Tag Archives: Yilan

Roaring Down Taiwan’s East Coast in the Year of the Tiger! 🐯

The main tiger lantern at the Hualien Lantern Festival – looks even better at night all lit up!

Escaping from Taipei’s endless rain and cold, and in search of some sun, warmth and blue skies, so we just spent this past week driving down Taiwan’s east coast. Beautiful! Yes, sun, warmth and blue skies, all so much appreciated. My 3 friends, Xiu-Chin, Ah-Guan and her daughter Ya-Ling arrived here on Monday from Taichung and Tainan ~ first stop was to visit Rev. Philip Jung-Long Ho and his wife Shiao-Lan, recently retired back here to Sanzhi from Grace Church, Tainan. So wonderful to see them again!

We set off from Taipei on Tuesday and headed east to Yilan, staying in the famous hot spring town of Jiaoxi. Most interesting is the waterfall and RC church at nearby Wufengqi 五峰旗….

The story behind the church is that some 40 years ago, a group of hikers got lost in the mountains nearby and prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. She appeared to them in a vision and guided them down the mountain to safety. The church is beautiful, especially with the red lanterns for New Year and the pink cherry blossom…

We left Jiaoxi heading south to Hualien, stopping at the cliffs….

In Hualien, we visited Rev. Joseph Ray-En Ho (son of Rev. Philip Ho), his wife Pei-Yin and children, who are based at St. Luke’s Church…

His daughter carries a specially-made cross for some of the services, and was so happy to dress up for a photo with us!

We were staying at Ji-an, just outside Hualien, where the early morning scenery was just what we needed after all of Taipei’s endless rain!

We visited Liyu Lake, and watched the inflatable ducks and fountains performing to music…

We visited the local sites, passing by the famous Hualien Starbucks – in the shipping containers…

On Friday, we drove south from Hualien along the coast to Taitung, Taiwan’s most scenic coastal route, crossing the Tropic of Cancer on the way….

The east coast beaches are beautiful!

In Taitung, we stayed at a guest house right near the old sugar factory which is reinventing itself as a big art and cultural space…

Taitung is famous for its custard apples, being sold at the side of the road, so we bought a box and took them with us….

The multi-coloured building at Dawu has had a fresh coat of paint since I last visited, it’s stunning!

Saying goodbye to the east coast, we drove over the mountains and through the new tunnel eastwards to Pingtung, where we stayed with our good friend, Ju-Zi at Wouli. Last year I stayed with her over Chinese New Year and wrote up my blog post here about my visit. It’s an amazing place, with so much history and culture, and we had a really warm welcome. Ju-Zi lives in the Dachen Village in Pingtung, and cooks the most delicious and authentic Dachen food, which she gave us to eat on Saturday night, helped by A-Chao. So delicious!

After the Sunday service at St. Mark’s Church, Pingtung yesterday, so I returned to Taipei, while the 3 others in our group carried on to Kaohsiung to see the Taiwan Lantern Festival. In fact, they went out every night in every place we stayed to see the different Lantern Festivals. There were lanterns everywhere of every kind, including tigers of course. The Lantern Festival officially launches tomorrow, the 15th day of the first lunar month, but celebrations have been ongoing throughout this month. Great to see some colour. Also great to some blue skies and sunshine. Ah yes, it was a wonderful week of traveling round Taiwan, enjoying the scenery and visiting friends. In previous years, we’ve traveled round Taiwan during the Chinese New Year week itself, but then so is everyone else. We were fortunate this year to be able to go a week later, so it was much quieter – which means no traffic jams. YES! Thanks to everyone for their hospitality and my 3 friends for their company – and driving!

🏮Happy Lantern Festival everyone!🏮

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!

聖方濟安老院開幕慶活動 Grand Opening Day @ St. Francis Care Home, Toucheng, Yilan!


An amazing morning spent at an amazing place, at the Grand Opening Celebrations of St. Francis Care Home 聖方濟安老院 in Toucheng, Yilan County 宜蘭縣頭城鎮 YES!


