Tag Archives: Chiayi

Alishan 阿里山 Sunrise and Cherry Blossom ~ Happy Easter 2018!

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Alishan, ah Alishan!  Famous for its sunrises, tea, cherry blossom, ‘sacred’ trees, sea of clouds and its mountain railway.   The place everyone goes once in their lifetime.  Visitors from all over the world, and especially from the Chinese-speaking world are there in their thousands.  Me too ~ and I was there on Saturday, Easter Eve ~ as dawn was breaking….

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Taiwan’s most famous sunrise location is there at Alishan ~ just look at all these people waiting to see the sun come up!

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That ridge over there in the distance is Yushan, Jade Mountain, 玉山 at 3,952 m, 12,966 ft ~ Taiwan’s No. 1 highest mountain. To the left of the Main Peak is the North Peak, with Taiwan’s highest permanently-manned weather station. We were up on the top of Yushan Main Peak and North Peak last July, and it was one amazing experience!

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When the sun does come up, there’s a big cheer – at this exact moment!

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2 minutes later, and it looks like this…

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After the sun comes up, there’s the sea of clouds below….

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And then, everyone spends the rest of the day enjoying the cherry blossom…

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But say the name ‘Alishan’ to older people in Taiwan and they burst into song.  This is the famous song, ‘Alishan Girl 阿里山的姑娘‘ sung by Teresa Teng 鄧麗君 in 1971.  Check it out, it’s very famous!

Alishan is high up in the mountains of Chiayi County, in Taiwan’s central mountain range.  The Chushan Train Station, near the sunrise viewing platform, is 2,451 m above sea level, the highest point of the Taiwan Railway System.  The hotels and cherry blossom area are all above 2,000 m, so it’s a especially pleasant place to visit in summer – when temperatures down in Chiayi are 30-35°C.  On Saturday very early morning it was 5°C, while lowland Taiwan was 20°….

So what of the history of Alishan?  Briefly it runs as follows:

“The Alishan area was originally settled by the Tsou tribe of the Taiwanese aborigines; the name derives from the aboriginal word Jarissang…. Following the cession of Taiwan to Japan at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Japanese expeditions to the area found large quantities of cypress (檜木, or hinoki in Japanese). This led to the development of the logging industry in the area and the export of local cypress and Taiwania wood. A series of narrow-gauge railways were built in the area during this time to facilitate the transportation of lumber from the mountains to the plains below, part of which continues to operate as the Alishan Forest Railway.”

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So how to go?  This was my third trip from Taipei to Alishan by direct bus, and after my last 2 reports, in 2016 and 2017, I’ve had lots of interest from visitors who want to know all the details. Of course, from Chiayi there’s plenty of buses to Alishan, but this bus is special.  For those of us in Taipei with not much time, and not wanting to spend much money, this is the way to do it.  So this is an update on those details – all you need to know!

THE bus, ‘King Bus’ 國光客運 (known as ‘Guo-Guang-Hao’) goes only twice a week, and leaves from Taipei Bus Station, next to the Taipei Main Train Station in central Taipei.  Departure time from Taipei is 20:45 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, the return trip leaves Alishan on Saturday and Sunday mornings at 11:30 am, and gets back to Taipei about 5:00 pm.  Cost for the return tickets is now NT$ 645 each way, and tickets can be booked 2 weeks in advance in person at the ticket office. No online bookings.  Yes, you can book one way only, but it may be a bit more expensive for a single ticket.  You write down your name and tel. no. when you book, just in case they need to cancel the bus (like in snow, landslides or typhoons).  Ideally of course, I would love to go to Alishan on a Friday night, spend Saturday night there, and come back to Taipei on the Sunday afternoon. But so far that hasn’t happened. I have never yet spent a night in Alishan.  Nor seen the Alishan sunsets.  But hey, I’ve seen so much else!

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In the cherry blossom season in spring, tickets get sold out very quickly.  In fact, the only reason why I could go this Easter weekend was because Saturday was actually a work and school day in Taiwan, except at St. John’s University, which took the day off to make up for graduation day in June. For everyone else, Saturday’s work and school day was making up for a day off later this week as part of the annual Tomb-Sweeping Festival.  So there were far far fewer people than would normally be expected on a spring Saturday.

The 2018 Cherry Blossom Festival runs from March 15 to April 10, and after that, most of the cherry blossom will be over.  But, y’know, it would be great to go there in other seasons too, and much quieter!

The bus journey takes about 5 hours from Taipei to Alishan, but on the outward trip, it’s extended to 6 hours, with a 45-minute rest at the small town of Chukou, the gateway to Alishan – and famous for its 2 suspension bridges.  We got to Chukou at 12:15 am, then rested until 1:00 am.  There’s a 24-hour convenience store, Family Mart, that’s open, and the bridge to walk across, but, well, it’s the middle of the night – and very quiet!

After leaving Chukou, the road starts to climb steeply upwards, round and round, up and up, on and on for the next 90 minutes or more.  If you get travel sick, don’t eat anything at Chukou Family Mart!  We arrived at the Alishan Main Entrance / Bus Station at about 2:45 am.  Last year, the bus would drive into the Alishan area and drop everyone off.  But now buses stay outside, and the new bus station area is there with its own 7-Eleven convenience store, which was open.  YES!  We all love a good 7-Eleven, especially one like this which has a large waiting area with benches to sit on.  It’s cold out there, so bring warm clothes.  Gloves, hat, scarf and coat.  And make the most of the hot chocolate at the 7-Eleven.  It’s hot and sweet and I love it.  And the coffee too – cos there’s not much sleep to be had on that bus once it leaves Chukou and starts heading up the mountain!  And there’s not much to do at Alishan at that time in the morning, until the ticket office opens to buy the train ticket to see the sunrise.  So make the most of the 7-Eleven!

If you don’t want to go on the train and prefer to go by minibus to see the sunrise from a different viewpoint, then there’s minibuses at the bus station offering this service, recommended by (but independently of) the bus company. I did it once and it was good, costs about the same, but hey, I like the train.  It kinda adds to the whole Alishan experience!

First you have to get your Alishan Entrance Ticket at the Alishan Main Gate.  With a bus ticket stub, it’s NT$ 150 (otherwise it’s NT$ 300).

We headed to the train station to wait there.  It’s warm (er) and hey, get in line, cos once all the people turn up, there’ll be hundreds lining up to get a ticket.  As the time of the sunrise varies through the year, so the time of the sunrise trains also vary, and the ticket office opens 30 minutes before the first train leaves.  The number of trains running depends on the season and the number of visitors too.  On Saturday, the sunrise was at 6:06 am, the first train left at 4:50 am and so the ticket office opened at 4:20 am.  At that point, the notice went up to say that there were 509 tickets available that morning….

