Tag Archives: Taiwan Culture

CMS Link Letter #81 (and Rainbow Village 彩虹眷村!)

Published yesterday by the Church Mission Society, my latest link letter, click on the link below…

The letter was actually sent off to CMS on October 14 for processing, and much seems to have happened since then. As we await the results of the US presidential election and as the UK goes into lockdown again, there’s a lot going on.

A little oasis in all that’s going on is to be found at Rainbow Village, Taichung 彩虹眷村, as high-rise buildings start to go up all around…

Let me just cheer you all up a little with some photos I took there early on Monday morning. This is one of my most favourite places to visit in Taichung, and so I was there for opening time at 8:00 am, the first visitor of the day.

Just to remind you, this place is the last remaining few houses of an old Veterans Village, built for soldiers and their families who came to Taiwan after 1949. Most of the land has already been taken for redevelopment, but old Mr. Huang (Huang Yong-Fu 黃永阜), known as ‘Rainbow Grandpa’ (彩虹爺爺), decided to start painting the remaining houses a few years ago, as a way to save his village….

His artwork was discovered by students from the nearby Ling-Tung University, and as a result, the village has not only been saved from demolition, but is now actively preserved by the local government. It is open to the public, and visitors can wander around, meet Rainbow Grandpa and do a bit of shopping to help fund the place (entrance is free). Go first thing on a Monday morning and you’ll have the place to yourselves!

The last time I was there was in October 2019, and what is different this time is that the land right behind Rainbow Village is now blocked off with a long white fence, and construction work behind it has already started…..

Gradually the area all around there is being developed with high-rise apartment buildings, which of course was what motivated Mr. Huang to start painting in the first place…. and he is still at it. Here he is signing my umbrella!

He was telling me that he’s nearly 100 – and he is certainly making the most of his remaining years! His artwork is stunning…

So thanks for reading my link letter – and enjoy the photos! And Rainbow Village are now selling face-masks covered in Rainbow Grandpa’s artwork, so watch this space, and you might see me in one before too long!

中秋節 Mid-Autumn Moon Festival Celebrations 🌕 St. James-Style!

Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, when the moon is believed to be at its biggest and brightest for the whole year, has just been and gone, and it was quite some festival! As it fell on Thursday, October 1, so Taiwan had a 4-day holiday weekend ~ traditionally a time for family reunions, moon-gazing, barbecues, eating mooncakes and pomelo fruits. Even Teddy was celebrating, as children do – with the pomelo peel on his head!

Family reunions mean travel – as everyone heads home – which means traffic jams and long queues to get anywhere, but hey, it’s all worth it! It also means family outings to resorts, the beach, countryside, mountains, restaurants, shopping, coffee shops or wherever. Our area here on the NW Coast is always full of traffic on weekends and holidays – including the Harley Davidsons who roar up to the beach each weekend. This was the scene early on Thursday, while the guys were having breakfast…

Near the beach is the Shuang-Lien Care Home, and I started the Moon Festival by visiting my good friend, Mrs. Hsu – she’s always pleased to see me, and in case you’re wondering about Covid-19 precautions, we took off our facemasks only for coffee and this photo below. Visitors are welcomed in the communal areas, with temperature checks, facemasks on – especially when moving around, and booking is required in advance with limited numbers at one time. Thankfully, Covid-19 continues to be under control in Taiwan, and work and schools continue more or less as normal, but the closure of the borders and mandatory, closely-monitored 14-day quarantine for citizens and residents returning to Taiwan means that family members overseas are largely grounded – overseas. Many with elderly parents here are therefore unable to come back and visit, so Mrs. Hsu has not seen any of her 3 children or grandchildren since just after Chinese New Year. Fortunately, they are all very good at keeping in touch with her, and she’s always very cheerful and so appreciative of all their love and support. In the photo, taken with her helper, Linda, we’re in the middle of saying hello to her family, hence the expression!

