Tag Archives: Fruit

Autumn Colours, Mountain Views! 台灣聖公會2017年蒙恩得福家庭生活營 Taiwan Episcopal Church Fall Trip 2017

Beautiful red maple leaves against a blue sky ~ now how’s that for a perfect picture of autumn?!


And the best place in Taiwan to see maples in autumn is at the high elevations, up in the central mountain range.  So off we all went, all 60 or so of us, in a total of 9 (yes, nine!) minibuses, all in a long line.  Almost processional – well, after all, churches like ours are good at processions!  Large coaches cannot travel so far in the high mountains, so minibuses are ideal. The trip was 3 days and 2 nights, Tuesday – Thursday, and all were invited ~ and here we all are!


The Taiwan Episcopal Church has organized many trips over the years, usually in the spring or autumn, to interesting places ~ like in November 2015, when we went to the Matsu Islands.  That was my first church trip.  And now this is my second.  I had managed to rearrange some classes, and most of the members of my Thursday afternoon class at St. John’s Cathedral actually came on this trip too ~ so I signed up – thanks to Bishop Lai and all my students!

Church members, their relatives and friends came from a wide range of the churches that make up the Taiwan Episcopal Church ~ we had 3 clergy, 3 clergy spouses, many energetic seniors, some couples, some younger working people and one lovely 3-year-old boy, who came along with his grandmother and her sister, and he only fell asleep once!


We all met on Tuesday morning in Taichung, gathered from all corners of the country – and set off eastwards, up into the mountains.

The Central Cross-Island Highway from Taichung to Hualien was constructed in the late 1950’s, about the same time as President Chiang Kai-Shek and his government were establishing farms up in the mountains to provide employment for retired servicemen.  These days, the farms are still managed by the Veterans Affairs Council – together with the Tourism Bureau and some private companies – mainly for the benefit of visitors.  Visitors like us ~ and thousands of others who travel there every year.  We visited two of the famous farms, Wuling Farm 武陵農場 and Fushoushan Farm 福壽山農場, both places packed out with people enjoying the scenery.

When I left Sanzhi on Tuesday morning, it was, as always, raining.  It had already rained for 4 days, and so it continued, for all the 3 days we were away.  Cold too.  Miserable, in fact!  It is still drizzling today.  And cold.  But up in the mountains, there was blue sky every morning, all morning ~ and the clouds came rolling in beneath us in a sea of clouds every afternoon.  It did rain a little at night, but we never saw it.  Ah, it was wonderful!


The highest point on the Central Cross-Island Highway is just below the very famous mountain, Hehuanshan 合歡山 (3,416 m).  Just nearby is Mt. Shimen 石門山 (3,237 m), well-known as supposedly being the easiest of the ‘100 Peaks of Taiwan‘ 百岳 to climb.  So up we went!  There was a biting wind, and it was 6ºC at the top – that’s very cold for us subtropical coastal dwellers!  Maybe a third of us managed to get to the top, where breaks in the clouds gave us great views down below.

The road has been badly damaged due to typhoons and landslides and earthquakes and everything else, and is still under repair in many places.  But our minibus procession got us through and down the other side to Lishan and then Wuling….


We stayed the night at a hotel in the Wuling Farm area 武陵農場, about 2,000 m above sea-level….

And we woke up the next day to beautiful blue skies and autumn colours…

The nearby river is famous for its Formosan Landlocked Salmon (yes, we saw some, but they’re impossible to photograph!) and further upstream is the Taoshan Waterfall 桃山瀑布, known as the ‘Sound of the Mist’ Waterfall.  The walk there is 4.3 km each way – through the forest, and takes about 3 hours in total there and back.  It was my first visit ~ and we had a wonderful morning.  It is really beautiful!


Nearby is Taiwan’s second highest peak, Xueshan / Syueshan 雪山 (Snow Mountain), which I went up in 2011 ~ this time we went up to the trail entrance to look at the view. The view is spectacular. And so are all the lovely people in our group!


And then down to visit some of the Wuling Farm tea-growing area, and a small museum dedicated to what the farm was like in the old days….