Train tickets are NT$ 150 each way.  The train takes about 30 minutes and it is packed out with people.  So is Chushan, where the viewing of the sunrise happens.

Fortunately, there’s plenty to see and do, including a line of stalls selling bowls of hot soup, breakfast, coffee and tea – and well worth it.  After all, it’s not the warmest place in the world at 5:30 am!  It’s a very sociable place, and we’re all trying to get a good place to see the sunrise…

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Stand to the right of the viewing area near the solitary tree – yep, that tree may be the most photographed tree in the world!

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By 6:00 am, everyone was in place with cameras raised.  At 6:06 – exactly on time, the first glimpse of the sun appeared and a loud cheer went up from all the hundreds of people gathered there.  Kinda moving to hear!

For the next 10 minutes we all clicked and clicked away.  And within 10 minutes, the sun was up and it was too bright to stand there any longer, so we turned our attention to the cherry tree – which was very old and very big and completely covered in blossom.  The beauty of Alishan Cherry Trees, unlike those down here at lower elevations, is that the cherry trees there are so old.  And so big.  All so twisted and gnarled and full of character.  And covered in lichens – it’s all that fresh clean air.  And they were all looking splendid in the early morning sun.  Most of the Alishan cherry blossom in flower at the moment seems to be white.  Most of the pink ones, but not all, have finished flowering.  The white ones are beautiful ~ and of course, most appropriate for Easter weekend!

On previous visits, I have taken the train back to the main Alishan station, but this time I walked back.  If you have enough energy, then make the most of it and walk back.  It’s well worth it.  And it’ll save you NT$ 150.  But first I visited Mt Ogasawara / Xiaoliyuan 小笠原山(2488m above sea level), 500m away up a very steep hill – the views are incredible, really amazing.  If you go back by train, you will not really be able to get up there and back in time.

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There’s also a small exhibition area half way there with an interesting display of art taking the outline of Taiwan….

The path from the sunrise area back to Alishan is downhill all the way, and there’s a footpath down through the trees.  Usually takes 40 minutes, but I wandered off on some other paths, and took much longer.  It’s such a great area for wandering!

And once you’re down there back at the main Alishan area, well there’s loads of places to visit.  I wandered all over the place.  Trails lead everywhere.  So much to see.  The sacred trees area is the furthest away, and with lots of steep steps up and down.  But you don’t need to go far to see all the colours of Alishan.

It’s the first time I’ve visited Alishan’s most famous hotel, the Alishan House Hotel 阿里山賓館 when the cherry blossom at the main entrance was out.  Those trees are so old and falling down that they are held up and supported by metal poles.

Cherry blossom galore…

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Magnolias….

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and calla lilies…

Plus plenty more, check out this tree stump that looks like a pigs’ head…

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And there’s also Taiwan’s most beautiful (and highest) post office….

I had a spare hour at the end, and had done hours and hours of walking (after hardly any sleep!) and the weather was turning cloudy, so I bought coffee and sandwich and went off to visit the Sacred Tree Station by train – and returned 45 minutes later.  One-way ticket is NT$ 100.  Had my coffee break on the platform surrounded by huge trees.  In previous years I had walked there, but this year there was no time, so I went by the train.  It’s fun!

By the time I got back to Alishan Main Station, the sun had completely disappeared and the mist and fog had arrived.  Wow!  I passed the RC Church and hostel down below the main road – it’s apparently the best place to stay for those on a budget, but booking is not easy, mostly done by telephone.

And so back to the bus station in time to catch the 11:30 am bus back to Taipei.  We stopped once on the return journey, for 10 minutes at the Chiayi Bus Station. Most of us were so exhausted from having virtually no sleep the night before and having walked around all day, that we slept most of the way home.  Got back to Taipei Main Station at about 5:00 pm.  The driver was the same for the outward and return journeys – really excellent!

Alishan is well worth visiting, it really is special.  It’s true that the crowds might get to you at the peak times, but don’t let that put you off.  It’s beautiful!

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I just love Alishan!

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So Happy Easter 2018 @ Alishan ~ ah, what wonderful memories!

Happy Year of the Dog ~ Taiwan’s Lantern Festival 2018 @ Chiayi!

A major extravaganza is on down in Taiwan’s south central city of Chiayi.  If you get a chance, GO!   Every year, a different city or county is chosen to host Taiwan’s main lantern festival, and every year, thousands and thousands flock there from all over the country to attend.  Including me.  I love to go!  This year it is the turn of Chiayi.  And what an extravaganza it is!

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Last year, the Year of the Rooster, the main lantern festival was held in Yunlin.  The year before, the Year of the Monkey, it was held in Taoyuan.  Both of those were held near to their respective High-Speed Rail Stations (HSR), partly so lots of people can then get there easily, plus the HSR Stations are built so far out of town that there’s huge amounts of unused land nearby and it’s ideal for a major event like a lantern festival.

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This year, Chiayi has also made the most of its High-Speed Rail Station, and shuttle buses run to and fro every evening transporting people to the lantern festival site at Taibao, not far away.  But this year what is special is that the lantern festival site includes the National Palace Museum Southern Branch, which was only opened in 2004.  It is truly amazing!

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We went on Saturday afternoon, the second day of the event, and stayed on until the night.  We walked through the lantern festival area in T-shirts, it was so hot, under blue skies.

But blue skies are hardly any good for a lantern festival – which needs darkness!  Anyway, we passed through the lantern area, and ended up at the National Palace Museum Southern Branch.  Along with thousands and thousands of people.  And guess what?  The museum was open, and from 3:00-9:00 pm, entry was free as long as you ‘like’ the museum’s facebook page, then that ‘like’ could be exchanged for a free ticket.  What a treat!  This was my very first visit, and I was not expecting to get free entry into the museum.  Inside it’s beautiful!  It’s not too big, so you can get round it quite easily.  Wow!

Then the sunset behind the museum….

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And a light show!

We moved down to the museum main entrance where there was an incredible performance going on, already started so we missed the first part.  Never seen anything quite like it.  In the dark too.  A crane had suspended in mid-air what looked from a distance like a sort of chandelier.  It turned out that each of the so-called ‘lights’ of the chandelier contained a person, and they threw out all sorts of streamers, balloons, confetti, smoke, as they moved around to the music ~ and then from the central ‘light’ out came a small ladder and a woman, dressed in red, appeared – who danced and acrobat-ed herself in mid-air.  The whole performance was done as the crane moved them all up and down and round and round.  Quite terrifying to watch.  And down below were a man and woman dressed like in the Victorian-age, all in white, and they were singing like opera-style music. Really powerful stuff.

