Tag Archives: Tea

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!

From Singapore to Taiwan ~ welcoming Rev. Chye Ann Soh and his lovely wife, Helen!

Yes, my most favourite CMS Asia Director ever!  IN Taiwan.  NOW!  This very moment. YES!  I’m so so happy!  Even though he’s no longer my CMS boss, hey, he’s here ~ YIPPEE!

Chye Ann’s been to Taiwan many many times over the years to see us – when I was at St. James’ Church, Taichung, and now at St. John’s University.  He’s always been so supportive and encouraging of me being here, gets on really well with Bishop Lai and all the clergy, and is always so interested in all that’s going on in the diocese.  And when he preaches, he has everyone rolling in the aisles with laughter.  Oh yes, and all our kindergarten teachers used to say how much he looked like Jacky Chan 成龍, so handsome!

On one of his trips 5+ years ago he brought with him a very distinguished group of CMS VIPs, all with various combinations of Rev / Canon / Dr attached to their names, including then CMS Director, Tim Dakin, who’s now gone on to be Bishop of Winchester. So you never quite know with Chye Ann what’s going to happen next and what exciting things are going to happen while he’s here!  And the big excitement this time is that his lovely wife, Helen, has come too, and not only come too, but 2 days earlier than him.  What a gracious and wonderful guest she is ~ we’ve had such a fun few days together!

And the reason why Helen has come to Taiwan is because since they returned from the UK to Singapore a few years ago, Helen has been involved in a craft group in Singapore called POPIN, described on their website as:

‘Sponsored by the National Art Council of Singapore, Popin and Craft is a place where a group of local artists, designers, and creative individuals organize community craft events to encourage a passion for making handmade crafts and bring the community together through art. The name itself means “Pop-In!,” which suggests the notion of welcoming, a vision that Popin has for the community’.

Singapore is well-known for being a really stressed-out country where people work really really long hours, with no leisure time at all (or no energy left to enjoy what little leisure time they might have!) and when they retire seems they have little motivation to do anything other than stay home cleaning the house and watching TV…..  So POPIN is a way to help people find some creative ways to improve their lives ~ and it is the first craft group to be recognized and supported by the Singapore government. So they’ve received funding for the POPIN group to visit Taiwan to learn about Taiwan crafts, and that visit takes place next week.  Helen’s particular interest is needlework, and way back in August, she wrote to ask about the possibility of coming a week early to see something of Taiwan….

And after a lot of persuasion, Chye Ann decided to join her for part of this week – partly because it’s their 34th wedding anniversary while they’re here…. yes, they are such a delightful couple, so a wedding anniversary celebration in Taiwan is a great idea!

These days Chye Ann is no longer my CMS boss and CMS Asia Director, he’s now doing social enterprise in a big way, helping his friends in Singapore set up the Singapore branch of Opportunity International – described by Wikipedia here as

…. a nonprofit organization that provides small business loans, savings, insurance and training to more than five million people working their way out of poverty in the developing world. It serves clients in more than 20 countries and works with fundraising partners in the U.S, Australia, Canada, Germany and the U.K. Opportunity represents itself as a non-denominational Christian organization that serves all its clients regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity or gender. Opportunity was founded in 1971 by Al Whittaker, former president of Bristol Myers International Corporation in America.

It’s officially part-time work, but it took him to Myanmar last weekend and Hong Kong next week ~ so he’s busy busy busy as always!  And it’s why he couldn’t arrive in Taiwan until Tuesday.  And guess what he’s doing with the rest of his time?  Apart from keeping up with the family in the UK (the Apple Watch goes beep beep beep to announce the arrival of the latest video of the grandchildren!) and his 92-year-old mother and zillions of brothers and sisters in Singapore, lately he’s renewed his childhood passion for art, and is producing beautiful watercolour, ink and acrylic paintings of the UK and old Singapore ~ these are 4 of the best, aren’t they great?!

And so it was that early on Sunday morning I found myself heading to the airport to meet Helen ~ and it’s been non-stop ever since!