We left Wuling and headed back to Lishan 梨山, where we’d passed through only the day before.  Lishan (literally means Pear Mountain) is home to the Atayal People 泰雅族, many of whom are Christians.  The area is also about 2,000 m above sea level, so lots of fruit and vegetables can be grown here that normally only grow in cold countries – like dear old England.  The steep mountainsides in Lishan are no longer covered in big forests of beautiful trees but instead are covered in fruit trees, and at this time of year there’s no leaves, and the fruits in season are covered in paper bags to protect them – so the mountains look bare – but covered in white flowers, which turn out to be paper bags.  They’re mostly apples, pears and peaches.  It’s amazing – and yet devastating – all at once, to think what amazing things man has done to produce all that fruit, and yet at what cost to the environment.  Reminds me a bit of the UK Lake District really – but just replace fruit with sheep!

Anyway, we went to buy some of the apples – oh, and cabbages….

Incredible clouds nearby….


And no, it didn’t rain, eventually the blue sky came through!


Oh yes, and a very regal line of trees….


Fushoushan Farm 福壽山農場 is one of the Veterans’ Farms, very high up in altitude, and before it got dark, we just had time to visit Tianchi ‘Heavenly Lake’ 天池, where President Chiang Kai-Shek liked to visit when he was at the farm.  Check out his green house….

We stayed at the most amazing Lishan Guest House, just down the mountainside from the farm, and designed in the same style (and by the same architect, Yang Cho-cheng 楊卓成) as the Grand Hotel, Taipei. This was where President Chiang Kai-Shek and his wife stayed when they were in the area – but the building was badly damaged in the 1999 earthquake, and reopened in 2012 – as a hotel.  It is very very popular, and certainly scores 100% for atmosphere ~ all that red colour, and all those lanterns!  There are no lifts / elevators, and we were assigned the top floor – 3rd floor.  So me and Ah-Guan, good friend from St. James’ Church, Taichung, struggled up to the third floor – to find that we had been assigned the room next to the Presidential Suite.  It was a ‘hit the jackpot, won the lottery, gob-smacking moment’ lol!

We were clearly in the room that originally would have been used by the presidential bodyguard, and the most amazing thing was that we had access to the presidential balcony.  This was the balcony with THE VIEW!  And so we spent a happy hour or two welcoming all our friends to come and have a look!  The presidential suite, as far as we could see (from peering in the windows!) has been left much as it was when President Chiang and his wife stayed there – we could see into a tea room, and into the mahjong room at the end….


That evening, after dinner, and after the Atayal Concert, we had a short service in the hotel dining room for our group.  Ah, what a happy evening, and what a wonderful group of people!

Next morning, Thursday, yesterday in fact, and I was up bright and early (well not very bright, but certainly very early!) to see THE view across the mountains…..


See the Taiwan flag? From directly outside the presidential suite, it’s positioned exactly right in the centre of the ‘V’ in the mountains…. how’s this for a view?!


The hotel and the whole area is very atmospheric.  Ambiance, man, it’s all about ambiance!

And so after breakfast, and more tours of our presidential balcony, we packed up, checked out and spent the morning at the Fushoushan Farm.  What a place, and what a history!  It is famous for a huge pine tree with an interesting story…



And even more famous for its Apple King Tree, with over 40 different kinds of apple grafted into one tree…

We had a tour of the farm….

And finished with the maple trees area near the main entrance, where a zillion people were taking a zillion photos, ah, it was photo-heaven!

And so it was reluctantly time to say goodbye to the farm and head back over the big mountains, westwards… but first a photo-stop near Hehuanshan, at the Central Cross-Island Highway summit (3,275m) – the highest point on the highest main road that crosses northern Taiwan, and a major destination for cyclists!

Follow my finger and in that direction is Nanhu Big Mountain, (the one on the left of the pointed one!) which we climbed in 2012…


This is a gathering of all from Advent Church, plus Mr. Di, our tour leader (third left)….


And finally to lunch, and back to Taichung High-Speed Rail Station to return to our separate destinations…. and I got home at 7:30 pm.  And guess what, it was still raining in Sanzhi, in fact it hadn’t stopped all the time I’d been away!

A big thank you to our leader, Mr. Di Yun-Hung ‎(狄運亨) for planning and managing the whole trip, along with a tour company team who drove us in their minibuses, and organized all the routes and meals and everything. It was a wonderful trip – the highlights being the waterfall, the maple leaves and of course the presidential balcony views…..