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Turns out that they are Theater Tol, based in Antwerp, Belgium, performing ‘Garden of Angels‘:

“Lightness and joy are the most important themes of this show. Garden of Angels is about a wedding, in which the beloved couple eats each other, dances, flies. They are in love and surrounded by good company: musicians and creatures out of fairy tales.

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The performance is inspired by history, where the bouquet of flowers originally consisted of a bunch of strong spices, to expel the evil ghosts and bad influences out of marriage. The big present for the newly-married couple in this performance are the angels: the protectors, the dreamers, the wise ones. The audience is the guest at the wedding. In that way the angels don’t only bring the good things for the beloved couple, they move the guests and let them be touched by their positive energy as well.

Theater Tol brings this spectacle of fire, heat and sensuality. The world of animals, fantasy and people merge. A fantasy world of lovers, dancing animals and angels descends from heaven.”

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Quite amazing.  We were seriously impressed!

And then to the main dog lantern which revolved around once every 30 minutes, and took 3 minutes to do so, accompanied by lights and noise and zillions of spectators….

After that, well, we had enough time to find the churches lantern area, and as always the RC Church could be relied on to produce interesting lanterns, this year we had the pope, Jesus, Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus, Mother Teresa and St. Valentine….

There was not much time left for us to see many of the smaller lanterns.  But we saw enough.  Lanterns everywhere, all shapes and sizes.  Actually the theme, as well as being the Year of the Dog, was all about Chiayi being on the Tropic of Cancer, so the latitude number 23.5º was much in evidence, and other countries that are also on the Tropic of Cancer were also part of the show.  Then we also had all the different areas of Chiayi represented in lanterns, including the High-Heeled Shoe Church that we had visited at Chinese New Year….

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And Alishan, famous for its cherry blossoms. Plus there were international sections, religious sections, different people groups, lanterns made by schools of different ages, and industries and companies based in Chiayi.  Something for everyone.

As always, the local government did an amazing job with the logistics and everything worked like clockwork.  There was a constant stream of shuttle buses and even though we joined a line that must have been several hundred people long, we only had to wait about 10-15 minutes to get to the top of the queue.  Incredible!

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So congratulations to Chiayi on an incredible lantern festival!

And a big welcome everyone to the Year of the Dog, woof woof!

Chinese New Year 2018!

Ah yes, and as with every Chinese New Year, food featured highly!  Food, food and more delicious food.  YUMMY!  For most people, the New Year celebrations revolve around family reunions, gatherings with old friends, temple visits to pray for blessings for the new year, preparing food offerings and worship at the family ancestor shrine, and of course the enjoyment of meals and delicacies of every kind.  Many people also take the chance to travel, but just as many people say they can’t face the traffic jams and prefer to stay home.  Meanwhile those in the tourism and transport business work from morning to night, making the most of the opportunities ~ or just busy, busy, busy, after all it’s high season.  And red is the colour to be seen everywhere, whether in decorations in homes, hotels and businesses, or in the new clothes that everyone wears, or in the red envelopes that are given or received in every home.  Ah, red, a great colour!  In Chinese tradition it symbolizes blessing, good fortune, happiness.  Yes, I love red!

Of course, we were all too well aware of the tragedy of the recent earthquake disaster in Hualien, and of those who were killed, injured, bereaved, made homeless or with damaged homes and businesses.  Hualien is a major tourist destination for Taiwan people at Chinese New Year, and even though local government leaders and those involved in the tourism industry wanted people to continue with their travel plans where possible, in fact many cancelled.  This had a knock-on effect for the whole of the east coast, and Taitung too was relatively free of people, and therefore also cars, which meant less traffic jams.

The most important meal of Chinese New Year is that of Chinese New Year’s Eve, when the whole family gathers together, and sons and their families return to the family home.  I’d been at St. James’ Church, Taichung all the past week, and my good friends there, the very lovely and welcoming Wang family kindly invited me to their home for the New Year’s Eve meal, where mother, father and 2 daughters were busy preparing all kinds of goodies ~ home-made everything!  All very very delicious and very beautifully served.  Thank you!

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On Chinese New Year’s Day, last Friday, we set off from Taichung heading south.  ‘We’ is my good friend, Ah-Guan and her daughter, Yaling.  Ah-Guan had kindly organized everything, she is really great fun for traveling with!  We were heading for Tainan.  First stop was Chiayi County, Budai Township 布袋 to see the High-Heeled Wedding Church. This is quite some landmark.  ‘Church’ it is not.  Or maybe it is.  Cross, there isn’t.  And no services planned.  It is actually a photo-shoot location for couples taking their wedding photos, as is the tradition in Taiwan, a few weeks before their actual wedding.  Built to make your wedding photos look like you’re in a kind of dreamworld, Cinderella-style.  Actually I like it.  Not all the cute photo-op things around, but the actual glass monument itself.  It’s very bright blue and very shiny, made of glass.  Hey, every town needs something to draw people in, and well, Budai has a bright blue high-heeled church!

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But the story behind it is one of tragedy.  This coastal area of SW Taiwan lacks freshwater, and in the 1950’s, people dug deep wells to get drinking water, which unfortunately proved high in heavy metals, especially arsenic. Long-term consumption of arsenic causes poor circulation and eventually can cause the feet to turn purplish-black (from gangrene), thus known as ‘Blackfoot Disease’.  The only solution was amputation.  This caused a huge amount of suffering at its peak in the 1960’s. One local girl had to have her feet amputated just before her wedding, so the wedding was cancelled and she spent the rest of her life being taken care of by the church.  Blackfoot Disease therefore denied her the chance of following the traditional Taiwanese custom of stepping over the fire-pan on her wedding day, symbolizing leaving her old life and starting a new one.  As the bride would be beautifully dressed, she would also be wearing high-heeled shoes on her wedding day…..

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The church mentioned in this story is the Presbyterian Church in Beimen District 北門 (don’t confuse this Beimen with the Beimen in Taipei City), the next area to Budai, though actually in Tainan County.  We visited Beimen next.  The most famous local resident was Dr. Wang King-ho 王金河 (1916-2014), who dedicated much of his life to treating patients with Blackfoot Disease at his clinic there, now a museum.

