Tag Archives: Taichung

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?!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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….

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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!

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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!

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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….

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

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

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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….

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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…..

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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?!

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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…

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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…

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

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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…..

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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!

Rainbow Grandpa and his Beautiful Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村!

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Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村 on the outskirts of Taichung is such an amazing place – it’s easily the most attractive set of buildings in the whole of Taichung ~ YES!

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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 the land redeveloped, but old Mr. Huang (Huang Yong-Fu 黃永阜), known as ‘Rainbow Grandpa’ (彩虹爺爺), was not letting that happen to his village. Now aged 95, he decided to start painting the remaining houses a few years ago, and in doing so, has saved his wonderful village!

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Not only has the place been saved from demolition, but the whole village has been preserved – and in fact has been closed recently while the Taichung City Government gave the place a whole new roof. Now it’s newly open, so I had to check it out.  Mr. Huang was on hand for photos, and there’s even some walls newly decorated.

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I love this place!  I love the idea that one man with a paintbrush and a lot of determination and creativity can save a whole village from demolition!

And now there’s tons of tourists visiting, and guess what? It’s on a direct bus route from St. James’ Church ~ YES!

Taichung 台中 Sightseeing at 5:00 am on a Sunday? YES!

An interesting article appeared on the internet recently, The ‘Top 10 sights in Taiwan Japanese tourists love to visit‘ which has thrown Taiwan’s tourism industry a bit. Forget such famous places as Taipei 101, CKS Memorial and the National Palace Museum. They’re history.  Consigned to the distant past.  Instead, now, in 2017, coming in at number 2 on the list is the lobby of the ‘1969 藍天飯店 Blue Sky Hotel‘ in Taichung.

So, on my monthly visit to St. James’ Church, Taichung this past weekend, I found myself at 5:00 am on Sunday morning with a u-bike ~ and off I went to find it.  It’s only 15 mins ride, down towards the train station, in a part of town where, let’s say, there’s plenty of room for improvement…  As you can imagine, the place was hardly throbbing with tourists at 5:00 am on a Sunday morning, so the nice receptionist gave me my very own tour. Central to the lobby is a huge floor-to-ceiling wall artwork consisting of genuine vintage 1970’s suitcases all stacked very artistically.  The numbers of the lifts are all Roman numerals, and the reception area is all vintage style.  I like it!

It’s not far from the Taichung Park, but the sun wasn’t even up, and it was too dark to see the famous iconic building there.  So off I went to find another interesting place not far away – a small community of tiny alleyways and close-packed houses, where the road has been repaved in red brick. So following the red-brick road is really quite fun!

Then I passed the Red Dot Hotel, which has a large slide in the lobby for guests ….

And finally, I came past the elementary school that is attached to the National University of Education, and outside was a water tank.  Presumably until recently it was just a boring old water tank. It even says ‘groundwater’ on it. Now painted up and looking beauitful. Street art at its best. Smarties, or are they M and M’s? Anyway, I love it.  Every school should have one.

Taichung at 5:00 am on a summer Sunday?  Ideal for sightseeing!  Before it gets too hot. Before all the crowds come out and all the traffic.  Before even the sun comes up.  YES!

Come and see for yourselves!

Yes! Celebrating 10 Exciting Years of Sister-School Partnership: St. James, Taichung and Cambridge-Ellis, Boston!

Really quite amazing!  10 years of partnership!  YES!

Y’know, partnerships between schools in different countries are famous for lasting a few years and then dying out.  Sometimes they’ve just run their course. Sometimes they’ve depended too much on one particular person, so when that person leaves, it’s all over.  Or sometimes the money runs out.  Or the enthusiasm.  Or whatever.

So it’s really quite amazing that the sister-school partnership between St. James, Taichung and Cambridge-Ellis (CES), Boston is still going strong after 10 years.  Yes, it’s ten whole years this year!  During that time, lots of teachers have been to visit in both directions, and even I’ve had the chance to visit CES twice, most recently in May 2014 (see my report of that visit here).  So it was with great excitement that last week we welcomed 3 VIP visitors from CES, including their very lovely principal, Gerlinde, on her first ever visit ~ here to celebrate our 10 years anniversary!

And it all started 10+ years ago with Wan-Ching, a former student of St. James’ Kindergarten who grew up and moved to the USA, and actually worked at CES.  CES has a language program which includes Mandarin Chinese, and Wan-Ching suggested CES could connect up with St. James, her alma-mater here in Taichung, Taiwan.  She linked up the CES director at the time, Jenifer Demko and the then rector (now Rector Emeritus) of St. James, Rev. Charles C. T. Chen.  Thank you Wan-Ching!  And so the connection was made, and a partnership came into being, formally signed in March 2007. Charles and Jenifer are both wonderful people of huge vision and determination, with big dreams and ideas, and thrive on trying new things.  But even they could not have predicted that we would have had such a successful 10 years together!

And so to celebrate this great milestone, we invited Gerlinde to come and visit ~ and she chose last week to come.  YES!  She brought Qiaoling, in charge of the CES Mandarin Chinese program and a great friend and support for all our teachers who have visited CES. Qiaoling just loved all the Taiwan food and was invited to so many meals here that even she couldn’t keep up! In fact she arrived in Taiwan a whole 12 hours early, which meant she could fit in extra meals with everyone.  She is just so popular!  Gerlinde also brought along her very charming and handsome husband, who kept us so well-entertained, always with a story to tell, or a cool pose for photos ~ there was never a dull moment all week! For all 3, it was their very first visit to St. James, in fact their first visit to Taiwan.  We LOVED having them here……  aren’t they oh so photogenic?!