A very healthy breakfast with the Tan family outside on their balcony on Monday ~ wonder how many other 90+ years-olds in Taiwan are out on their balconies at 14ºC in December eating breakfast every morning?!  They are amazing.  And so healthy!  We also visited their farm – horses, geese and dogs, then to my English classes all afternoon and evening, and then with our chaplaincy staff on our Advent Walkabout round St. John’s University on Tuesday morning.  Tuesday evening off we went to the airport all dressed up for Christmas to meet Chye Ann on his arrival, and then the 2 of them moved to stay at the diocesan office hostel in Taipei.  The most important event down there was of course tea-drinking with Bishop and Mrs. Lily Lai – what a great time we had.  Great meals as well, but the tea-time is always the best time – sharing fellowship together, they all get on so well!  And last night, Bishop Lai gave us very special 50-year-old Oolong Tea to drink, very very exclusive!

And today?  Well, they’ve left today for a trip up to Alishan and Sun Moon Lake, 2 of Taiwan’s most famous scenic places, famous for sunrises, tea, beauty and of course, honeymoons – ideal for a wedding anniversary celebration!

So a BIG WELCOME TO TAIWAN to Chye Ann and Helen ~ and congratulations on your 34th wedding anniversary!  Come back next year for your 35th – coral and jade are the themes, and both are VERY famous natural products of Taiwan!

PS: Update Tuesday December 15 ~ and Chye Ann and Helen are back from their trip to Alishan and Sun Moon Lake having had a great time, sunny weather (unlike the rest of us ha ha!) and smooth travel. So yesterday morning off I went for breakfast with them before saying goodbye….

But first, their farewell tea-drinking with Bishop Lai ~ and Chye Ann had painted a teapot watercolour picture for him as a gift ~ beautiful eh?!

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So a fond farewell to Helen as she goes off to join her craft group tour of Taipei, and Chye Ann as he leaves for Hong Kong.  And do please come again soon!

Taiwan Episcopal Church 60th Anniversary Celebration Day 台灣聖公會宣教60週年感恩慶典 ~ YES YES YES!

60 years old ~ and in Chinese culture, the 60th birthday is always THE major landmark… Thanks be to Almighty God for his many blessings over the last 60 years, and here’s to the next 60!

Actually, the day started at 2:20am (yep, it’s true) with a massive huge thunderstorm that brought torrential rain, thunder and lightning for the next 3 hours ~ the end of all sleep for the rest of the night!  No oversleeping then for those of us gathered at Advent Church for the journey to Taichung for the big day ~ but in fact by daybreak the rain had stopped and the sun came out, and the views from the bus were oh, so beautiful!  Over 700 people were on their way to Taichung from all corners of Taiwan, the very farthest away – Hualien church members had left the night before, for the rest of us on the west coast, Keelung and Pingtung started out at 6:00pm, and we were a bit later at 6:30am ~ and everyone made the most of the 2-3 hour journey to practice the songs we were singing in the afternoon performance….

By 9:30am we were all gathered at Chung-Hsin Elementary School in Taichung, not far from St. James’ Church, in a big hall rented for the occasion.  The Thanksgiving Service started at 10:00am with a spectacular drum performance by children from St. James, and continued until midday and a buffet lunch, and then all afternoon all our churches, congregations and kindergartens put on performances of music, song and dance….

In case you’re wondering (bear with me for a little background to all this) how come the Taiwan Episcopal Church is only 60 years old given that Henry VIII’s marital problems and break with Rome are not exactly recent history, let’s just rewind a little….

And you’ll find that actually there’s been an Episcopal Church in Taiwan far longer than 60 years, but in the early years it was Japanese rather than Taiwanese.  During the Japanese colonial period from 1895 to 1945, the Japanese Anglican Church NSKK owned church buildings in Taiwan and held services for its Japanese citizens in these churches.  In those days, Taiwan came under the NSKK Diocese of Osaka.  After the Japanese left Taiwan in 1945, most of their Anglican Church buildings were taken by the Nationalist government in Taiwan and given to other denominations.  The Taiwan Episcopal Church was established in 1954 originally to serve the American military who were based in Taiwan, and came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Hawaii.  It also took pastoral care of the former C.H.S.K.H (中華聖公會) Chinese Anglican Church members, who had come to Taiwan from Mainland China…..

