Tag Archives: Taipei City

Taiwan’s Culture and Stinky Tofu ~ with our friends from Latin America and the Caribbean!😊😊😊

Yes, 3 more busy days out in the last 2 weeks visiting some wonderful places around northern Taiwan with our 18 lovely friends from Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who are here at St. John’s University as part of the “2019 Latin American and Caribbean Countries Vocational Training Project: Electrical and Electronic Engineering 拉丁美洲及加勒比海地區友邦技職訓練計畫-電機工程實務技術英語班”, in association with ‘TaiwanICDF‘.

Last Saturday off we went through the Xueshan Tunnel, Taiwan’s longest at 12.9 km ~ it runs through the mountains from Taipei to the east coast at Yilan. Since opening in 2006, it’s really changed Taiwan’s east coast, with lots of development, tourism and business opportunities opening up. There’s lots of traffic too, especially on a Saturday when everyone is in that tunnel trying to get out of the big city, escaping for the day or weekend to breathe in some fresh sea air and relax….

And so we joined them, but it took us 3 hours (yes, 3 whole hours!) from St. John’s University to get to our first main stop at Lanyang Museum 蘭陽博物館. The museum has really good displays about the local area, and gave us distant views through the haze over towards Guishan Island. Guishan Island (Turtle Island) is actually the protruding top of Taiwan’s only active volcano. Our friends from Latin America and Caribbean have plenty of active volcanoes in their own countries, so it’s good that Taiwan has one to show to visitors too! This is us at the museum…

Lanyang Museum building was “designed by a team led by Kris Yao those design was inspired by the ‘cuestas’ commonly seen along Beiguan Coast. The museum adopts the geometric shapes of the cuestas where the roof protrudes from the ground at an angle of 20 degrees meeting a wall which rises from the ground at an angle of 70 degrees.” Really impressive. I liked it. Not sure about that big apartment building right behind it, but hey, at least the residents must have a good view!

We spent the day driving around Yilan, enjoying local foods and restaurants and seeing the countryside. At lunchtime, the rain started – and poured down for the next 3 hours, so we spent the afternoon visiting the famous Kavalan Whisky Distillery ~ which also houses Mr. Brown coffee. A little secret ~ the Kavalan Sweet Coffee Liqueur is really delicious, and there was plenty of it to sample ~ but shhh, don’t tell anyone. Ah, but it was a fun day!

Then last Monday, we went to the National Palace Museum, Taipei – it is Taipei’s ‘must-go, must-see’ museum on every visitor’s itinerary, but it’s impossible to see it all on one trip. We had 2 hours and saw but a fraction of the displays, though we did have a detailed tour in English about the bronzes in the museum…

In the afternoon we paid a quick visit to Xiaoyoukeng in Yangmingshan National Park to see the smoking – and very smelly – fumaroles in the mist. Not, apparently, as magnificent or as smelly (thank goodness!) as the ones in St. Lucia, but hey, these ones are smelly enough!

And today (part of the 3-day Mid-Autumn Moon Festival), we spent the day south-west of Taipei. Our first stop was the Yingge Ceramics Museum – which may look kind of grim and brutalist on the outside, but inside the museum, the displays are really creatively presented, reflecting its past as Taiwan’s ceramic town – due to its special clay.

We had a short guided tour in English and then I rushed around taking some photos. Even the luggage lockers are ceramic…

We also visited Sanxia Old Street, built in the Japanese era in baroque style and restored a few years ago. We tried all the local delicacies, including pig’s blood cake and stinky tofu – some of which, well, let’s put it this way, didn’t go down too well with some of us! The croissants and ice-cream though were delicious!

After lunch, we went to Daxi Old Tea Factory…..

And then to Cihu Mausoleum 慈湖陵寢 , “the temporary resting place of President Chiang Kai-shek. When Chiang Kai-shek died in 1975, he was not buried in the traditional Chinese fashion but entombed in a black marble sarcophagus since he expressed the wish to be eventually buried in his native Fenghua in Zhejiang province once the Kuomintang (KMT) recovered mainland China from the Communists.” We went to see the changing of the guard ceremony that takes place every hour on the hour ~ we were there for the one at 3:00 pm. Wow, it was so hot, bees were buzzing around and we were directly facing into the afternoon sun. But then the honor guard must have been even hotter, after standing for an hour in their heavy uniforms without moving….

