovely!) who they had invited to spend the weekend visiting Grace’s home village of Nantian, in Daren Township, Taitung (台東縣達仁鄉南田村).  This is Grace and Simon… as romantic as always!

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Grace is Paiwan, Taiwan’s second largest indigenous group, and Simon is Amis, Taiwan’s largest indigenous group – who mostly live further north in the Hualien area.  These days there is a certain friendly rivalry between the different tribes / groups ~ although in the past, things were not always so friendly!  Both Grace and Simon work at TamKang High School, Tamsui (as did 2 others in our group), and the school has a teddy bear mascot that travels around with them all over, including on the Alangyi Trail!

Nantian Village is the southernmost village in Taitung County, and runs along a single road between the mountains and the sea. Most people coming to Taitung from the west coast do so over the mountain road from Pingtung, this is the first area they reach on the east coast.  For cyclists on the round-Taiwan circuit, it’s a welcome relief to get over the mountains and down to the coast. But the only people passing through Nantian itself are on their way to the northern entrance of the Alangyi Historic Trail.  Within a few minutes of starting the trail, there’s a river, and that is the border between Taitung and Pingtung – and it is just over that river that the police have a checkpoint to check permits.

And what else is going on in Nantian?  Well, there’s fish farming, mainly for shrimp, there’s a camp site, small guest houses, a cement factory out on the main road, 2 Presbyterian churches, and a beautiful stony beach.  In the past, the stones were big and well-rounded, so people collected them up and carved them for sale.  These days, apparently the coast has changed, the sea level is rising, the stones are much smaller, and well, it’s not easy to make a good living.  Many of the local people have moved away to the cities looking for work – and return for festivals, and some in their retirement.

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Some scenes of Nantian and the local area, starting with the chief’s stone…

There’s an interesting bamboo art work installed there too, ‘The Vector of the South‘ 南方以南 ~ the bamboo looks like waves coming up from the shore, over the seawall and across the fields….

Grace’s elder brother, who we call ‘Da-Ge’ 大哥 (literally ‘big brother’) returned to the family home 10+ years ago, after quite some time in northern Taiwan, to take up his responsibilities as one of the chiefs of the Paiwan Tribe.  He is just so lovely!  He kept us entertained with stories, songs and jokes, and he and his wife are such committed Christians, sharing their faith, testimonies, choruses and music with everyone!  They, together with relatives and members of the village, welcomed us into their lives for the weekend ~ they were just so hospitable and generous.  By inviting us to join their village for the weekend, we could learn so much about their culture and traditions, and they were able to get some income from taking care of us ~ such visits are officially known as (starting with their Paiwan name), ‘Jakisuvung Cultural and Educational Eco-Tourism’ 家給蘇豐文教生態旅遊.  We stayed in a local guest house (B&B), which was run by the lady who was our guide for the Alangyi Trail, and whose younger sister was Grace’s former classmate!

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The Paiwan Harvest Festival 豐年祭 is an annual event in many Paiwan communities, celebrating a successful millet / rice harvest, and copious amounts of millet / rice wine are on offer!  It involved a whole weekend of activities in Nantian Village, starting on Saturday morning with the official opening ceremony when VIPs from the local government, the elected official representative from Taitung County Council, tribal chiefs and many others came along. There was dancing and singing too….

The main event of the day was the archery competition ~ wow, they are so skilled!  Every village has a team and they were all there, competing all morning.  Women, men, old, young, everyone took part; apparently they practice for hours – and it shows!

We even had a go ourselves, though we only shot from half the distance – and still managed to miss, ha ha! But Grace, who said this was her first time to try, got a bull’s eye, first time.  Actually it’s not a bull, it’s a mountain pig!

And then we all went off up the river, through the river in fact, wading upstream until we came to a clearing where we had a really fun Paiwan-style barbecue.  In fact, 3 days later and I can still smell that smoke all over!

The following day, the community spent the morning killing and preparing the pig, and certain other ceremonies.  The main event of the festival for us was on Sunday evening. Just beforehand, the heavens opened, the rain came down, and they decided to relocate to the village community centre. Da-Ge’s wife and the ladies of the village had been cooking all afternoon, and there were huge amounts of delicious Paiwan-style food. “Must try everything”, they said. Just don’t ask in too much detail what everything is – and remember that nothing in that mountain pig goes to waste!  Ah, I had a great time!

Most of the people were there in traditional Paiwan costumes, and we had flower head rings….

And there was dancing.  There’s always dancing at festivals, and we joined in too.  I filmed the following video for 5 minutes before I got down and joined the end of the line!  Do watch – and keep an eye on the blue bucket of millet / rice wine 小米酒 in the middle of the table, and the ‘waiters’ who go around serving everyone!

And this was the final dance – just for the community themselves… watch to the end, but I had to stop filming at the final minute, I was laughing so much!