Last Christmas, under the leadership of Rev. Lennon Chang, the charity bazaar and fundraising efforts organized by St. John’s University Chaplaincy raised NT$ 340,000 (US$ 10,350 / £ 6,985) for St. Francis Care Home.  At the end of December, a large group of us from the chaplaincy and Advent Church went there to present the donation to Sr. Betty, who had kindly come to visit us to share about their ministry.  For my blog post about that visit, and the amazing way in which all that money was raised, click here, the background story is quite inspiring!

Sr. Betty is from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who serve at the home. Today she was with a group of students from Fu-Jen R. C. University in Taipei, who are helping Sr. Betty with the computer classes, held in one of the classrooms in the day centre, and here we all are!


The actual consecration service of the new St. Francis Care Home is on Sunday August 21 at 5:00 pm.  Today was the Grand Opening Celebration, with the local mayor and community leaders, church leaders, volunteers and the general public.  There was a bazaar going on all morning, run by different community and church groups, selling all sorts of delicious things to eat and drink, plus sales of second hand clothes etc etc.  Starting at 9:30 am, there were the official opening celebrations, with performances of drums, lion dancers, local choirs, kindergarten children, church groups; each group was presented with a certificate of thanks.  Somewhere in the middle of the morning, VIPs from St. Francis Home (including Sr. Isobel) and local dignitaries gathered at the main entrance to do the ribbon-cutting ceremony ~ YES, it was OPEN!


To get to Toucheng from here in time for 9:30 am requires an early start ~ the first bus out of Sanzhi at 5:30 am, MRT to Taipei, then on the fast train going to Hualien – it stops at Toucheng, but as there were no seats left, I had to stand all the way. 90 minutes standing actually wasn’t too bad, and worth it to get there on time.  I arrived at the church and care home exactly at 9:30 am, just as the convoy of drummers and lion dancers was arriving – behind them was a whole line of the world’s largest motorbikes and the world’s toughest-looking bikers, and behind them were tons of cyclists. They had all ridden over from Yilan to show their support for the care home on it’s opening day.


I’d only been there 5 minutes when I was amazed to be recognized by a family whose children had been with me at St. James’ Kindergarten, Taichung many years ago ~ how’s that for a small world eh?!  Nadia is now 25 and just finished graduate school, she and her mother could remember all the teachers from St. James by name, and Nadia goes back there every Christmas for the scholarship presentations ~ and here we are!


And how come Nadia and her family were there today?  Well, it turns out that Nadia’s mother comes from Toucheng and their family home is just behind St. Francis Care Home! St Francis Home does a lot of outreach ministry with local seniors, and Nadia’s aunt is one of the volunteers at St. Francis.  Nadia’s grandmother, a very sprightly 85-year-old, was on the stage performing with the seniors group, she’s the one here in the stripey shirt, right in the front!


St. Francis Care Home is beautiful.  Really beautiful.  It’s very functional, spacious, and with lots of artistic and creative touches.  The large wall painting of Jesus at the resurrection with the empty tomb is spectacular.


So are the glass doors at the main entrance.  Just outside the main entrance is a wall painting of the local area, with a list of donors on it, including us – St. John’s University Chaplaincy.  That’s what I’m pointing to here, with the administrator….

As we walked round on the guided tour, all we could hear were exclamations of ‘wow’ and ‘oooh!’ and ‘aah!’ as we saw all the facilities.  Not everything is finished, but most it.  The building will eventually be home to about 40 residents, 4 of them have moved in so far.

And so, a few photos of the day!

We pray for God’s blessing upon the ministry of St. Francis Care Home as they care for the poorest of the poor in the Toucheng area, for the residents, the staff, Sr. Betty and all the church workers.  Thanks be to Almighty God, may His name be praised!

YES! NT$ 340,000 (US$ 10,350) all raised for 宜蘭聖方濟老人長期照護中心 St. Francis Care Home, Yilan!