But it was also wonderful to be together with such a lovely group of people, renewing old friendships, making new ones, enjoying time together, taking lots of photos of everyone in different groups, and having a lot of fun!

And finally, thanks be to God for His amazingly stunning creation ~ and the colours (and miracle) that is the season of autumn ~ YES!

Sanzhi 三芝 Matzu Temple Centenary Celebrations ~ Coming Up Soon!

Two weeks ago the plot of wasteland opposite where I live suddenly sprang into life.  Trucks full of bamboo poles arrived.  People came.  Cranes and trucks and people and – well, action!  One week later, and this was the view from my front gate last Sunday….


Happening now right outside my house is the ongoing construction of a huge 4-storey structure, the site of a forthcoming 醮 (pronounced ‘jiaò) and loosely translated as meaning a Taoist Ritual.  Copy this character ‘醮’ into Google images and you’ll see plenty of examples of what it might look like in a few weeks time!  Now 6 days later, and this is the same scene this morning in the pouring rain…


Our little town of Sanzhi 三芝 up here on the NW coast of Taiwan has as its centrepiece a temple honouring Matzu (Mazu / Matsu), Goddess of the Sea.  The temple’s official Chinese name is 三芝小基隆福成宮 Fu-Cheng Gong, and it was constructed in 1917.  So this year there are huge Centenary Celebrations planned, scheduled for November 15-19, coinciding with the new moon and start of the 10th lunar month.  Preparations are well under way, which is why that huge structure is going up outside my house.  There’s also large archways at either end of the main road leading into and out of Sanzhi.  This is the publicity notice…


The temple is surrounded by market stalls all day every day, but specially at the weekends.  It’s the water bamboo season, so lots of people are selling their produce, even in the pouring rain and strong wind – which is coming from the north, so it’s gonna get cold!  This was the temple area this morning – the lady with the wheelbarrow is selling water bamboo. It’s like a kind of leek, and the local specialty in Sanzhi area.


Now it’s the time of the full moon, and today and tomorrow Matzu and all the deities and idols from the temple are off on a tour around the area, offering blessings to those who worship as they pass by, accompanied by at least 2 trucks of people playing very loud trumpets and cymbals and gongs and bells…. here they are!

This was the scene outside the temple this morning as I passed by – in the rain and wind. Inside the temple the deities were being covered up in plastic bags to keep them dry, then loaded onto the trucks….

But I was really at the market on my home from early morning exercise in the rain, to get some fruit from my nice fruit lady and her husband…..


Ah Sanzhi, always full of colour and always something happening!

PS Updated Monday evening, tonight ~ and the view from outside our front gate now looks like this…

Amazing, eh?!

Typhoon Soudelor ~ the Aftermath

A week after Typhoon Soudelor hit, and it now has its own Wikipedia page here.  Current figures are that 8 people died and over 400 were injured in Taiwan as a result of the typhoon. The worst affected area was the hot spring area of Wu-Lai up in the mountains above Taipei where a major landslide has devastated the valley, washing away homes, hotels, roads, cars, trees and filling the beautiful hot springs with mud.

Throughout the country, damage to homes and businesses is immense, but at least mostly repairable.  That’s what we’ve all been doing all week, fixing and mending and cleaning and mopping up.  Even for people whose homes were OK, the amount of dust everywhere was incredible.  Damage to trees and crops is more tragic in many ways, as it’ll take months and years to recover.  Nationwide, the biggest damage is to the banana crops.

This morning was my first time to go out locally in the Sanzhi 三芝 area since the typhoon hit. Most noticeable are the downed banana trees and the unripe banana fruit lying on the ground, unable to be harvested.  Interestingly many of the papaya trees have all lost their leaves but being stronger, have kept their fruits.  Peanuts and other low-growing crops and fruits seem fine, and rice was harvested only last week….

And then there is the poor old bitter gourd.  A few weeks ago, July 28 in fact, I posted a photo of a crop of bitter gourds I had seen growing locally.  The post can be seen here. Bitter gourds usually grow from a frame, hanging down, and are often wrapped up to prevent damage.  Today I noticed that the whole crop and the whole frame has been completely destroyed by the typhoon.  I may not like bitter gourd – but this is so sad.