On Monday morning, our group had a chance to visit Da-Ge’s home and try on some of their traditional Paiwan costumes.  There is apparently no special significance to the colours, blue, red, black – it’s personal choice.  We also had a chance to wear the chief’s headdress, which is, oh, so heavy!  The rules are that at ceremonies and festivals, only the chief and his family can wear the headdresses, but in their home and for photos at other times, anyone can try them on.  So we did!

We also visited a massive huge tree, Bischofia javanica (considered sacred, hence the red ribbon).  That’s where we learned all about the local ecology and more.  Teddy came too!

What else?  Well, actually I had arrived a day earlier than most of our group, and together with Grace and Simon, the 3 of us went to visit the newly-opened social welfare center run by the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross 聖十字架慈愛修女會 (known as the Maria Theresia Social Welfare Foundation 財團法人台東縣私立天主教聖十字架瑪利德蘭社會福利基金會) in Shangwu Village 尚武村, Dawu Township 大武鄉, which is very near Nantian ~ in fact it was in Dawu that Grace went to junior high school.  And the first person we met when we arrived at the center there was one of her old classmates. Ah it’s a small world!  This is their church and fruit growing in the garden. The fruit is Morinda citrifolia, known as cheese fruit / vomit fruit / starvation fruit, and I can tell you it is totally 100% disgusting!

In December 2016, St. John’s University and Advent Church raised NT$ 325,000 (US$ 10,000) as part of our annual fund-raising project and donated it to the sisters (see that blog post here) for their ministry.  They were planning to convert their kindergarten classrooms into a day care center for elderly local people.  Thanks be to God that the work is completed, and the official opening ceremony and mass was held on June 16, 2018.  We couldn’t go to the ceremony, but we were able to visit on Friday instead.  They are still waiting for the final permission from the local authorities to be able to use the new buildings, and we had a tour – they are so light, bright, well-equipped and fully furnished.  It was so good to meet Sr. Miljenka Schnetzer 宋玉潔修女 again, she arrived in Taiwan from Switzerland in 1979, and has been in Shangwu since 1992….

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We also visited the famous train station at Duoliang 多良, famous because if you stand there long enough a train will come out of the tunnel and pass by – such a pretty photo-op ha ha!

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And then there were the sunrises over the sea – 2 of them in fact.  On Friday we got up and left at 4:30 am to see the sunrise from the high viewpoint…

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And then again on Monday morning, when there was more cloud – the only sign that the typhoon was coming.  Great that we could still see Lanyu and Lyudao Islands from up there (but too far away to appear in the photo)….

One of the main highlights of the whole weekend was meeting Grace’s family, especially her big brother and his wife and family.  I had dinner at their home on Friday evening.  They are so friendly and welcoming!  This is Da-Ge and Simon…

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And yes, we spent a lot of time laughing!  Da-Ge’s wife told me that on the chief’s headdress there are some tufts of red hair, and yep, sure they’re there – and very red!

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She said that those tufts of red hair represent the hair of the foreigners who had had their heads chopped off by the Paiwan people in years gone by, when they arrived on the Taiwan coast to invade and attack the people here.  The Paiwan were a headhunting people, and always kept some of the hair as a mark of pride.  It’s true.  That was really what was happening along the Alangyi Historic Trail all those centuries ago.  It might all look very scenic and beautiful now, but in those days it was not a place where visitors were assured of a warm welcome!

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Wikipedia says, “In the past the Paiwan had a fearsome reputation as head-hunters. When Paiwan warriors returned home from a headhunting foray, the women would gather together in front of the courtyard to welcome their heroes and would sing songs of triumph. The heads of their enemies were then hung on stone pillars in front of which were displayed wine and offerings.” The Japanese, Americans, Dutch, Spanish all came to Taiwan – either to invade and attack, or they were trying to pass by the island on their way elsewhere but got shipwrecked in a typhoon, and many of them were attacked and killed.  Check out the Rover Incident of 1867 and the Mudan Incident of 1871, the latter took place in Mudan, which is at the Pingtung end of the Alangyi Trail.  It led to the Japanese invasion of Taiwan in 1874, and eventually Taiwan came under Japanese rule  from 1895-1945, during which the Japanese tried to control and subdue the indigenous peoples, leading to endless conflicts, armed uprisings, massacres – and resulting in even more oppression.  Many indigenous people, including Grace’s family (in the time of her great-grandparents and grandparents) were forced to relocate during the Japanese colonial era – they moved from Pingtung to Taitung, eventually settling in Nantian.

The Dutch are famously remembered in Taiwan as having red hair (here in Tamsui we have Fort San Domingo, known as 紅毛城, the ‘fort of the red-heads’, originally built by the Spanish and then seized by the Dutch, and rebuilt by them in 1644).  Hence the tufts of red hair in the headdress!  So we spent all weekend laughing together about whether I was gonna get my head chopped off before we left on Monday – and wondering whether I’d live to see another day!