“An outbreak of Blackfoot Disease began in Beimen in 1956, and Wang partnered with medical professionals at National Taiwan University to research the disease. Missionary Lillian Dickson moved to Beimen in 1960 and opened the Mercy’s Door Free Clinic, which was funded by her organization Mustard Seed International, with Wang as head physician.  Hsieh Wei, a doctor based in Puli, Nantou, would make weekly round trips to perform amputations on patients at Mercy’s Door.  After Mercy’s Door closed, Wang returned to his own clinic before retiring in 1996.”

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The museum is well worth visiting, but I will spare you any photos of the preserved amputated feet that are on display.  Gross is the word.  Sorry, but it’s horrible.  Not for the squeamish, like me.  Slightly more bearable are the old medical instruments that were used, but the tools like the saw, and the operating table and the old photos make it all very gruesomely horrific.

Beimen also has a new ‘church’ to add to its tourist attractions, this one a Crystal Church 水晶教堂.  We went there too.  And the old Beimen salt washing workshops, now converted into a visitor center.  And we loved the ‘Money Coming’ 錢來也 Grocery Shop (Qianlaiye), built in 1952 originally as the cafeteria for the salt workers ~ what a great name for a shop!

And then we went to Jingzaijiao Tile-paved Salt Fields 井仔腳瓦盤鹽田, the oldest salt-field in Taiwan, started in 1818.  This is quite an amazing scene!

The nearby houses are quite beautiful…

And so to Tainan 台南, where we stayed at Grace Church, with our good friends, Rev. Philip Ho and his wife, Nancy and daughter Kathy.  They were so so so good to us!  Yes, great home-cooked meals and kindness galore.  They also had planned our itinerary so well, Philip driving and Nancy really ace on where to go and how to get there.  And they love posing for crazy photos… we took many like this!

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And this….!

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The next day, we were up bright and early for a tour around the area, including the bird reserve famous for the black-faced spoonbills. Actually we didn’t see any of those, but we saw plenty of others of the species listed, including Avocets, Caspian Terns, Curlews, Sacred Ibis, Redshank and all kinds of herons and egrets. We also met some of the wardens who help to staff the reserve and they were so keen to let us look through their telescopes and tell us the birds we were looking at.   Philip used to be a biology teacher, so he knows all the plants, animals and birds too.  A great field-guide!  Actually, there’s less than 3,000 black-faced spoonbills in the whole world and about two-thirds of the world’s population spend the winter in the Tsengwen River estuary, Tainan. But the tide was out, and so were the birds!

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So off we went to see lots of other interesting places, ending with a visit to the site that was St. Michael’s House in Tainan (opposite the Tainan Theological College,) which since the house demolition some years ago, is now used as a large vegetable garden, for local people and church members.  It’s a little oasis in the midst of the big city!

On Sunday, we went to the service at Grace Church, where Philip is the vicar.  The church is on the site of the Grace Church Kindergarten, and they have a very wonderful and very friendly congregation!

Their flower arrangement, combining Lent and Chinese New Year was beautiful!

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I was especially pleased to meet Rev. Samuel Liao, one of our retired clergy and his wife and family.  He is always so encouraging and cheerful, and loves to hear updates of the Anglican Church in England.  Hey, all of us are in red, or shades of it!

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A great service, and a group photo.  Or two, since some of our friends came a bit late and missed the service.  We met lots of old friends.  Ching-Ping, former teacher at St. James’ Kindergarten and her son.  Also Christopher, my colleague here at St. John’s University, his wife Linda and family, along with Linda’s mother who lives in Tainan.  And here they all are.  As it was Chinese New Year, there was no lunch after the service, but we had coffee and plenty of chat!

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And then it was time to say goodbye to Tainan.  Philip and family kindly took us in their car over to the east coast, Taitung 台東 for the next 2 days.  Taitung has the most wonderful coastal scenery in the world!  Blue skies and high mountains too.  And home to many of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.  This journey took many hours to get there, so we stopped for the evening at the famous Chihben (Zhiben / Jhiben) Hot Springs 知本溫泉 area, and went to the Hotel Royal where we had a yummy dinner and the extra blessing of watching the traditional dancing of the Beinan (Puyuma) People, oh and fireworks to finish the evening. (Check out this link for my report of our previous visit to the area over New Year weekend 2016-17, when we followed some of the same route).

So we arrived very late at our destination, Chishang 池上, in the northern area of Taitung, close to Hualien County border, and famous for it’s rice ~ and it’s scenery!

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Up early to see the sunrise and a walk around Dapo Lake, with THE best views!  And what great weather!

Philip and his wife have a good friend, Yi-hua, living in Chishang. Actually, she became a Christian through their ministry when they were in St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung, and she was baptized by Philip there a few years ago. In 2016, she moved to Chishang with her husband to start a business selling their newly-invented rice cakes, which are so wonderful!  All made using the 100% real and very famous Chishang rice. There’s savoury and sweet ones, and served with coffee, wow, so delicious.  We arrived on their doorstep (their shop is diagonally opposite the Chishang Presbyterian Church) while they were still asleep (having stayed up to the early hours baking!) and yet they warmly welcomed us in and shared about how God has led them in their business these recent months, ending with a prayer of blessing from Philip.  If you’re ever in Chishang, you just MUST go and visit!

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But now farewell to Chishang, and we were heading first north, then over the mountains to the coastal road and southwards along the coast to Yiwan Card Church 宜灣卡片教堂,  a Presbyterian Church built in 1951, used by the local Amis People 阿美族 (so called the ‘Card Church’ because the design was apparently copied from a card, collected in childhood by one of the church members!) Philip is here below holding an Amis Bible. The church is gorgeous ~ I just love the colours!

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We continued south, visiting famous landmarks and sea vistas, too many to mention, but all in the area around Chenggong Township 成功鎮, where they also have beautiful flowers. And to the Amis village of Pisirian (meaning the place where people raise sheep in Amis language)…

The most famous scenic spot in the whole area is Sanxiantai 三仙台 and its amazing eight-arch bridge.  I walked over the whole thing and up to the light beacon, built in 1915 during the Japanese Colonial Period, the first of its kind on the east coast. I loved it!  I had been to Sanxiantai once before, but many many years ago.  Apparently the best time to go is at sunrise, but we got there mid-afternoon and the clouds were already rolling in fast, so at least it was nice and cool!

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We stayed overnight at the Bunun Leisure Farm, 布農部落 where we had visited also on the same trip as the Beinan Hunting Festival, over New Year weekend 2016-17.

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Bunun Leisure Farm is an initiative set up by Bunun Presbyterian pastor, Rev. Pai Kwang-Sheng and his wife to help the local Bunun People in education and to revive their traditional culture, and to share these resources with visitors, providing a reliable and sustainable source of income for the people.  It was the first time that Philip and his wife had visited, and oh, how they loved it!  We had a wonderful dinner, watched the music performance that evening, and then the dancing performance the next morning, met Rev. Pai who kindly hosted us to lunch and coffee and, well, we were all so so happy!  It is such a great place.  We couldn’t bear to leave!