There’s also the Cihu Lake and the surrounding sculpture park where all the ‘removed’ statues of Chiang Kai-Shek are on display….

Our Latin America and Caribbean group of students are so lively and fun, and we’re making the most of their time in Taiwan to take them out and about, showing them the sights and introducing them to Taiwan’s rich culture and history. We enjoy all the delicious (and let’s face it, some not so delicious!) foods on offer at each place, and of course we take a few photos too ~ and I’m grateful that they all think really creatively when I request a pose!

Thanks to St. John’s University for planning all these great trips. Already looking forward to the next one ~ coming soon!

From Latin America and the Caribbean to St. John’s University, Taiwan ~ Welcome!

Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines ~ all countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and all countries that have sent some of their very lovely people to participate in the “2019 Latin American and Caribbean Countries Vocational Training Project: Electrical and Electronic Engineering 拉丁美洲及加勒比海地區友邦技職訓練計畫-電機工程實務技術英語班”, hosted by St. John’s University (SJU). Welcome! The official opening ceremony was on Friday August 16, when everyone was welcomed by SJU vice-president, Dr. Wang, on behalf of President Ay (see photo above) and the different groups posed with their flags….

The whole project is organized by the ‘TaiwanICDF‘ ( Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund) a government-funded organization: ‘In its pursuit of international cooperation, and to advance the Republic of China’s diplomatic interests, the founding principles of the TaiwanICDF require the organization to pursue a mission of “working for humanity, sustainable development, and economic progress.”’

Their visit lasts 11 weeks, and the 18 participants (16 men, 2 women) have signed up for the English-language program, while a further group are coming next month for the French-language program, mostly from Haiti. They are mature students, some are teachers of electrical and / or electronic engineering in vocational institutes, others are in private enterprise; all hope to upgrade their skills to better serve their people back home ~ and to make the most of the visit to broaden their horizons and expand their knowledge of Taiwan. They are very committed, seriously keen and very enthusiastic about making the most of their time in Taiwan. So far, they’ve had introductory language classes and calligraphy, and have already started on the formal (but very practical) engineering classes ~ hydro-power, indoor wiring, plumbing, industrial control power distribution, electronic technology and solar photo-voltaic systems, plus visiting companies and institutions related to their training. So far, so good, and they are all very positive about everything!

I offered to help on some of their outings ~ on their first full day it included health check-ups and a visit to the local supermarket, Carrefour for stocking up with supplies. On Saturday August 17, we all went on a sightseeing tour of the local town of Tamsui, visiting the Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort San Domingo, Aletheia Univeristy and Tamsui Old Street to discover the history, and get to know the area. It was very hot ~ but breezy, yeah!

Last Friday, I went with the group to visit the 2019 ‘Taipei International Industrial Automaton Exhibition’ at the Nangang Exhibition Centre on the other side of Taipei. It was really high-tech stuff, full of robots and machines that could do all sorts of amazing things, and in the afternoon, we met up with one of our alumni for a tour of the Siemens exhibition.

Tropical Storm Bailu was due to cross Taiwan on Saturday, and on Friday afternoon, it was typical pre-typhoon weather, alternating rain and sun ~ and it so happened that after the Expo at Nangang we went with the group to visit Taiwan’s highest building, Taipei 101. What views ~ and what rainbows! It was incredible.

Actually, we were standing right in the centre of the rainbow, which went round in almost a whole circle – but my camera couldn’t get it all in one photo. This photo below was taken at the same time and posted on the official Taipei 101 facebook page, so you can see what we were really looking at – a real wow moment!

Yesterday, Monday, we had a sightseeing trip to Taiwan’s NE coast, up above Keelung, to the old mining towns of Jinguashi, Jiufen, Shifen and Jingtong. A real luxury to go everywhere by coach for the day rather than on and off public transport, as it was hot, hot hot! We had a wonderful day with a very professional guide, and we saw and did everything. The trip was originally planned for a Saturday, but due to the crowds, it was changed to a Monday, and still there were lots of people around ~ with a really good atmosphere… fun!