On Thursday afternoon off I set for Taichung. Of course every seat on every bus, train and high-speed rail was sold out weeks ago, but hey, I still gotta go! So, don’t be put off by lack of a ticket, the answer is to head across Taipei to Nangang, the High-Speed Rail terminus, buy a non-reserved ticket and line up for a train leaving about 30 minutes later. I was No. 8 in my line, so a seat was waiting for me, but behind me were many people wishing they’d got in line earlier. By the time the train left Nangang every seat was taken – and all those queueing up at Taipei had to stand.

I spent the weekend at my old home of St. James’ Church, Taichung ~ lured by the fact that the first Sunday of each month is my Sunday for doing the sermon at St. James’ English Service, so I had to go anyway – but went 3 days early, invited by all the wonderful people there. It’s actually the 4th time so far this year that a long holiday weekend has coincided with the first Sunday of the month, so my visits are many and often!

The kindergarten display boards outside St. James were showing the children’s art work for the Moon Festival, they’ve clearly been learning some of the history and myths around the festival, including the moon rabbit – just love ‘em!

St. James always knows how to organize events and celebrate, so I was invited to join in too. Thank you, all you lovely people of St. James! Rev. Charles C. T. Chen invited me to dinner on his wife’s 85th birthday – then all the family came along too – their second celebration meal of the day, having also had a special birthday lunch only a few hours earlier!

I was also welcomed to join the youth group and young adults’ barbecue at St. James, always a great event!

My good friend, Ah-Guan invited me to join their St. James fellowship group on a trip to Xinshe, up in the hills above Taichung, and yes Charles and MaryJo came too…

Plus we had a visit to a mushroom farm where you can pick your own mushrooms – we even had mushroom ice-lollies! Not bad, not bad!

And we finished that day at a very special coffee place, run by some friends of one of our group in the front yard of their home, located down some very narrow streets in a very rural village, surrounded by vineyards and coffee bushes. Mr. Hsu runs the coffee business with his very lovely Cambodian wife, Ms. Gao, who made up lots of their home-grown coffee for us to enjoy, and shared about her life these last 20+ years in Taiwan. Oh yes, and we sang some karaoke, including the most famous Moon Festival song (more or less the only one I can sing in Chinese!) originally sung by Teresa Teng, 月亮代表我的心 “The Moon Represents My Heart.” And my forever favourite for these occasions, ‘You are my sunshine!’ Ah yes, the atmosphere was really wonderful, it was really the highlight of the day!

Where else did we go over the weekend? Well, we saw the big wheel at Lihpao 麗寶樂園 when we visited the outlet mall for lunch … don’t ask about the bus getting there in all that traffic and how long it took. No photos of traffic jams, but hours and hours is the answer! But hey, buses in Taichung are virtually free of charge – so just sit back and relax!

The most beautiful place we visited was definitely Gaomei Wetlands 高美溼地, where we went on Sunday afternoon, by bus again – to the west coast. The boardwalk leads out to the mudflats, and everyone loves watching the fiddler crabs – see the crowds!…

And finally, on Monday afternoon, off I went about an hour south of Taichung to Yuanlin, Changhua. First stop was to try some tasty Ba-Wan 肉圓 Meatballs, famous local Yuanlin produce – and to check out the local scene…

Then I met up with Rev. Philip Ho and his wife Nancy, who had driven 90 minutes NNE-ish from Grace Church, Tainan, and we went to Chung Chou University of Science and Technology 中州科技大學, Yuanlin, to lead a service in English for a group of overseas students there. Philip led the service, including Holy Communion, I did the sermon, same as the day before at St. James ~ The Kingdom of Fruit (that’s Taiwan!) vs The Fruits of the Kingdom (Matt. 21:28-46). 🤔

There are about 60 students studying at Chung Chou University who are from Eswatini (Swaziland) and Uganda, and the service was timed for after their classes finished, about 5:00 pm. This is a new monthly venture that started last semester at the request of one of the people working in the university international office who knew Philip from her previous work at St. James. Philip is extremely energetic and really good at relating to young people – and overseas people too, so he’s the ideal person! The students run their own Bible Study fellowship groups and some travel far on Sundays to find a church service in English. They were great – and really appreciated us coming! Two young men, both named Solomon, one from Eswatini, one from Uganda, along with Everest from Uganda are celebrating their birthdays about now, and Philip and Nancy had brought along a cake. Thanks be to God for this new ministry!

