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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