So a very big ‘Welcome to Taiwan’ to all our visitors. We’re all really looking forward to more trips out and about, and discovering all the wonderful delights that Taiwan has to offer – YES!

Taipei Railway Workshop 臺北機廠: One of Taiwan’s Best-Kept Secrets!

Yes, this has just got to be one of Taipei’s biggest and best-kept secrets so far. ‘Biggest’ because it’s massive – nearly 17 hectares, and set right in the middle of prime real estate in the downtown Xinyi District of Taipei City, right there within sight of Taipei 101 and the financial capital of Taiwan. Wow!

And ‘best-kept’ because it’s really amazing. Nothing much has changed over the years, it’s still a real place. Do not be put off by the title of ‘workshop’, which may be heaven to an engineer, but to the rest of us, it sounds grim ~ though it’s true, it was a working workshop until 7 years ago when it closed down, and work was transferred to Taoyuan. And it’s not yet far enough along to be given the title of ‘museum’, so that’s something of a relief too (think tons of tourists, souvenir shops, entrance fees and everything preserved behind glass). Instead think of trains and railways, think travel, think steam engines, think places to go, places to visit, holidays, adventures and excitement. After all, isn’t that what railways are (or surely should be!) all about?

For that is the wonder of the Taipei Railway Workshop. It’s a rare piece of industrial heritage that was so recently used that it still smells like it’s in use today. This is where it all happened. This is the place where trains were built and furnished, repaired and stored, and sent out around Taiwan. This is the place from where Taiwan emerged into the modern world. A world where people and goods could travel easily from one place to another, in hours rather than days, and all in relative comfort.

You can imagine almost 2,000 men working there, many for the whole of their working lives. In more recent times, women joined the workforce, mostly in administration, but it was primarily a man’s world. The times of checking in and out for work and breaks are still there for all to see. Machines and tools are still in place. Some work has started on restoration and renovation, but there’s so much still to do, and that’s the fun thing. It’s still raw, still fresh, still oozing with history and atmosphere from a bygone age.

It was the Japanese Colonial Administration in Taiwan (1895-1945) who built most of the railways, and as everyone will tell you, even today, while Taiwan cars drive on the right side of the road, the trains follow Japanese convention and run on the left. Some of the Japanese gave their whole working lives too, to building the Taiwan railways. The Taipei Railway Workshop was one of 3 built in Taiwan; this one is by far the biggest, the present buildings date from the early 1930’s. That’s some history!

Until recently I had never heard of this place. The first I heard of it was this post here, by Josh Ellis on his photography blog: https://www.goteamjosh.com/blog/tprail Do check it out for all the information, plus the details for how to book on a tour.

Currently the workshop is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and only for guided tours (so far all in Chinese) that must be pre-booked online (also all in Chinese). I went on Saturday morning, with a weather forecast of heavy rain, but fortunately none came; just as well as it’s mostly outside and the tour was over 2 hours. There were lots of children and their parents, and I have to say they were totally absorbed for the whole morning. So was I!

We went everywhere and saw everything. There’s workshops and trains and engines and machinery and even the old bath-house where the workers would wash after their day at work…

There’s a team of people working there to get it all restored and renovated, which is great, but it’s good to go and see it now before it gets too renovated, restored and museum-ized.

NOW IS THE TIME!

One of our much-loved retired clergy in the Taiwan Episcopal Church is Rev. Peter D. P. Chen (陳德沛). He and his wife, Rev. Elizabeth F. J. Wei were ordained together as deacons at Pentecost 1993, and then as priests in September 1997. Peter spent his whole career working for the Taiwan Railways Administration and for the past 5 years before retirement, from 1995-2000, he served as Managing Director of the Taiwan Railways. If you Google his Chinese name you’ll see him on You Tube! I was delighted to tell him I’d been to visit the Taipei Railway Workshop, which he was once in charge of and helped to get preserved as part of Taiwan’s heritage. This is the 3 of us, these guys are just so lovely!

Ah yes, Taipei Railway Workshop ~ it’s a great place. Do go and check it out!