But leave we had to, in order to get back to Tainan.  And the next day to Taichung.  And after a wonderful dinner, hosted by Rev. Lily Chang for those who help lead and preach at the St. James’ English service, so I headed back to Taipei on Thursday early morning  and eventually home on Thursday night.

What a great Chinese New Year it was!  Special thanks to good friend Ah-Guan and her family, Rev. Philip Ho and his family, and all those who we met, those who welcomed us so warmly and generously, including the Rev. Lily Chang and the Wang family in Taichung, Ms. Xiao in Chishang, Rev. Samuel Liao and the church members of Grace Church, Tainan, Rev. Pai in Bunun Farm and so many more ~ and thanks to the good friends who kindly gave us their Bunun Farm coupons so we could stay there effectively as their guests.  Everyone was so hospitable, gracious and kind.  And not surprisingly, some were exhausted – especially Philip as he did magnificently with so many long hours of driving ~ I have more than one photo like this one!  Thank you Philip.  And I just love his hat!

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The weather was amazing, the scenery was spectacular, the dancing was great, there were virtually no traffic problems, and everything worked out so well.  Thanks be to Almighty God!

And when I got home, Bishop Roger and his wife, Alice and sister-in-law Anne (who’d all been staying at my house over the New Year while visiting Anne and Alice’s lovely parents in the nearby Shuang-Lien Elderly Home) had just left for their respective homes in Mauritius and USA. But I know from their photos that the weather in Sanzhi over the New Year was also warm and sunny,  thanks be to God.  Big thanks to Bishop Roger and family for house-sitting!  This is us on the only day we overlapped, their arrival day on Friday February 9!

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Chinese New Year officially lasts until the 15th day of the first lunar month, so we still have another week to go until the official start of Lantern Festival ~ but as the Chinese New Year festival was so late this year, all work in Taiwan officially resumed on Wednesday, as did all schools, except universities ~ our new semester starts on Monday.  Ah yes, it’s all go to get ready!

So with the New Year well and truly here, wishing you all a very Happy Year of the Dog!

On Top of the World! Yushan / Jade Mountain 玉山 ~ Taiwan’s Highest Mountain 3,952 m 12,966 ft!

Occasionally, just very occasionally, so many good things happen all at once to make an event so amazing and unexpectedly awesome, that even the hardest of sceptics are won over.  Such was our ascent of Taiwan’s highest mountain, Yushan / Jade Mountain 玉山 these past few days.  Incredible!

If you’ve been reading this blog over the last month, you’ll see I’ve braved the intense heat and humidity of Taipei to climb a few mountains.  Endurance, resilience, stamina all put to good use.  But without telling you why.   Just in case.  Don’t want to say too much. Well, it was all because of Yushan.  Because after years of applying for a permit to stay at the Paiyun Cabin / Lodge (2.4 km below the Yushan Main Peak – and the place to stay in order to make an early final ascent to the summit), we finally got THE permit.  YES! And for 12 people no less.  No mean feat, I can assure you. And what’s more, we got permits for two nights!

My good friend, Jasmine Yu, who has kindly included me on her mountain expeditions with her extended family over the past few years, also invited me to join them this time. Their dream has long been for a trip to Yushan, really ever since Jasmine climbed Yushan for the first time in 2010 with a group of her colleagues. And so, nearly every summer she spends hours and hours applying for the chance to get a permit.  But there’s only bunk spaces for less than 100 people at Paiyun, and summer is a popular time. Two years ago, we did actually get the Paiyun permit, but then a typhoon came and we had to cancel the whole trip.   This time, Jasmine started applying about 6 weeks ago, and applied every day for 2 weeks.  The applications have to be made one month in advance. But every day, the answer was ‘no’.  Then suddenly on the last day, we got news.  Yes!  12 permits for Paiyun, and not just for Thursday July 27 only, but it turned out for the previous night too.  2 nights?  At Paiyun? Are you sure?  How did that happen?  Well, we were first on the waiting list for Wednesday night, but still eligible to apply for Thursday night.  We hit the jackpot on Thursday night – then 12 people in different groups cancelled for Wednesday, so we had permits for both nights.

But we were still a little nervous.  Anxiously watching the weather forecast…..

Last weekend, it seemed like the whole of the western Pacific was roaring with typhoons and tropical storms blowing this way and that.  Three were up near Japan. One was down near Vietnam.  And a low pressure area east of the Philippines might possibly strengthen into a typhoon and be coming this way.

But by Monday, the weather forecasters were announcing that it wasn’t coming after all. Phew. We could go!

So on Tuesday we breathed a huge sigh of relief, packed our rucksacks and set off.   Our group included Jasmine’s husband, their 2 children, her 76-year-old mother and 2 of her sisters, one husband, one nephew, one friend, and of course our guide and leader, Lai San 賴桑 ~ who did an amazing job leading the way, carrying 30 kg of luggage too. We had applied for our permit using our new group name, Edelweiss – the flower grows all over the high mountains of Taiwan – including Yushan, and the song was performed by Jasmine’s son at a recent musical event.  So we were the Edelweiss Group!

On Tuesday night, we stayed at a small guest house in the Bunun Tribe’s Wangxiang Village (望鄉部落) in Xinyi Township, Nantou, where many of the men work as porters or guides for people climbing in the high mountains.  We had already met two of them on previous trips. The villagers are mostly all members of the Presbyterian Church.   From the place where we stayed, we got our first view of Yushan early the next morning…. excited YAH!

By 9:00 am on Wednesday morning, we were at Yushan trail-head (at 2,600 m above sea-level) ready to start our 8.5 km climb to Paiyun.  The sun was out, the skies were blue, the clouds were white, the path was clear, the weather was cool, and we were smiling away ~ and all in yellow!

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The trail is well-marked and has very helpful signboards all along it explaining things.  It also has a few rest places with eco-toilets ~ and of course lots of people going up and down. Our ascent to Paiyun Lodge took us about 6 hours.  Most amazing of all the people who we met on the trail were the guys who work at Paiyun, they have to carry everything up on their backs – 35 kg at a time.  Respect.

Most afternoons in summer, the mists come rolling in and it rains.  We got to Paiyun just in time.  We watched the rain from our sleeping bags!

Paiyun provides meals, sleeping bags, toilets, hot water (for drinking, not bathing) and shelter from the cold.  It was 15°C when we arrived – and falling.