Ah yes, I have so many happy memories of the Mid-Autumn Festival 2020! Thanks again to all at St. James for making it so special!

Treasures of 台南 Tainan!

Tainan on Taiwan’s SW coast is packed full of places to see, treasures to find and special foods to taste; it’s Taiwan’s oldest city and former capital city so it has a long and vibrant history. It’s also the cultural capital of Taiwan – so forget Taipei – Tainan is where it’s all happening! Our 26 hours there this past weekend was never going to be enough to see everything – but then that was never the intention. Just a few sights would be enough! And especially on the last weekend of August in what is being hailed as Taiwan’s hottest summer ever recorded. It was hot, mostly 27-34°C, but less humid than northern Taiwan, and definitely less sultry and muggy than Taipei City. This was the beach at Yuguang Island 漁光島 about 10:00 am on Saturday morning – the place to watch firework displays, sunsets and surfing…

Let’s focus a bit on T-A-I-N-A-N and what I noticed ~ T: Tradition / A: Architecture / I: Innovation / N: Nature / A: Art / N: News

T for Tradition: and there’s plenty of that in Tainan, from traditional buildings to traditional foods, Tainan has it all! We visited the Tainan Confucius Temple, built in 1665 as a temple and school, the first educational institution of its kind in Taiwan. The central buildings are currently under repair, but it’s all free to enter and well worth a wander around…

A for Architecture: Tainan’s historical affiliations have resulted in a whole range of old buildings built in different styles, according to who was in charge at the time, starting with Dutch Formosa 1624-1662 > Kingdom of Tungning 1662-1684 > Qing Empire 1684-1895 > Republic of Formosa 1895 > Empire of Japan 1895–1945 > Republic of China 1945–present..

The place to go is Anping on the west side of Tainan near the sea – it’s full of old houses, temples and much more…

There’s the Anping Old Fort 安平古堡, built by the Dutch after they captured Anping in 1624, originally called Fort Zeelandia, and completed in 1634. In 1662, Koxinga successfully captured it from the Dutch, and changed the name to Anping. His statue is there in the grounds. The inner fort became the seat of government for Taiwan, and so it was known as the King’s Fort. During the Qing Dynasty, excessive silting up of the shore gradually reduced the fort’s importance and the Qing soldiers took many of the building materials for the Eternal Golden Castle.

The Eternal Golden Castle 億載金城 is the other fort to visit of historical importance – built to resist the Japanese troops who invaded Taiwan due to the Mudan Incident in 1874. It was the first western-style fort built in Taiwan, completed in 1876, and equipped with British Armstrong cannons….

I for Innovation: The 6-storey Hayashi Department Store 林百貨opened in Taiwan in 1932, founded by Japanese businessman, Hayashi – and it was clearly the place to be seen at the time – a new, modern Taiwan had arrived. Hayashi’s most popular attraction was the elevator, which is still running – Taiwan’s first ever. Not even Taipei had an elevator at the time. All sorts of fashionable goods imported from Japan were sold there, and still are. During World War II, the rooftop was converted to an anti-aircraft artillery site and it was bombed on March 1, 1945 by the US Air Force. The roof was destroyed, later repaired, but several bullet holes can still be seen. There’s also a Shinto Shrine on the rooftop. The building was later used for offices, but in 2014 it was reopened as a department store, reinventing itself selling beautiful designer clothes, gifts and locally famous delicious foods but all decorated in 1930’s Japanese style. It was full of young people when we visited!