Taipei’s Elephant Mountain 象山 and Four Beasts Mountain 四獸山 and 9-5 Peak 九五峯!

It’s hot and humid and the middle of summer, and yet, Elephant Mountain in Taipei is packed out with people.  Not in the early morning so much, but mid-morning onwards, at the hottest time of day, hundreds and hundreds of everybody are going up!

Last time I was there was Chinese New Year 2016 and haven’t been there since, oh no!

So now I’m back, but early in the morning.  7:30 am.  Today.  Ready for the off.  Would be earlier, but that’s the earliest I can get there from the far end of Taiwan.  And boy, it is steep.  And hot.  Steps and steps and more steps going onwards and upwards.  The trail is excellent, and goes on round a whole ridge, another set of steps, but the views are amazing and worth every ounce of effort.

The views of course are of Taipei City, YangMingShan and Taipei 101 in particular. Check out these few photos!

And hope you like that final photo – a McLaren stopped at the red light just in front of me as I was taking a photo of that red crane in front of Taipei 101.  Love it!

Rixing Type Foundry 日星鑄字行 ~ the last Traditional Chinese Character Letterpress in Taiwan

Down a tiny little backstreet in Taipei City surrounded by hardware stores is just what you don’t expect to find ~ a shop full of rows and rows of tiny little Chinese characters!

This article titled, “6 Things You Didn’t Know About Rixing Type Foundry, The Last Traditional Chinese Letterpress In Taiwan” on the City 543 website says,

“The Rixing Type Foundry (日星鑄字行) is home to the last remaining collection of traditional Chinese movable type character moulds in the world, plying its trade for more than four decades with techniques that have been recognized since the Song Dynasty in 1040s…  In the 1960s, Taipei alone was home to 5,000 printing presses churning out a seemingly unquenchable deluge of work. Forty years later, only 30 establishments remain, and Rixing is the last print foundry in the capital….

Chinese script has no alphabet. Instead it consists of words made up of one to two characters, one of which can comprise of up to 25 strokes. Rixing has one of the largest collections of three-dimensional Chinese characters in Taiwan, with 120,000 moulds of different characters and more than 10 million lead character pieces.”

Apparently the world’s largest collection of traditional Chinese movable type. Wow!

There’s another article here from the Taipei Times in May interviewing the owner, Chang Chieh-kuan (張介冠),  son of the founder, who is worried about the future of the foundry. He was busy working out the back while I was there today.

This is one of the old letterpress machines – made in Taichung no less….

There’s another article here form Neocha Magazine with lots of artistic photos…..

And a Facebook page at Ri Xing Type Foundry …

The characters are all organized of course, this one happens to have 聖 ‘sheng’, meaning ‘holy’ right in the middle….

This one has the numbers at the top, going right to left…

And there’s 3 fonts and 7 different sizes…

So if you have a spare 30 minutes in Taipei, do check this place out ~ it’s fascinating! They make Chinese stamp seals, so I got one for my name (李凱玲 Lee Kai-Ling – the big character on the left is the ‘Lee’)…. this is it!

And this is the very unassuming main entrance…. there’s hardly even a signboard!

A great place, even if the temps in Taipei today were 36°C but feeling apparently like 40! Wow!

Happy Dragon Boat Festival 2017 @ Taipei!

It was all happening at Dazhi Riverside in Taipei this morning ~ the final day of 3 days of Dragon Boat Competitions!  The sun was out, the weather was warm, and everyone was rowing hard!

In good weather, and with plenty of time, the best way for me to get to Dazhi Riverside from here is by U-bike from Tamsui, and so off I set!  Before 7:00 am too, while the weather was still cooler.  It took maybe 90 minutes of slow riding, enjoying the scenery…

First stop though was the graffiti wall along by the riverside near to the Grand Hotel. The pictures are renewed often, so it’s worth checking out often!  There’s at least 50 works of art there.  These are my favourites….

And then to the dragon boat races, and after 30 minutes there – I sped off along the river in the sunshine, past the end of the Songshan Airport towards Nangang….

And so into Taipei City itself… not much traffic as it’s a holiday.