Paiyun is 3,402m in altitude – that’s High with a capital ‘H’!  At that altitude ~ and on the wooden boards that we laid our sleeping bags on, sleep is difficult and headaches are common, and all the people around on each side are busy snoring away (ha ha, actually my neighbours were quite quiet!) Anyway, it really means that nobody can expect a 5 star night’s sleep. Plus, at 1:00 am, we were all getting up.  Yes, 1:00 am! Breakfast was at 1:30 am and by 2:30 am we were all ready, with our headlights on, for a day on the Yushan mountain tops.

The idea is to do the final push (2.4 km) to the summit in the darkness, and arrive on the top to see the sunrise. Most people are then descending all the way down back to the trail-head and going home.  But we had 2 nights at Paiyun, so we had a whole day.  Yes a whole day!  Jasmine’s mother stayed at Paiyun all day, resting and talking to everyone (she’s very friendly!) but she got up to see us off.   It was 10°C at 2:30 am and cold ~ but the slopes are steep, and soon we were removing layers.

The stars were bright, amazingly beautiful. But we had to focus on the trail ahead of us. It’s not easy to climb a mountain by headlight only!  Up and up the trail went, on and on. All 100 (seemed like it anyway) of us, on the route upwards.  A long line of headlights moving slowly upwards.  Some going faster than us – and we let them pass.  It was possibly the only place in Taiwan where there was a serious traffic jam at 3:00 am on an early Thursday morning.  We passed along – and up – steep scree slopes, where metal chains are provided to haul ourselves up – gloves came in handy.  Edelweiss came into view. My only photo in the total darkness.

Relieved that actually we couldn’t see much.  It was very steep!

And so we arrived at the top of the ridge, Fengkou (‘Wind Mouth’) at 4:30 am. Glimpses of orange in the sky were appearing in the far distance.  Everyone else was turning right for the final 200 m to the summit.  But with zillions of people up there, we had already decided to head instead to the Yushan North Peak first.  For us, this meant a STEEP Descent.  Unbelievably steep.  Felt like it was vertical.  All scree and rocks.  A fence with metal chains guided us down.  By the time we were down there, it was daylight. Headlights off.  A sigh of relief!

And we headed up to the North Peak.  Didn’t get too far till we turned round and saw the early morning sun hitting the main peak. THE view!

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People and websites in Taiwan will tell you that Yushan is nothing special.  In fact, they say that nobody would bother to climb it at all if it wasn’t the highest peak in the country. It’s not particularly difficult or beautiful or dramatic.  So I have heard a million times. How wrong they are!  That’s because people who say such things have only gone to the top of the main peak and back down again. They can’t have seen the view of the Yushan Main Peak from the north.  In the early morning sun.  Because this is the view to surpass all views.  In fact it is so beautiful, that the NT$ 1,000 note has this view on it.

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We spent ages just admiring the view and taking a zillion photos. And enjoying the fact that we were not with the masses of people on the main summit having to take turns for photos on the summit market.  Piccadilly Circus right there.  Instead, this is us!

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Celebrated with everyone by eating my huge Mauritius chocolate bar which my good friend, Alice had kindly brought and which was still in one whole piece even after all those hours in my rucksack – this is me holding it!

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And then up and on we went, heading to the North Peak….

On the top there’s a weather station ~ apparently the highest permanently manned (didn’t see any women, so ‘manned’ is the word) weather station in the country.

Three men stay there for a month at a time.  Year round.  They walk there and they walk back. Occasionally a helicopter comes and delivers things. They are there through snow, rain, hail, sun and even throughout typhoons.  We had heard that the tropical storm had finally decided to spring into action and was on its way – but not expected until Saturday. The weathermen assured us that we’d be fine. Very heavy rain expected. But not until late Friday.  Y’know what? Usually 2-3 days before a typhoon, the weather is fantastic. The views are always so clear.  Blue skies and crystal clear views. You can see for miles and miles.  Well, it was like that on Thursday.   Isn’t that amazing?  That an approaching typhoon should bring such amazing weather beforehand ~ and that we should be on Yushan to experience it. Anyway, the men kindly gave us coffee and let us make some of our own.  How’s this for a coffee location?!

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They’ve planted white daisies around the place and a few vegetables too.  Isn’t this beautiful?!

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And they send their weather reports to Taipei to the Central Weather Bureau (check here). Just look at this location ~ it’s just got to be the weather station with THE view!

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Just behind it is the North Peak summit at 3,858 m….

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By then it was 8:30 am and if we wanted to get to the main summit before the clouds came rolling in, then we needed to move on…. so back down the slope and up that nightmare of a scree slope that we had slithered down in the darkness earlier that morning.  The final 200 m is so steep that the metal chains are constantly in use.  It’s more like scrambling than walking.  But oh the views.  Just don’t look down!

Got to the very top just before 11:00 am, and just before the clouds, fast rolling in!

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Yes we had done it.  At last.  After all these years of waiting in great expectation, we had done it.  YES YES YES!  Yushan, Jade Mountain, 玉山 3,952 m, 12,966 ft.  Mission accomplished.  Thanks be to Almighty God!

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And so we slowly returned back to Paiyun, back down the same trail we had come up in the darkness…. past tons of Taiwan Edelweiss too  (玉山薄雪草 Leontopodium microphyllum, endemic to Taiwan, related to European Edelweiss) ~ the views were stunning!

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Arrived back at Paiyun at 1:30 pm, after 11 hours on the go.  Time for a nap.  We was, all of us, totally exhausted!

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And then after dinner, a little walk to a viewpoint to see the North Peak and a bit of Main Peak, where we’d been earlier in the day. The clouds rolled away and the sun came out ~ YES!

This is Paiyun from just above….

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Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. So they say.  On Thursday night, we were in bed soon after 7:00 pm, and up with the alarm yesterday morning, Friday, at 3:00 am. But none the healthier, wealthier or wiser.  Sorry about that. At such altitude, sleep is not easy to come by, and anyway, an early start gets us to see the views – and the sunrise!  So 8 of us from our group set off before 4:00 am to the West Peak, 3,518m, a 3-hour round trip. West Peak is all covered in forest, but through the gaps in the trees, there were some amazing views.

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From the summit we looked down on a sea of clouds above Xinyi Township….

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The wind was strong, and I was wearing 4 layers of clothes!  But well worth it for the views ~ and the achievement of our third mountain summit of the trip!

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And so back for breakfast and packing up.  By then, the Central Weather Bureau had declared a sea warning for the typhoon, so after 8:30 am nobody could set off to climb to the summit.  A few people came rushing up to Paiyun just in time to set off for the summit before the deadline came. They were trying to do the whole trek in one day rather than cancel altogether. No wonder they looked exhausted.  And they would have had no views at the top, it was already clouding over as we started our descent.