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But Da-Ge assured me that now that Paiwan people are Christians, love has conquered all.  No longer do we need to kill each other, but we can live and work together in peace.  We’re all one family, of whatever tribe – and even whatever colour hair!  That’s the main theme of the song sung at the festival, where everyone joined hands to dance. These days even the shaman’s traditional rituals associated with the harvest festival are replaced by prayers to Almighty God, giving thanks and asking for God’s blessing, and all in Jesus’ name.  And here we all are, one family!

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So, Grace is from a Paiwan family and Simon is from an Amis family.  Nowadays, such marriages are very common.  In Advent Church, I like to tease Grace and Simon as being the most romantic couple in the church ~ they are members of the church choir, and they have quite some competition from other choir couples for that title!  But these two still win the prize ~ every day they are like they just got married.  And they just really like each other so much…. so adorable!

Thank God for a wonderful weekend of gracious people, deep culture, rich traditions, beautiful scenery, amazing weather, delicious foods, safe journeys and lots of laughter.

Thanks to Grace and Simon for all their leadership and organization, to all our group for their willingness to learn and to fit in with everyone and everything, and to Da-Ge and his wife and family for their warm welcome and kindness to us.  It was truly inspiring to see how God is working in one family, in one community, in one people, in one small corner of Taiwan, to His honour and glory!

The day the ceiling fell down…

Otherwise subtitled, never underestimate the power of termites.  Those horrible, terrible, awful, nightmarish creatures are eating their way through this country, ceiling by ceiling, house by house.

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So tiny, yet so powerful.  Gobsmacking what they can do.

So yes, finally the ceiling fell down.  Yesterday.  At 12 noon exactly.  The living room ceiling, no less.  This was the scene…

The whole ceiling was put in 4 years ago – obviously and sadly by a cowboy builder who used cheap wood.  And yes, the landlord deeply regrets asking him to do it.  In those 4 years, the termites have managed to eat their way through 2 of the ceilings.  Yesterday’s was the second.  Or the third if you count the one brought down by the typhoon 3 years ago, which was no doubt weakened by the termites.

Well, you have to laugh ~ I’ve been here 3 years, and this is my third ceiling to bite the dust. Hey it makes a great story!

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And if I stayed here much longer, they’d bring down the rest too.  There’s already signs that the back of the house is infested.

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Note that the termites are not eating the ceiling boards. The ceiling appears normal from below.  The termites are eating the wooden supports that are holding the ceiling up.  Completely eaten away.   So not until the ceiling is almost ready to fall does it start to droop and slope and that’s when it’s noticeable.

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Last summer, we replaced one ceiling before it fell. That’s when we discovered the termites.  This time, we just waited.  And so, with an almighty crash, it fell yesterday.  Bringing down the light fittings with it too.

Termites are also eating their way through my cardboard boxes.  The bigger the better.  Just don’t ask me what happened to all those Christmas decorations I used to have.  Gone.  To the termites.

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Today I’ve had a great time telling everyone my stories of my fallen ceilings.  And showing all the photos.  Ah, I love it.  Such a great story.  And so wonderful that it fell down yesterday at such a convenient time.  I’m never normally here at 12 noon on a Monday.  But I was yesterday.  Just arrived home, walked through the living room and into the kitchen. Grateful to God that it didn’t fall at that very moment.  But then again, I’ve been expecting that ceiling to fall since the weekend, been avoiding that area of the living room for about a week, and had cleared out all the things I had there.  Termites might work quietly and quickly, but not completely unnoticed.  Anyway, the landlord came immediately, got to work, and within 4 hours, everything was cleaned up.  Now looking great!

And the poor landlord was so nice and so apologetic that he returned later with a huge watermelon to say sorry.  Yummy yummy!

So, never ever ever underestimate the power of termites.

And, yes, Noah was a very brave man to sail in a wooden ark with 2 very very dangerous termites… 😊😊😊

Ximending 西門町 Street Art, Taipei

There’s a ton of graffiti-style street art in Taipei, mostly in Ximending ~ and with an hour to spare yesterday lunchtime I went over there to see what’s new.  Lots of new stuff has appeared since I was last there, all dated 2018.  This is a mishmash (sorry, artistic collage) of 29 photos of what’s there…

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Ximending at lunchtime is heaving with groups of young people and couples wheeling suitcases around, checking in and checking out of hotels ~ it’s THE place to stay for independent travelers from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Korea, Singapore etc.  Lively by day, and even livelier by night.

You can get a good feel of a city or country by how people paint their walls and buildings, inside and out, whether it’s Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel, Picasso and his massive 3.5 x 7.8m mural, ‘Guernica’, or street artists painting urban walls in Taipei.

So to get the feel of Taipei, come on down to Ximending and check it all out!