But trying to find Taipei 101 when you’re down on the streets is really hard!  Ah here it is!

Actually I was trying to find that DNA Double Helix building, the Agora Garden Tower, that I saw down below when I was up in Taipei 101 a few weeks ago (see my blog post here).  And here it is!

Y’know, from Taipei 101 looking down, the Double Helix Building is quite amazing.  But from ground level looking up, it is kinda bizarre. Looks like it’s going to topple over any minute!

While the rest of Taipei was clearly on holiday today, the Double Helix building was full of workers drilling and welding and doing things that builders do….

And next stop was Treasure Hill Artist Village on the other riverside at Gongguan…

By then it was midday, and the clouds were coming in, and starting to drizzle.  Drizzle drizzle, and so off I sped, back to Tamsui.  Got back to Tamsui soon after 2:00 pm.  Then on a packed bus home.  Tonight in Tamsui is the very big parade of the deities from all the temples – taking them all round the town in a huge long procession, while people make offerings and ask the gods for their blessings.  Pray for Tamsui.  It’s the highlight of the year for many people.  Sanzhi’s turn is on Thursday….

Yes, over 7 hours on a U-bike.  Ah, such a great way to travel!  Especially after 2 days of climbing mountains at Yang-Ming Shan.  Now stiff all over!  How on earth do so many people manage to cycle over 900 km all round Taiwan in 9 days?  Amazing.  One day is enough for me for a while!

So Happy Dragon Boat Festival to you all!

Taipei 4 Teens!

Always accept a challenge!  And one of my challenges this week was to take 2 very lovely American teens around Taipei for the afternoon.  They were very interested and very keen to see everything!  Their parents were busy at a conference, so I offered to show them a few sights…

First stop was the Changing of the Guard at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, whose days may be numbered, so it’s worth going to see now.  Not for the memorial itself but to see the guards. It’s hot work and they stand there totally not moving for a whole hour while the sweat drips off them.  Only one fan each blowing a bit of air around.  And they’re wearing tons of clothes.  Then they perform a wonderful choreographed display with their bayonets, every move coordinated with their fellow guards, as 2 of them change places. The place to stand to watch this is right in the centre in front of the statue.  Looks like this guard almost punched me in the face, he was that close!

Then walk down to the Presidential Office ….

And by MRT from Taipei Main Station to Taipei 101, which on a fine day is worth going up, or worth looking at from below.  It’s NT$ 600 for adults – which is not cheap so don’t bother if the weather isn’t good! I took my visitors up, and it was very empty up there – it used to be always full of Chinese tourists, but no more.  Fastest elevators in the world and all that.  Engineering heaven with that big ball up there that sways to steady the building in a typhoon or earthquake.  Video recordings on display of the ball swaying.  Check it out.

Taipei 101 is surrounded by construction sites, and some of the new buildings are amazingly high.  Pretty good views though!

But by far the most interesting new building in view from Taipei 101 is the construction of ‘Belgian architect Vincent Callebaut’s DNA double helix-shaped Agora Garden Tower’. Check out the Taiwan News article here for pictures of what it’s gonna look like when it’s finished.  Must go and visit it from ground level next time there’s a sunny day. Here it is below….

Finished at Taipei 101, and it’s time to eat – the food court on Taipei 101 Level B1 is good, and in the early evening midweek there’s not many people so you’ll easily get a seat.  By then it’s dark, and the only place left to go is of course a night market.  Shilin is the one to go to, and the must-see for teenagers is the live snakes – and the bottles of bits of dead snakes waiting to be made into soup.  No photos allowed though.

My visitors were staying in Nangang 南港 at the far eastern end of Taipei.  Full of businesses and office buildings. Not like the rest of Taipei at all.  I’d never been there before at night, in fact I’d hardly ever been there during the day come to that.  Full of colored lights, changing color all the time – this is the red look!

These Nangang photos were taken at 8:30 pm.  Still tons of lights on, people still at their desks!  From there it took me 2 hours to get home.  But hey, it’s so easy, just sit on a train and bus.  Taipei is just so convenient and easy and safe and worth seeing.  Morning, afternoon or night.  Tons of stuff to see and do.

So do come and check it out!