2014 新北市平溪天燈節 Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival ~ Truly Awesome!

Truly awe-inspiring, honest!  Definitely a sight to behold….

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Yes it was raining, the beautiful hot and sunny weather of last week having been replaced by a cold front of drizzle and cold, but nothing dampened our spirits on Saturday night at the Pingxi Junior High School as hundreds of lanterns were sent heavenwards.  Truly an awesome sight!

Pingxi is an old coal-mining town in the mountains up beyond Taipei and famous for its annual sky lantern festival, made even more famous in recent years by several international media outlets, including CNN, who have proclaimed it a must-see event….

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People can go at anytime to buy a plain lantern, write their wishes and prayers, and send them heavenwards, but even more spectacular are the 3 occasions when the New Taipei City Government organizes a mass launch, and the one on Saturday was the second of these, when 1,950 traditional lanterns were released in 10 sessions….

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People had been registering all morning to take part, everything was incredibly well-organized and worked like clockwork.  The first launch was just as it got dark….

The second was for VIP guests, including none other than Taiwan’s President Ma and lots of foreign dignitaries who had also come along to write their wishes and launch the lanterns….

When the lights went out and the 200 lanterns were launched, the sight was so amazing ~ and the collective gasp of awe from the crowd showed that everyone had the same experience, truly awesome!

May Almighty God hear our prayers, and grant us peace and love in this dark world….

Yuan Zai 圓仔 Baby Panda ~ so gorgeous (and awake!)

Taipei Zoo’s baby panda Yuan Zai 圓仔 is charming the whole country, but she doesn’t half like to sleep ha ha!  Queues and queues of people (limited to 19,200 per day) have lined up to see her for 10 minutes of viewing time during the Chinese New Year holiday as she made her public debut, and there she is (or not, if she’s often hiding) fast asleep….

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Taipei Metro kindly shows the current panda viewing times and available tickets on electronic noticeboards on some of its platforms around the city – and so there it was that I came to be in the zoo on Saturday afternoon especially to see the baby panda, and with only 5 minutes to wait to see her…. (unlike morning visitors who had to wait 2 hours!)

Zoo entrance fee is only NT$ 60 (about £1.20), well worth it to see a baby panda, who people say, wakes up in the afternoons – and YES she was wide awake and sitting on the top of a tall branch smiling at us all and moving around, while mother was wandering around below…

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Not easy to get a decent photo, but she is just sooooooo cute and gorgeous – if you have a chance, you just MUST go and see her!

 

Chinese New Year 2014!

And what a New Year it was!  The best weather ever ever ever, certainly ever since I ever remember – it was wonderful!  Praise God YES!

Started with the New Year’s Eve Banquet just up the road at Shuang-Lian Senior Care Centre, invited by my good friends Rev. and Mrs. Hsu.  Definitely the in-place to be on the night!  Over 100 tables, over 1,000 people, whole families of 4 generations, delicious food and red envelopes for all the residents – fun!

Then on New Year’s Day (Friday) to Taichung by High-Speed Rail – not easy to get a ticket, but we did! Stayed on the 8th floor at St. James’ Church, guests of Rev. Charles Chen and MaryJo and their family.  Hospitality of the highest degree.  Even spent the afternoon at Ji-Ji in Nantou County, famous for its railway station which was destroyed in the 1999 earthquake and has since been rebuilt….

Yummy yummy food food food, we ate and ate all the holiday!

In between-times, visited all my friends from past and present.  Great to see everyone! One of the highlights was joining up with my former fellow-student Fr. Joy for a special lunch with our former Chinese teacher and her daughter. Hadn’t see each other for years and years!  Another was meeting up with Rosie and her family, she had come to St. James with CMS for 6 months to replace me in 2001 while I went on home leave to the UK.  She’s still here in Taichung all these years later, married to a very handsome husband and with a gorgeous little girl and a baby on the way!  She came to the English service at St. James’ Church where I was doing the sermon….

Ah yes, and not forgetting 2 lovely families both surnamed Lai, plus church members and colleagues, past and present….

Ah, so many friends, so little time – see you all next time!

And eventually back to Taipei – spent yesterday on an outing with the SJU staff fellowship to Taipei Zoo (no time to see the panda cub, but we did see big daddy!) and MaoKong Cable Car, lunch (with a very descriptive English menu!), tea plantations and cherry blossom….

Thanking God for His many many blessings over the New Year, including sunshine ~ Happy Year of the Horse everyone!

Elephant Mountain ~ and what a view!

Found a new mountain very early this morning.  Elephant Mountain.  Feel like David Livingstone, ha ha! Except that I waited for the Taipei MRT to open a new MRT station called 象山 Shiang Shan – Elephant Mountain – so now it’s so easy to get to….

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Elephant Mountain (象山) is part of a range of small but steep hills called the Four Beasts Mountains (四獸山) to the far east of Taipei City.

Never been there before today – in fact my neighbours here are surprised to hear me say there is actually a real Shiang Shan, Elephant Mountain, and it’s not just the name of the new MRT station terminus!

Found myself up on not just Elephant Mountain but also on the ridge behind which leads to 拇指山 Muzhishan (Mount Thumb) and 九五峰 Jiu-Wu (9-5) Peak.  

There’s 3 other animal mountains in the area – tiger, leopard and lion, but they’re reserved for next visit!

Stunning views of Taipei City and especially Taipei 101…

Cherry Blossom out, and many people also out, praying at the shrines and temples (of which there are many scattered along the trails), and resting at the many shelters and seats. My favourite is the shelter made from old umbrellas tied together!

And everyone everywhere is cleaning, cleaning and cleaning – there’s hoses in action all over – the annual washing of the windows is in full swing…

Tomorrow, Thursday is Chinese New Year’s Eve – and so the festivities start tomorrow evening…  Happy New Year everyone!

Chinese New Year Shopping at Taipei Dihua Street 迪化街!

Definitely the place to be in the few weeks leading up to Chinese New Year ~ the hustle and bustle and noise and rush is not for the faint-hearted, but hey it’s fun!

Dihua Street is in one of the oldest parts of Taipei City, near the river and full of old buildings, temples and traditional shops selling tea and Chinese medicine ingredients…

Normally quite a quiet area, but for these few weeks you can buy everything you need for the festivities at good prices ~ dried everything, nuts, fruit, meats, seafoods, seeds plus sugar cane juice, sweets, a few clothes…. you name it, it’s on sale here!

Only open for 2 more days – so get there quick!

Yes to God, Yes to Mission, Yes to Taiwan!