Fast forward to 2005 and the Japanese connection was kind of rekindled when the Dioceses of Osaka and Taiwan signed a companion diocesan agreement, initially for 3 years ~ and it’s been renewed every 3 years ever since!  So we were very honored to welcome a group of 29 from the Diocese of Osaka, Japan, led by Bishop Osamu Onishi and Rev. Akira Iwaki, who came for 5 days, including a 2-day visit to Hualien.   During the Thanksgiving Service Bishop Onishi and Bishop Lai signed the companion agreement for a further 3 years.   A member of the Osaka group, Ms. Ayano Tsuji, also composed a special song ‘Tomoni’ (一起 meaning ‘Together’) in honor of the 60th anniversary and our friendship; this was sung at the opening of the afternoon celebration, led by Ms. Tsuji on the piano….

We were also honored to welcome 3 distinguished visitors from Hong Kong, Archbishop Paul Kwong, Provincial Secretary Rev. Peter Koon and Rev. Kenneth Lau.  During the Thanksgiving Service, Bishop Lai expressed his sincere thanks to Archbishop Kwong for his generosity in providing scholarships for 2 seminarians from the Diocese of Taiwan to study at Ming-Hua Theological College, Hong Kong for 3 years, starting this September, and also for help in printing the Taiwan Episcopal Church 60th Anniversary Bibles (with Apocrypha) which were dedicated during the Thanksgiving Service.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, had sent an official letter of congratulations on the occasion of the 60th anniversary and a gift of a carved wooden picture of the 4 gospels – she was represented by the Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, Sam McDonald, who was accompanied by Canon Peter Ng, Asia-Pacific Officer of the Episcopal Church.  Also from the Episcopal Church, Mrs. Mimi Wu represented Province VIII and Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry.  Our only regret was that Archdeacon Douglas Fenton, (from our other companion diocese of New Westminster, Canada) was unable to come at the last minute due to visa problems that were only discovered when he got to the airport to board his flight (take note, all those thinking of a trip to Taiwan!) …..

In the middle of the afternoon performances, the Mayor of Taichung, Jason Hu 胡志強 came to visit us, with a group of councilors and representatives.  He spoke of his time when he studied in England (University of Southampton, and PhD from Oxford) and his acquaintance with the Anglican Church in the UK, and how honored he was to be invited here for this celebration…. check out the photos!

What a day!  Never a dull moment in the whole 7-hour programme of events, helped considerably by the music, dance and performance talents of our diocesan kindergarten teachers who provided amazing entertainment keeping us all on our toes all day long, plus of course church members who sang and played instruments and led praise and worship exercises and acted out Bible stories, all wonderful!  And the day finished with the singing of 3 hymns, including Amazing Grace and Onward Christian Soldiers….

And so we all left for home at 5:30pm, armed with a box of breads and cakes for the journey…. a great day YES!

But the weekend did not end there, of course!  St. James’ Church, who had so marvelously hosted all the day’s events, continued their welcome to the Osaka group, who worshiped at St. James on Sunday morning, yesterday.  The group (and most of our other visitors) leave for home this afternoon, and so last night we all gathered in Taipei at the Shanghai Restaurant for a grand Farewell Dinner ~ and, so it turned out ~ a Japanese Tea Ceremony, hosted by Mrs. Michiko Nishimura in her beautiful kimono ~ an appropriate and special way to end our celebration weekend, thanks be to Almighty God!

In case you haven’t guessed what I did all weekend, well – I have reduced my 1,500+ photos down to 200 or so….. here are just a few of them!

Thanks be to God for his amazing blessings YES!