N for Nature: The east side of Tainan was originally sugar plantations, run by the Taiwan Sugar Corporation, and some of the original buildings survive, including the Sugar Research Institute and training centre. The Taiwan HQ is there too. Much of the land is now used for housing, hotels and shops – but the Barclay Park and the surrounding area is a great area for nature walks and early morning and evening exercise. You can walk right out to the old sugar factory area and see the old buildings.

The nearby hotel, Evergreen Plaza Hotel is also run by the Sugar Company (see their logo on the top of the hotel). Great views from the top over the city!

A for Art: Tainan is reinventing itself and converting some of its old buildings into interesting places that mix old and new. The Tainan Art Museum Building 1 is an old police station, built in 1931 by the Japanese in art deco style – the front part is kept as before, the Detention Room is now the coffee shop, and the back part has had a whole modern section built on…

And the Art Museum Building 2 is a whole new modern art gallery, large and bright and with lots of glass…

N for News: The first big news is that while in Tainan in a bookshop, I found a copy of ‘Stories of the Sahara’ 撒哈拉的故事 by Taiwan’s most famous travel writer of modern times, Sanmao 三毛 (1943-1991), originally published as a series of short stories of her life with her Spanish husband living among the Sahrawis, the local indigenous people of Western Sahara, in the mid-1970’s. The stories were written in Chinese, mostly as a series for a Taiwan newspaper, then published as book, later translated into Spanish, and now at long last, finally an English translation has recently come out. I’ve just finished reading the electronic version, this book is the real thing. Highly recommended reading for the long journey to Tainan, or to recover after a day’s sightseeing. Order a copy today!

And the other big news, and the whole reason we were in Tainan this past weekend was that our former bishop of Taiwan, Bishop David J. H. Lai and his wife Lily retired to Tainan on February 22, 2020 immediately after the consecration of his successor, Bishop Lennon Yuan-Rung Chang. They have been inviting us to come and visit Tainan ever since, so I went with Huei-Ling from our diocesan office – by High-Speed Rail from Taipei (1¾ hours). We are very grateful to Bishop Lai and Lily for their wonderful welcome, generous hospitality and kindness to us both, taking us to visit so many places and enjoying such delicious foods. Lily is from Tainan, Bishop Lai was a student at Tainan Theological College, and before becoming bishop, he was in charge of Grace Church, Tainan, so it’s like they have returned home. They are clearly loving their new life, with friends and family nearby – and we had the honour of visiting their new home for tea-drinking. They are the True Treasures of Tainan!

Tainan is a great city, full of interesting places to see, all not far from each other, and famous for its delicious snacks, of which we only had time to try a few. All good – this was at the Hayashi Dept Store!

A visit to Tainan, yes, even for just a short time, is very highly recommended. You’ll certainly find plenty of great treasures to see, so do make the most of it and enjoy every moment!

South to North up Taiwan’s West Coast with our 18 Friends from Latin America & the Caribbean!

Smiles all round in honour of Taiwan’s Double-Tenth National Day last Thursday, October 10 ~ and the start of a 4-day weekend for us all! And what a good opportunity it was to show our 18 international friends some of the great cultural sights of Taiwan. 😊 The group are now on the final stretch of their 3-month “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 ‘Taiwan ICDF‘, and hosted by St. John’s University (SJU), Taipei. In a few weeks time, they’ll all return to their home countries of Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and we’ll miss them! Here they are celebrating Taiwan’s National Day …

Last week, the group were in south Taiwan for a 3-day Solar Energy Course at the National Kaohsiung University of Science and Technology, where Dr. Herchang Ay, SJU President, is in charge of the Apollo Solar Car Team. The group traveled there on Monday morning by High-Speed Rail (see photo below), and the plan was that we would join them on Thursday morning to make the most of the 4-day weekend, traveling back to Taipei by coach, via all sorts of interesting places en route along the west coast.

