Tag Archives: Pingtung

人山人海 ‘People Mountain, People Sea’ and fun at the Taiwan Lantern Festival 台灣燈會 @ Pingtung 屏東 Dapeng Bay大鵬灣 !

So many many people, all there to enjoy the Lantern Festival, and, ah yes, it was great!

The end of Chinese New Year celebrations is marked by the Lantern Festival, and in Taiwan, each local government organizes an event that lasts for about 2 weeks or so; but the main Taiwan Lantern Festival is hosted in turn by one of the county or city governments, and each year it gets bigger and more spectacular. Last year, Chiayi hosted the event around the Southern branch of the National Palace Museum, which itself is an amazing building set by a lake, so the natural setting added to the spectacle. This year it’s been the turn of Pingtung, and fears that its remoteness at the southern end of Taiwan would put people off turned out to be completely unfounded. People came in their millions, over 11 million in total!

We’ve just had a 4-day weekend in Taiwan in connection with 228 Memorial Day, and it also coincided with the last 4 days of the Taiwan Lantern Festival in Pingtung. So, not being one to miss any opportunity, and with my good friends, Ah-Guan and Xiu-Chin inviting me to go with them, off we went to Pingtung to see it all for ourselves: YES!

The event was held at Dapeng Bay National Scenic Area 大鵬灣, a beautiful lagoon right on Taiwan’s SW coast, near to Donggang Town東港鎮. Donggang is famous for its tuna, so this year, the county government decided that rather than taking this year’s Year of the Pig as the main lantern, instead they would choose a tuna. Quite a canny move really, seeing as they’ll then be able to use that same lantern again every year! Actually fish have a big symbolic role in Chinese culture and New Year celebrations, so it’s not completely bizarre. And the main tuna lantern was positioned right in the water, so it looked amazing, and every half an hour the music played and the lantern revolved one whole circle, changing colour as it did so.

The main Taiwan Lantern Festival has a huge budget and is always really well-organized with large numbers of lanterns of all shapes, sizes and designs on display, and this year was no exception. The beauty of Dapeng Bay, with the setting sun over the water, added to the attraction. Highlights were the nightly shows by Ilotopie, a French theater company who perform on water, plus the main tuna lantern, and the drone performance by Intel, which was amazing.

On Thursday, I left home in the cold and wet soon after 5:00 am to catch the first bus out of here, then onto Taipei to try to get a seat on the high-speed rail to Kaohsiung. It being the start of a 4-day holiday, tickets had sold out weeks ago, but there’s always a chance of a seat in the non-reserved carriages if you go all the way to Nangang Station, where the trains start from. It’s worth it, honest! And so we arrived at Dapeng Bay at 1:00 pm, to find it was 29°C and hot, hot, hot! The displays look good in the daytime, but of course it is at night that the place really comes alive. In fact, the site was so huge that we never got round it all, and never saw any of the indigenous or Hakka lanterns which were at the far end. But we did go up the viewing platform and saw a bit from the air. Loved it all!

And we did manage to meet up with Rev. Richard Lee and his family and friends who had come for the day from St. Timothy’s Church, Kaohsiung. So good to see them!

By evening, the people were pouring in, and it was so packed out that you could hardly move! Numbers were calculated by the local telecom operators through operating mobile phones and news reports say that 1.67 million attended on Thursday night – and it felt like we met most of them! The good thing is that Taiwan people are generally cool, calm and collected, and so the massive numbers of people moving around in the dark in restricted areas, like crossing a bridge, and with minimum security or police control, all proceeded slowly but surely. This kind of event anywhere else in the world would be a nightmare for everyone, but it all just went along smoothly. Ah, I just love Taiwan!

But we did have to wait ages and ages for a bus back to Kaohsiung, 3 very long hours in fact, all standing in line. l heard that there were 900 shuttle buses working non-stop, mostly ferrying people to local train stations, but for those going of us further afield, the distance to the motorway meant there were long traffic jams. And so it was that we arrived back at Kaohsiung, where we were staying, at 1:30 am, after quite a long, hot day. But hey, it was worth it – it was quite spectacular, and if everyone is going along, well, I always like to be there too!

And for the rest of the weekend in Kaohsiung? Well, we checked out my favourite place of Weiwuying, where all the wall murals are – to see any new ones…

And we walked to Siwei Elementary School to see their beautiful mural too, this one titled ‘3rd eye dog’ by Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel

Also down to Kaohsiung Port area, Pier 2, where everyone was enjoying themselves. All the old warehouses have been converted to art spaces, shops and restaurants, and it’s an up-an-coming place to be, especially at sunset!