We had a group photo taken outside Paiyun Lodge.  Y’know, this is a great achievement for Jasmine’s mum, after all, she’s 76!  Our greatest cheerleader ~ even if she couldn’t come all the way to the summits, she was up each day to see us off on our way.  Hope I’m like her at that age!

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So bye bye to Paiyun.  Farewell.  We started our descent, and down we went.  The clouds were behind us.  Mostly.  A typical pre-typhoon day.  Usually immediately before a typhoon, we have alternating rain and sunny spells.  That is what we had yesterday.   A few minutes of drizzle then the sun came out.  Repeat.  All day.  Fortunately we had sufficient rain to make it worthwhile getting into our rainproof over-trousers.  Even for 5 minutes, it was worth it.  After all, I do not like to carry something all the way up to a huge mountain and not use it, ha ha!

There were flowers growing everywhere.  Not easy to photograph ~ partly cos they are small, also because I had to bend down and it’s not easy with a rucksack – balance, man, balance!

By 1:00 pm we were back at the trail-head, just ahead of the clouds. Relieved.  Happy.  Ah yes, time for a photo!

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And so to the carpark and off to find a place for lunch / dinner combined.  Yummy!  And then back to Taipei.  Got home about 8:30 pm.

Today, we have alternating heavy rain and sun all day in Sanzhi.  The typhoon is well on its way.  Due to pass over central Taiwan overnight tonight.  Hoping it’s not too bad.

Much appreciation to those who made this trip possible, and those who made this trip fun. To Jasmine for her hard work in applying, planning, organizing and leading us.  To her husband, Kenny for being the official chief photographer. To Lai San for his calmness and professional leadership.  To Jasmine’s extended family for their ongoing cheerfulness, amiability, friendliness and warm welcome. To the children for their enthusiasm to take part in a family event with relatives of all ages.  Not every teenager would be so keen!

I am forever grateful to be able to live in Taiwan and to have had this amazing opportunity to climb Yushan.  It is without doubt an extraordinary mountain.  Just climbing to the top in itself is an incredible achievement.  But it is easy to dismiss it as just something everyone does – once in a lifetime, a kind of rite of passage.  To appreciate the mountain and its grandeur, it’s massiveness, its presence, you have to see it from its northern side, from the slopes of the North Peak. From there, you can truly appreciate it in all its glory ~ and magnificence and beauty.

We spent much of our trip in awesome wonder at how everything had all worked out. The Paiyun permits for 2 nights ~ and the timing of the typhoon and the timing of our visit.  All was just so perfect.  If we had had only the one night at Paiyun, we’d have been trying to do it all in 24 hours, so we would have been on the summit on Friday morning, as the typhoon was approaching, and the views already obscured, and everyone a little concerned.  And the wonderful weather on Thursday was so perfect – possibly because there was, in fact, a typhoon coming!

Grateful thanks to Almighty God.   Truly an awe-inspiring experience.  We saw so much. Experienced so much.  Wondered in amazement at so much beauty.   Truly humbled by God’s mercy and grace shown towards us.   Privileged to have seen what others can only dream of.  Honoured to have known God’s guiding hand, protection and safe-keeping throughout.  To God be the glory.

And one last photo ~ a stone in the shape of Taiwan found by Jasmine’s daughter on the North Peak!

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Beautiful eh?!

PS Monday July 31: an update on the typhoon ~ turned out to be 2 weather events, Typhoon Nesat and Tropical Storm Haitang both came sweeping through Taiwan over this weekend. One person missing, over 100 injured, lots of damage to buildings, crops and power lines, and severe flooding particularly in Pingtung.

Article in the Taipei Times here: Storms deal damage, injure 111 – Taipei Times

I love CMS! A Great Big Welcome to Taiwan for Raj Patel, CMS Regional Manager for Asia ~ all the way from Oxford ~ YES!

Yes, honest, I love CMS!  And all those associated with CMS ~ the mission partners, CMS staff, UK Link Churches and of course all those who welcome us to serve in their dioceses, churches, organizations and communities!

CMS stands for Church Mission Society ~ I joined in September 1989, served in Tanzania for 7 years, and then in January 1999 arrived in Taiwan and I’ve been here ever since, first at St. James’ Church, Taichung for 7 years, and since early 2007 based here at St. John’s University, on Taiwan’s NW coast.  My last formal CMS-UK visitors came in November 2007 when we were honoured to welcome 4 VIPs from CMS: Rev. Canon Tim Dakin, then General Secretary of CMS (now Bishop of Winchester); the Rev. Philip Simpson, then Eurasia Director, CMS; Rev. Canon Chye Ann Soh, then East Asia Director, CMS; and the Rev. Simon Na, then North East Asia Manager, CMS, based in South Korea ~ all were here for a 5-day whistle-stop tour of the country, which included the consecration of the new Education Building at St. James’ Church, Taichung.

How could we in Taiwan ever hope to follow on from such a high-level VIP delegation of such handsome and charming visitors?!  Impossible!  So we had a very long pause, and now, fast forward to 9 years later, we have just had the great honour of welcoming Raj Patel to visit Taiwan.  Equally handsome and as charming as the other 4, of course!  He’s in charge of the Asia office at CMS-UK HQ in Oxford, so definitely of VIP status!

Here he is arriving at the Taoyuan Airport last Wednesday ~ from the photo you can just sense his excitement and enthusiasm arriving in Taiwan for his first ever visit ~ YES!  Just don’t mention the typhoon that delayed him for 18 hours in Bangkok on his way here!

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And in case you’re wondering, yes I did take him to St. James’ Church and he saw the 4 VIP CMS visitors sitting in the front row of the photo taken after the Education Building Consecration Service on November 24, 2007 ….. Ah yes, we love welcoming CMS VIP’s!

But now, back to that typhoon…. This past summer, between July 8 and September 9, despite being a very active typhoon season, none came in this direction, all headed to Japan or Hong Kong instead. But from September 9 to September 27, in a space of 2 weeks, we had 3 typhoons, 2 of them direct hits.  Raj was supposed to arrive on Tuesday September 27, but it was not to be.  Typhoon Megi was big, and brought widespread devastation ~ thousands of trees, electricity poles, scaffolding and signboards were blown down, and there were power and water outages and major flooding in some areas. Fortunately the authorities called a Typhoon Day (work and classes cancelled) on Tuesday and extended it to Wednesday, so although it was bad, it could have been a lot worse. As it was, 7 people were killed and over 600 injured, with zillions of dollars of damage, particularly to agriculture.