Thus it was that we spent Thursday in Kaohsiung, Thursday night and Friday in Tainan, Friday night and Saturday morning in Chiayi, and from Saturday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime in Taichung, returning to St. John’s University along the west coast road on Sunday evening – trying to avoid the traffic on the final day of the long weekend. We saw a huge lot of really great places, so many in fact that there was hardly any time to rest on the coach in-between stops! Here’s the group posing at the first stop of the day…

There were 4 of us from SJU, A-Tu, me, Xiang-Yann from Malaysia and Jun-Hong. We also had a very good tour guide, Thomas, and a very patient driver, Mr. Chien. A-Tu and I went to Kaohsiung on Wednesday afternoon, stayed the night at St. Paul’s Church (thanks to Rev. C. C. Cheng and his wife!) and met up with our lovely group on Thursday morning at Weiwuying – my most favourite place in all of Kaohsiung – I just love all that wall art! It was good to hear our group’s reflections on their few days in south Taiwan – all positive, and they enthused about how friendly all the people were down south. It’s a fact – the further south you go in Taiwan the friendlier the people – and this was the experience of our group too. As we traveled around these past few days, many people would come over to meet us, some to enquire about the guys’ long hair or where they’re all from or to take a photo together, ah it was fun! Anyway, after the wall murals, we walked across the road to visit the National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, which is a stunning building, but it was very hot and muggy, and the sky was hazy. It is ‘air-pollution season’ in Taiwan, and while the weather forecast may have shown days of yellow sunshine, in reality, it was mostly hazy and dull. And very very hot! 🥵🥵

Then we visited the Glory Pier and the Pier 2 area, plus Xiziwan. More hot, hot, hot! In fact, we had to cut short our afternoon sightseeing to save us all from getting heatstroke, and off we went to spend an hour enjoying the air-conditioned Dream Mall instead! As it was Taiwan’s National Day, so there were flags everywhere …

Day One over, and in the evening, we drove an hour north to Tainan, where we stayed overnight in the Sendale Tainan Science Park Hotel, in Sinshih (Xinshi), Tainan. The best thing about Sinshih is that when we got up early for exercise the next morning, we discovered the very delightful nearby Sinshih Elementary School, where everyone was busy doing exercise, the school open-air pool was full of people swimming, and best of all, the school walls were covered in mosaics and murals, all done by the children to show the history of the town – including the arrival of the early missionaries. I loved it!

Tainan is the oldest city in Taiwan, and the first capital city, so the first must-visit place was the National Museum of Taiwan History. This museum was a big surprise to me – not only had I never been there before, actually I had never even heard of it either! It was opened in 2011, and is located in what seems to be the middle of absolutely nowhere, somewhere on the coast ~ but the museum is a beautiful building and the displays are excellent. Thomas took this photo of us at the main entrance…

Y’know, it’s not easy for a government to construct a good museum telling its own history from an objective viewpoint – and as far as it goes, they’ve done a good job, and especially in presenting the history of Taiwanese customs and also the big section about the Japanese colonial era. There’s lots of interesting displays and everything is in English and Chinese. One day hopefully the museum will also extend the displays to include more about the indigenous people, Christian missionaries and churches, and what really happened during the White Terror era. Anyway it’s a highly recommended museum, and our group spent a long time looking at all the exhibits – and taking part, as appropriate!

Next stop, and we were off to Tainan City to see the Blueprint Cultural and Creative Park ~ this is an old ‘dormitory village’ of houses originally built to provide accommodation for government workers and their families in days gone by, but now reinvented for visitors to come and see, and of course, to come and shop…

We also visited Snail Alley ~ I liked the old buildings – and, well, also the snails!