And so is the nearby Love River…

We also visited ShouShan Zoo in Kaohsiung, which is up a hill so it’s a bit cooler. Very cheap at only 40NT$ entrance fee and a nice place to wander around escaping the heat of the city below. Most famous at the zoo are not the actual zoo animals themselves but the wild monkeys who now hang out around there and steal everyone’s sandwiches. Easier to photograph were the animals lying fast asleep. The most charming was the pygmy hippo swimming up to the glass where all the children to see him close up.

And finally we went to Tainan, where our good friend, Rev. Philip Ho, vicar of Grace Church, Tainan is recovering really well after surgery on his head, after he fell over during a basketball game a few weeks ago. He was so happy to see us! We stayed on to go to Grace Church on Sunday morning, then I came home last night. Even got a seat on the HSR train from Taichung onwards, so I was happy.

Really big thanks to my good friends for their invitation, organization, photo-ops and all the fun…

And that’s the end of the Lantern Festival for another year – next year it’ll be the turn of Taichung, and I just can’t wait!

Round-Taiwan Tour with Nicky and Harriet ~ YES!

Yep, we’ve done a whole circuit of Taiwan this past week ~ ‘n what a beautiful country!

Nicky and Harriet, my 2 lovely visitors from one of my CMS Link Churches, St. John’s, Neville’s Cross, Durham, UK, had already been here a week, based in Taipei, and so this was the chance for them to see a little of this beautiful island ~ Ilha Formosa (‘Beautiful Isle’, the name given by Portuguese sailors), otherwise known as….. Taiwan!

Last Monday, July 11, when we set off, southern Taiwan was still reeling from Typhoon Nepartak which had wreaked havoc a few days before.   So we were not sure how far we would get to see the things we hoped to see.  But still, off we went – by train from Taipei, 2 hours eastwards to Hualien, where we were warmly welcomed by Rev. Joseph Wu, his wife and family and the really friendly members of St. Luke’s Church, Hualien.  His daughter’s English and art skills are amazing!  They treated us to delicious meals, yummy pearl milk tea, and a visit to Hualien Night Market with its music and stalls, delicious foods and things to buy.  Hualien County has about 300,000 people, of whom about a quarter each are indigenous / aboriginal, Hakka, Taiwanese and Chinese. So we were delighted to enjoy all the different cultures and their traditions.  Ah yes, we love Hualien!

The scenic highlight of the trip to Hualien was on Tuesday when we went to Taroko Gorge太魯閣, with Mr. James Chien, brother of our former bishop, Bishop John C. T. Chien. He is such a great tour guide and gave us ample time and opportunity to enjoy the gorge and the scenery.  The gorge was open as far as Buluowan Visitors Center which is about half way up – further up the road was closed due to landslides from the typhoon. The river was very grey and very muddy, filled with water from the typhoon.  We had great weather all morning, and just as we got in the car to return, it started to rain!  After a wonderful buffet lunch with James and his wife in Parkview Hotel, we visited Liyu Lake 鯉魚潭, where the rain had just stopped and the sun was now out – good timing eh?!  The red-faced giant duck and family on the lake are just so much fun!  Also to the Farglory Hotel for a panoramic view of Hualien.  More food in the evening and lots of great fellowship with the church members. It was so moving to be so warmly welcomed!

On Wednesday we set off southwards by train heading to Pingtung on the south-west coast via Taitung.  This may have been the fastest train on the line, but oh it is slow, slow, slow, 5 hours of stop ‘n start, stop ‘n start – but y’know what, we loved it!  Plenty of time to look around at the scenery, though it was so sad to see how devastated the banana crops and many other fruit crops are in Taitung County after the typhoon.

We arrived in Pingtung to another warm welcome, this time from Rev. C. C. Cheng (CC), his wife and many delightful and very lively members of St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung. Meals and more meals, yummy local style, including a very delicious breakfast prepared by CC and his wife….

Then we set off for a tour around, firstly to visit an old Hakka house in central Pingtung, originally owned by the Ciou 邱 family and now a museum.  They told us that the population of Pingtung is about 50% Taiwanese, 30% Hakka and 20% Indigenous / aboriginal, so again it was good to see a little of all the different cultures and and taste all the different foods!