So Raj was stuck in Bangkok and we were stuck here.  But good news came early on Wednesday September 28 when Raj arrived in the very early morning, and at 7:00 am there I was to welcome him at the airport – but unfortunately minus welcoming balloons (couldn’t get any cos of the typhoon) and minus tinsel (discovered on the day before that the termites had eaten it all) so we had my yellow Mauritius scarf instead ha ha!

So we had to pack Raj’s already packed 6-day itinerary into only 5 days, and non-stop it was!  First stop upon arrival was to a very grey and overcast St. John’s University (SJU) and Advent Church where the maintenance staff were busy cleaning up after the typhoon, and students and faculty all absent (all work and classes cancelled), except for SJU President Peter Herchang Ay 艾和昌, Advent Church Rector, Rev Lennon Chang Yuan-Rung 張員榮牧師 and SJU Acting Chaplain, Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang 吳興祥牧師 and his wife, who all came along for the Grand Welcome Coffee Reception ~ yes, great coffee and then lunch!

Raj had brought photos on his iPad to share with everyone about his family, life and background covering his early life in India and East Africa and then in the UK so he was much in demand at every place we went….

Second stop was St. Stephen’s Church, Keelung, on Taiwan’s NE coast, and about an hour’s drive from here.  Rev. Wu Hsing-Hsiang kindly drove us there.  Rev. Julia Lin Shu-Hua 林淑華牧師 had phoned up the children in the church-run after-school classes to ask them to come to meet Raj and to perform some music and welcome songs – the children were all at home as it was a Typhoon Day, but the typhoon was gone – so lots turned up and we had such a warm welcome! Raj told his life story by getting people of different ages to stand up to indicate the age at which something significant had happened to him, starting at the age of 6 when his family left Kenya to move back to India.  We also heard all about St. Stephen’s history and ministry and their recent mission trip to Sabah, and all followed by yummy yummy soup and fruits. Such a moving, fun and happy afternoon, and they were all so lovely – thank you!

And so to Taipei City to stay overnight in the diocesan guest house and to meet Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai, who had just come back from the USA early on the Tuesday morning, landing just before all flights were cancelled by the typhoon.  Most importantly we had tea-drinking and sharing in the theology of tea ~ Raj called it Bishop Lai’s ‘tea-ology’!

Sightseeing had to be crammed in and around the church visits, so I scheduled a Taipei City Sightseeing Tour for 6:00 am on Thursday ha ha!  Off we went on foot to Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, the Presidential Office and Taipei Main Station, then by MRT to Taipei 101 and Sun Yat-Sen Memorial and back by bus in time for breakfast!

Next stop was St. John’s Cathedral, Taipei to meet our brand-new, very-lovely and always-smiling dean, Rev. Philip Lin Li-Feng 林立峰牧師, in fact, he’s so new that he is not yet installed, but we had such great coffee and then lunch along with Rev. Michael Liu. How could we ever forget that lunch?  Rev. Michael Liu is one of our esteemed senior clergy, and in 1973 he was sponsored by CMS to spend a year in the UK for church visits and particularly for a period of study at the Royal School of Church Music.  His memory is amazing, and we laughed the whole lunch through as he shared stories of his experiences in the UK, starting with the fact that he lost about 20 kg (3 stone) of weight in that year. Wow! You wanna lose weight? Just spend a year in the UK eating cucumber sandwiches and waiting until 8:30 pm for ‘supper’ which for him started with being given copious amounts of sherry, which Michael wasn’t used to and not expecting, and on an empty stomach – he drank 4 glasses of the stuff and then thought UK was having a major earthquake, only to find out it was the sherry taking its toll!

And so farewell to northern Taiwan, and off by High-Speed Rail (HSR) down south to Kaohsiung. 90 minutes by HSR covers a distance that would take 5 hours to drive, and it is oh, so smooth and comfortable.  And Raj will be ever grateful that I am not showing you the photos I took of him fast asleep the whole journey – his 18-hour wait in Bangkok finally caught up with him!  We took the Kaohsiung MRT to Formosa Boulevard Station 美麗島 which has the largest glass work in the world, the Dome of Light, a magnificent multi-coloured ceiling. I love it!

We stayed the night at St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung with Rev. Richard Lee Ray-Chiang 李瑞強牧師 and his family, they were so kind and welcoming.  Richard happily shared his testimony with us, they took us out for dinner, and for a tour of the church ~ it’s very moving to hear about and see the ministry of the church, and hear how the Gospel is moving hearts and minds in the city.

Friday morning and we were up for an early start to meet our good friend, Rev. Cheng Chen-Chang 鄭成章牧師 and his wife for the world’s most delicious breakfast (true true true!) and a quick visit to St. Paul’s Church, Kaohsiung.  The church is supposed to resemble a crown, and was designed by the same architect as Advent Church.  We met the principal and some of the children of the kindergarten, before rushing off the get the train to Tainan.  Ah, yes, non-stop action!

And 30 minutes later we were in Tainan, guests of Rev. Philip Ho Jeng-Long 何政隆牧師 and his wife Nancy.  Philip is a bundle of high energy and it’s very hard to keep up with him, but hey, we tried!  First he drove us to visit St. Andrew’s Kindergarten 聖安得烈宣道所 in ChiaDing 高雄市茄萣區 (variously spelt on signboards in the town as Jiading or Queding), where their son, Rev. Joseph Ho Ray-En 何睿恩牧師 is the newly-appointed priest in charge. The 30-minute drive towards the coast was lined by fallen trees after the typhoon and we discovered that the kindergarten had been closed an extra day on Thursday because of power and water cuts ~ they had also been flooded and were drying out when we arrived.  Such a warm welcome from the principal and staff and the 95 children who were having their lunch when we arrived, they loved to practice their English!

During lunch, the heavens opened and the sky came falling down.  Oh, such rain!  It was still going when we arrived at Grace Church, Tainan where we stayed the night and where Philip and Nancy have been based only since August 1.  Being new in the city, they’d invited their church members and friends, Hsiu-Chin and her husband to take them on a city tour for our benefit, and they did a great job – they also came along for dinner and the following morning too.

Tainan is the first and oldest city in southern Taiwan, and jam-packed full of history ~ and so after the rain stopped a bit, off we went to visit the famous and very beautiful National Museum of Taiwan Literature and the even more famous Taiwan Confucian Temple (built in 1665) and then Tainan Theological College and Seminary 台南神學院, run by the Presbyterian Church (founded in 1876 by Thomas Barclay from Scotland) ….