Before and after photos…

Please continue to pray for Taiwan as the country clears up after the typhoon.  The army are doing much of the work in Wu-Lai, but even today there is a report of one of the soldiers being crushed to death while removing typhoon debris.

In the Taiwan Episcopal Church, we thank God that none of our churches sustained major damage and all our church members are safe.  We have had many messages of support and assurances of prayer from all over the world.  Thank you to you all!

Introducing Sanzhi 三芝!

New house, new town!  Yep, I’m now living in the town of Sanzhi  三芝, variously spelt Sanzhi, Sanshi, Sanjhih or Sanchih, and just to confuse you further, variously pronounced San-ze or San-jer.  We’re on the NW coast of Taiwan, 5 miles (8 km) north of St. John’s University, and about 3 miles SW of the northern tip of Taiwan, a GREAT location!

Sanzhi Town and District is the sort of place where everyone passes through in order to get to somewhere else.  They’re on their way north to the beautiful white sand beach just up the road at Baishawan, going on to Fugui Cape Lighthouse at the northern tip of Taiwan, and round the coast to the hot springs at Jinshan.  Or they’re on their way south to Tamsui ~ or on their way up to Yang-Ming Shan Mountains.  Anyhow, anyway, the roads are packed out at weekends, everyone’s going places!

But it’s well worth stopping here, honest!  Sanzhi has definitely got its act together and is forging its own identity, not just as a place to pass through to get elsewhere.  Famous in Taiwan for being the hometown of the first Taiwanese president, Lee Tung-hui who was born into a Hakka family in Sanzhi in 1923, during the Japanese Colonial Period – his old home is well-preserved, and there’s even a visitor centre, with a Gallery of Famous Sons. No daughters.  Not yet, anyway. Though all the 4 Famous Sons no doubt had mothers and wives and women in their lives who made them who they were.

Also just outside the town up on a hill is Mackay Medical College ~ with great views of the sea in one direction and the Yang-Ming Shan mountains in the other.

And in-between is a broad and fertile valley, Ba-Lian Stream, which leads up to Ba-Xian Village. The area was first settled by Hakka people in the mid-1600’s, followed in the next century by the first settlers from Fu-Jian Province. They intermarried, cleared and cultivated the land, and their descendants are still very much here. Lots of local people, including the former president, have the surname Lee.  Me too ha ha!

All this makes it a wonderful place for early morning and late afternoon walks.  It’s too hot the rest of the time.  The area is famous in spring for its cherry blossom, and in summer for its fields of water oats (water bamboo, ‘beauty legs’) which is kind of like a leek. It’s so famous in fact that in Sept-Oct, Sanzhi has its very own Water Oats Festival. The area is also famous for vegetables and fruit ~ marrows, cucumbers, bitter gourds, water melons, peanuts, rice….  Much of the land is terraced with waterwheels everywhere, many still working.  Oh yes, and lotus flowers, looking spectacular.

Lots of temples, of all different kinds, and several small churches ~ Presbyterian, R.C., Pentecostal. A primary school, junior-high school, and a lively market selling everything. And shops selling everything else.  So many small shops.  So many cram schools, after-school centres and kindergartens offering education all day long.  For a small town, there’s a lot going on!  Oh yes, and food. Plenty of good eating places, some very well-known.  And very important – buses running all day long around the coast taking everyone everywhere, starting 5:30am….

That’s the good news. The bad news is that in winter Sanzhi is famous for having non-stop rain and cold.  And more rain and cold.  All winter long.  Ha ha, I can’t wait!  So I’m happy that it’s June, and that I get to see the area at its best – temps in their 30’s, with nice sea breezes.  It’s great!

So a ton of photos for you, all taken in the last month, mostly in the very early mornings, a few later in the day, and all over the area….

Ah yes, today is the last day of June, and I didn’t take my camera out this morning. So no chance for you to see the snake that was lying besides the road.  Deadly, but itself newly dead.  Long and brown.  Hmmm, so glad it wasn’t moving.

And sorry, you can’t see the kingfishers either.  They fly too fast – a streak of metallic blue going up or down the river – but know they are here!

And finally a map of part of the area…..


It’s a wonderful place, Sanzhi, do come and visit if you can.  Great neighbours, lovely people and amazing scenery!

And yes, I am still based otherwise at St. John’s University ~ and getting to know the bus service to and from Sanzhi very well!