The best place of the whole afternoon was the Hayashi Department Store, which I loved, it has a really fascinating history, dating from the Japanese colonial era, and it was new to me. Their website says, “On December 5th, 1932, Hayashi Department Store opened and thus a modern age of Taiwanese culture began. The decade of 1930s was the start point of modern civilization in Taiwan. As the electric lamps, telephone, and water supply lines popularized, symbols of civilization such like the airplane and motor vehicles flooded into Taiwan. The cafés were becoming the fad of the day, as well as pop culture, movies, phonographs and jazz music. People´s mentality was opening up, and freewill dating was taking over arranged marriages, while dresses were replacing kimonos and Westernized education was popularizing. This was Taiwan in the 1930s”. On the top floor, there’s a very unusual Shinto shrine, there are also great views down to the road below, plus glass-covered walls that show where the building was damaged by air-raids during World War II. After the war, the building became mostly offices, but these days, it’s transformed once again into a shopping experience, though it has retained its original charm and elegance. I really liked it!

We didn’t visit the Confucius Temple, which is usually No. 1 on a historic tour of Tainan, but we did go to Anping Fort (aka Fort Zeelandia), built between 1624 to 1634 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC). After wandering around the fort, we stopped at the Old Street and also watched a folk tale performance in front of the temple. Our group had a go at the games, and Jun-Hong got himself a temporary tattoo of a tiger!

So that was Day Two, and after dinner, we set off for the hour-or-so drive north to Chiayi, where we stayed in the very stylish Kuan Hotel, on the outskirts of the city…

Day Three was Saturday, and we were all up bright and early for the world’s biggest breakfast in the hotel restaurant. All of our lunches and evening meals were in Chinese restaurants so this was a chance to have something a bit different – plus lots of coffee ready for the day ahead! Our first destination of the day was the very famous Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum; this was my second visit. My first visit was when Chiayi hosted the Lantern Festival in 2018 – with lots of people and a really festive atmosphere. This time it was far more relaxed and a chance to enjoy the lake and the architecture, there was also a special exhibit on Thailand – and large elephant inflatables in the main entrance! I really like this place, it’s spacious, well-designed and full of interesting things – but not too many – just the right size for a visit!

The most famous object in the museum is the stewed pork / meat-shaped stone: “The 5.73 cm tall Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) piece is made from banded jasper in the shape of braised pork belly”….

So that was Chiayi – and after lunch we drove north for 90 minutes to Taichung, our fourth destination of the trip. We visited Miyahara, “a red-brick architecture built by Miyahara Takeo, a Japanese ophthalmology doctor in 1927. It was the largest ophthalmology clinic in Taichung during the Japanese colonial period. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Miyahara became the Taichung Health Bureau”. After years of decay, it has now been reinvented as a restaurant and ice-cream shop, and designed like Hogwarts in Harry Potter. We also visited the Shenji New Village, but there were so many people, we didn’t stay long. Instead we decided to check into the hotel, then head to dinner and a quick visit to the Fengjia Night Market, most famous of all Taichung’s night markets – check out all those zillions of people!

Day Four arrived and there we were in the WeMeet Hotel in central Taichung. I lived in Taichung when I first arrived in Taiwan, from 1999-2006 and I kinda know my way around, so we were up very early to go and visit the nearby Taichung Park. The park is famous for the pavilion built in 1908 for the visit of the Japanese Emperor’s son to launch the railway – it’s the iconic symbol of Taichung, and looks good lit up in the darkness.

A-Tu and I wandered on and found Taichung’s oldest church, Liu-Yuan Presbyterian Church 柳原長老教會, built in 1915, which has a notice saying it is the only church in the world with dragon-shaped waterspouts… well, you learn something new every day!