We visited the mountainous and indigenous Sandimen area of the Paiwan and Rukai Tribes, which I had visited a few months ago (see that blog post here).  That day was great, and so was this!  One of the St. Mark’s Church members, Ju-z and her friends had organized a whole tour for us, starting with the Dragonfly Beads Art Studio, an amazing coffee and jewelry place, where we had the chance to make our own jewelry pieces forming the glass beads over the flame.  The coffee tables and chairs were also decorated with beads, and we had a wonderful view out over Pingtung.  Harriet was so so so happy ~ so was everyone!

We had a very traditional and of course, very good Hakka lunch in Dalukuan and then on we went to the relocated indigenous community of Rinari 禮納裡部落 in Majia 瑪家 Township.  This is one of 2 villages we visited that are new communities for the Paiwan and Rukai peoples who were forced to relocate after Typhoon Morakot in 2009.  The second village was Ulaljuc 吾拉魯滋部落, newly built for residents of typhoon-damaged Taiwu Village. Both places are full of interest, good coffee, yummy delicacies and of course beautiful indigenous things to buy…  Ah yes, we love Pingtung too!

On Thursday evening, we said reluctant goodbyes to all our good friends from St. Mark’s and headed up to Taichung, this time by High-Speed Rail.  Rev. Charles C. T. Chen, Rector Emeritus of St. James’ Church, Taichung kindly picked us up with all our tons of luggage. Then on Friday, our good friend, Jerry Liang from St. James took us on an amazing trip to Sun Moon Lake, where we enjoyed coffee at the Xuanzang Temple (definitely a temple with a view ~ and thanks to Jerry for some of these photos below taken at the temple) then lunch and a walk by the lake.  The weather was beautiful, and the spider was ginormous!

That evening, we went to the St. James’ Preschool Graduation, always a memorable fun event, and full of performances, speeches and all sorts of singing and dancing from the children and teachers.  Great to meet our friends, Matisse and Abby from our sister school, Cambridge-Ellis Preschool in Boston, USA here for the summer.  Jerry’s 5-year-old grandson gave a great speech, amazing!  I loved it all, just glad I no longer have to wear a white dress and dance with all the teachers!

On Saturday morning, my good friend, Marina kindly took us to Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村on the outskirts of Taichung.  This is such an amazing place, and in my humble opinion easily the most attractive set of buildings in the whole of Taichung.  It’s the last remaining few houses of a Veterans Village, built for the old soldiers and their families who came to Taiwan after 1949. Most the houses are already gone, demolished and redeveloped, but old Mr. Huang, now aged 94, decided to start painting the remaining houses a few years ago, and in doing so, has saved his village.  He was there when we visited – and posed for a photo.  He has painted THE most wonderful set of buildings in such vibrant colours. Just my kinda house ~ I love it!  And then we had tea and lunch in an old-style tea house.  Love it too!

And in the evening, Luanne and Samuel, Charles and MaryJo, Rev. Lily Chang and the lovely people of St. James treated us to an amazing welcome dinner.  And in-between times, we had a chance to catch up with old students and good friends, Leighnae visiting from USA, Ah-Guan (trying her best to get Nicky using a selfie-stick!) and Ming-Wen, and plenty more, even the student leader at St. James who had been on the same youth camp as Harriet had attended on her previous visit in 2014. Ah, such fun!

And we finished Nicky and Harriet’s trip on Sunday, yesterday, at St. James’ Church, Taichung, where Nicky bravely preached twice, once in the English service at 9:30 am and then again in the Chinese service at 10:45 am where she and Jerry worked in tandem, he translated as she preached.  And very smoothly it all went too!   The readings yesterday were from the Gospel reading about Mary and Martha, and Nicky shared about how that story fitted in with her ministry as a medical doctor and NSM priest.   Really good sermon!

The sermon is now on You Tube ~ all 31 minutes of it in English and Chinese, check it out here!

Yesterday afternoon, Charles and MaryJo generously offered to take us around and about, and so we went to TungHai University where the Luce Chapel (designed by I. M. Pei) was looking beautiful in the afternoon sun.  Then to Banner Church where we had great coffee and then later, noodles (check out just how proficient Nicky and Harriet have become with those chopsticks in the last 2 weeks!)

All very convenient for the HSR train to Taoyuan and the airport…..

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen and goodbye to Nicky and Harriet ~ we’ve had such a great time together, so many laughs and so much fun, every day filled with non-stop action and so many hilarious moments!  Thanks to you both for coming!

And a very special thank you to all my friends in Taiwan for their very generous and kind hospitality and welcome to us all, it was so much appreciated ~ YES YES YES!

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