And what did we do all week?  A tour of the St. James’ campus, meetings, classes, a lecture from Gerlinde ~ and meals with Rev. Charles Chen and MaryJo, our senior warden Samuel and supervisor Luanne, Preschool principal Susan, Language Institute director Yu-Mei, language teacher Jerry and his wife Jean, and St. James’ rector, Rev. Lily Chang (and we met her lovely 90-year-old mother too!), plus so many others.  They met tons of people and enjoyed having fun with children of every age.  Smiles and fun and laughter and of course, photos.  Photos galore.  For sure! Everyone at St. James was so happy to welcome them, and they were so gracious and kind and smiled all day at everyone!  On Wednesday last week, Luanne also organised us all to go to Puli and Sun Moon Lake for the day, including the famous Puli ice-cream, mushroom farm and wine factory ~ and then TungHai University and Taichung City in the evening. Plus they went on a tour of the brand new theatre in Taichung (for Jerry’s account of that visit, see here).  And for the grande finale, there was a farewell party on Thursday night, followed by a very lively visit to the night market ~ just don’t ask about that stinky tofu!

And a group photo at the farewell party of most of the people who’ve ever been to CES and their families, and those hoping to go this coming year….

I had the honour of being with our VIP guests all week, and on Friday brought them to Taipei to meet Bishop Lai and Mrs. Lily Lai….

And then for some sightseeing all around the great city of Taipei over the weekend.  CKS Memorial, Taipei 101, JianGuo Flower and Jade Markets, Grand Hotel and National Palace Museum.  All checked off the list.  Mostly all in the rain too.  Ah, but it was fun! Extra fun was that we invited former St. James’ teacher, Tiger and her husband to join us, they actually met in Boston, all due to our link with CES!  And 3 of the St. James’ teachers came to Taipei too to join us on Saturday, and for some of them it was clear that they had seen more of Boston than they had of their own capital city lol!

So a big big thank you to Gerlinde and her wonderful VIP group for coming to Taiwan, for their gifts, their enthusiasm, their time and energy, their stories and their fun!  It was such a great week.  CES is having their own 10th anniversary celebration in a few weeks time, and Rev. Charles Chen and his wife, MaryJo are planning on being there, representing St. James.  YES!  Thanks to all at St. James for all their planning, their welcome and hospitality, it was all amazing.  And thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings on our partnership with CES over these past 10 years.

And here’s to the next 10 years, YES YES YES!

My Kinda Art @ Taichung!

Every month off I go to Taichung to do the sermon in the St. James’ Church English Service, usually on the bus or train, and occasionally, just occasionally by High Speed Rail. Saturday was a rare HSR day….

St. James’ Church is right opposite the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, and even though I pass along the art museum skywalk every time on my morning exercise, actually I hardly ever go in the museum itself. Sorry about that.  Yes, the museum is all free, but still, y’know, I hardly ever go in. Except this weekend, I happened to notice that down below in the museum was a sort of street market art installation….

So yesterday afternoon in I went, and yes the street market art is really amazing.  Like the kind of thing we make for role play in a kindergarten classroom.  Except this is Art with a capital A, and you can only look and not touch.  But it’s wonderful!  Love it!

There’s also an exhibition on indigenous art, this painting is by Taiwan Paiwan artist, Etan Pavavalung titled ‘Migrate’.

Another piece, by a different artist using driftwood collected from Typhoon Morakot in 2009….

The art museum in Taichung is connected by a green walkway that goes for several miles, and ends up at the Science Museum.  Also part of the morning exercise!  At the far end is the science museum tropical greenhouse kind of shaped like a giant spider, and outside is the large horrible insect…. ha ha!

Ah yes, gotta make the most of my visits to Taichung!

Advent Word, Day 17 ‘surprise’

Day 17 #surprise #驚訝 Wednesday December 14

‘God comes to us as a vulnerable human baby to an unlikely couple in an obscure place. And in doing so turns the world upside down. Jesus says: Stick with me even if I am different, confusing, or surprising. I have come, and I am coming to you today with love! Look for me. Listen. I am coming in an unexpected way’.

神降臨世間,以柔弱之身生於幽暗角落,做卑微人家的嬰孩。這世界因此得以全然翻轉。耶穌說:緊跟著我吧!即使我和他人不同,即使我令人困惑、又讓人驚訝。我已降臨;懷著滿滿的愛,我來到你這裡。注意,我來的方式完全出人意外。

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A big surprise in Taichung at Stock20 台中20號倉庫!

Advent Word, Day 4 ‘listen’

Day 4 #listen #聆聽 Wednesday November 30

‘On the cross, exposed and vulnerable, Jesus draws the whole world in a loving embrace. Everything hangs, everyone is held here. Jesus holds the people of Charlestown and Ferguson and Baltimore and all around the globe. Jesus listens to the grieving and grappling, the terrorized and troubled, the frightened and crying. Jesus listens to all the heartache, all the questions. On the cross Jesus bears the weight, the weight of the world, holding us all in his wounded hands’.

被釘在十字架上,那軟弱之身毫無遮掩的耶穌,吸引著全世界進入祂愛的懷抱。所有的人、事、物都蒙受祂的擁抱及關懷,包括居住在查爾斯敦、佛格森、巴爾的摩,還有其他各地的人,他們的悲傷、苦悶、驚恐、困擾、害怕、以及呼求,耶穌都聽見了。耶穌聽取每位傷痛者的心聲,也聆聽我們一切的問題。在十字架上,耶穌擔負世人的重擔,祂那被釘傷的雙手,還緊緊握住我們所有人。

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Photo taken at 國立臺灣美術館 Taichung Art Museum