And then we walked to the nearby site of the famous Yi-Zhong Night Market, which in the very early morning was distinctly less lively than it would have been some hours earlier. This is where I used to come for my language classes, and every day I would pass a church on the corner opposite the night market – an old wooden building, surrounded by a parking area. That church was originally a Japanese Anglican (NSKK) Church, but when the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945, there being no Taiwan Anglican / Episcopal Church at that time, so it was handed over to another church group. The building was still there until about 15 years ago, when it was demolished and a large retail building put up, with the church relocated to the top floor. You can see it in this photo. The lower floors are obviously let to Adidas – aka the Adidas Church?

My favourite place in Taichung is the Rainbow Military Dependents Village, famously saved from demolition by 97-year-old Mr. Huang, who started to paint the walls in beautiful designs, and over some years succeeded in saving his village. It is now a major tourist attraction, which is why we were there, but Mr. Huang is still the main focus, and he was posing for photos and enjoying the well-deserved attention. The government has stepped in and restored some of the buildings, and it is looking even better than before, while still very much retaining its original character. There are huge construction projects going on nearby, so soon the village will be a little oasis in the middle of a high-rise community…

After Rainbow Village, we went to the new National Taichung Theater, designed by Japanese architect, Ito Toyo, with lots of curved walls, under-floor air-conditioning and all sorts of sound caves and air-holes. We had an excellent volunteer guide who was really passionate about showing us around and explaining the design; he also took us inside the actual grand theater. His enthusiasm was so wonderful, infectious even – a very highly recommended tour!

So that was Taichung. We had one more place to visit, and that was on the way home, when we took the coastal road north to escape the worst of the traffic and visited the Miaoli Wind Farm, which was just visible far off in the sea – Taiwan’s first offshore wind farm, and on track to begin commercial operations by the end of this year…

And so we arrived back at St. John’s University on Sunday evening soon after 7:00 pm, grateful that everything had gone smoothly, thankful for our guide and driver, for good food and drink, and for all the amazing places we’d visited. This was a tour focused on Taiwan’s cities and urban areas rather than scenic landscapes, but as one of the group said, “We have plenty of beautiful scenery back home, but we don’t have high-rise cities – so that’s what we want to see!” And we certainly did see many, also a lot of baroque architecture which was the architectural style chosen by the Japanese to build Taiwan’s cities during the colonial era, 1895-1945. Now it’s just nice to back in the big open space by the sea that is St. John’s University, with the mountains in the background, and where the air is relatively less-polluted and the temps are definitely cooler. Ah yes, being away on a bus for 4 days really helps you to appreciate being home!

Thanks to SJU for all the planning and organizing of the whole trip, thanks to everyone in the group for being so lovely, and thanks be to God that everything went so well! YES!

Celebrating Taiwan’s Double Ninth / Chong-Yang Festival 重陽節!

Today is the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, known as Double Ninth Festival or Chong-Yang Festival 重陽節 and in Taiwan, it’s a special day for honoring all senior citizens. Yesterday I was in Taichung at St. James’ Church and the Rev. Lily Chang kindly invited me to stay on after the services for their Chong-Yang Festival lunch in a nearby restaurant. All those aged 65 and over were invited to join – and they had a few spare seats, which is how I got to be there too. The oldest there was 86, and the youngest had just turned 65 this year. Several were retired clergy and their wives, also one clergy widow. One of the main things to eat is long rice noodles – to wish for longevity. No wonder everyone lives to a great age in Taiwan!

On August 8, Double Eight, Taiwan celebrated Father’s Day (eight is pronounced ‘ba’, so 8/8 is ‘baba’, the word for ‘father’) but that was according to the Gregorian Calendar, not the lunar calendar. And this coming Thursday is Double Ten 10/10, Taiwan’s National Day, again according to the Gregorian Calendar. My neighbours assure me that this is the best kind of holiday for them, as Gregorian Calendar holidays do not require ‘bai-bai’ (ancestor or temple worship), so they’ll get a break. October 10 is a holiday, and we worked last Saturday in lieu of this coming Friday ~ so a four-day weekend is coming up, yes!

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!