Incredible!  Thanks be to Almighty God!  It’s done!  This month, St. John’s University and Advent Church have raised a grand total of NT$ 340,000 (US$ 10,350 / £ 6,985) for St. Francis Home  宜蘭聖方濟老人長期照護中心 in Toucheng, Yilan County – way beyond our expectations.  Thanks for everyone who participated!  Here’s our chaplain and rector, Rev. Lennon Chang, receiving the Thanksgiving Certificate yesterday from Sr. Betty in Toucheng R. C. Church ~  God is good!


Every year during December, on behalf of St. John’s University and Advent Church, the SJU Chaplaincy organizes a huge bazaar and collects donations for charity, a different charity every year.  This is the 18th year since Rev. Lennon Chang started the charity fund-raising project, and this year is the second largest amount collected in all those 18 years (For my blog post about the actual bazaar, held on December 16, click here).  To give you an idea of how we usually do, last year 2014 we raised NT$ 210,000 (US$ 6,393 / £ 4,310).

This past summer, Rev. Lennon Chang led a group of 16 young people, mostly students from our chaplaincy, on an overseas mission trip (for my blog post about the trip, click here). The area where they went was very very poor ~ with few facilities, but a lot of enthusiasm and love.   The church there has a Sunday School of 120 children which meets in a run-down old classroom, but Lennon was so moved by the Sunday School ministry, that in prayer he felt inspired to offer to raise the funds in Taiwan to build a new classroom for them – at an estimated cost of US$ 10,000 (about NT$ 330,000).  His idea was that this year’s fund-raising project could be for the new Sunday School classroom. When he returned to Taiwan, he set about trying to put his plan into action, but he immediately heard the bad news that such a donation made to an overseas charity would fall foul of Taiwan’s tax laws and be taxed at 20%.   He was heartbroken.  He’d made a promise to the church overseas and now he couldn’t fulfill it.  Prayer was the only answer.

Soon afterwards, he happened to meet a Christian friend, and out of the blue she asked him about his fundraising plans.  Long story short, she offered to donate the US$ 10,000 herself to build the Sunday School classroom – and completely in compliance with Taiwan’s tax laws!  Praise God that our prayers were answered in the most amazing way.

We then set about focusing on finding a worthy charity within Taiwan…..

And beyond all our expectations, what is amazing is that this year’s fund-raising efforts for the Taiwan charity also exceeded US$ 10,000.  So that’s 2 lots of US$ 10,000 ~ God has doubled the amount!  Not only has the Sunday School classroom been taken care of, but St. Francis Home in Yilan has also received the same amount.  A bit more in fact, but that’s God’s extra blessing.

So yesterday off we went to St. Francis Home to present the money.  20 of us, in the St. John’s University bus, including our clergy, and some each from Advent Church, St. John’s University faculty, staff and students…. here we are in the church!


Actually we’d sent the money in advance by bank transfer, but we went to see the place and meet Sr. Betty.  She and the St. Francis administrator came to visit us a few weeks ago at St. John’s University to share about their ministry.  On her visit, Sr. Betty, being so humble and modest, had spent most of her time sharing with us about the importance of love and compassion, rather than pushing the financial needs of their building project.  So it was a big surprise for us yesterday to arrive in Toucheng and see the 9-story building already up and looking beautiful!  The outside is more or less completed, but inside there’s still much to do, including all the painting and interior fittings.  They are hoping it will be done by May and the first residents can move in.


Toucheng is a township on the NE coast of Taiwan, in Yilan County.  Off the coast lies Guishan (Turtle) Island, which is Taiwan’s only active volcano. You can see it in the photos below in the distance, it’s visible from the top of the St. Francis Home, as is most of Toucheng.  Sadly Toucheng Town is very much overshadowed by its close neighbour, the nearby hot-spring town of Jiaoxi, which is booming since the Hsuehshan Tunnel opened up in 2006, meaning that travel times from Taipei are now less than an hour.  Jiaoxi is now oozing with money and new hotels and hot springs and restaurants and humming all year with tourists and new residents.  Toucheng is definitely not.

The R.C. Church in Toucheng is served by the priest from Jiaoxi.  He’s from Holland and belongs to the Vincentians, founded by St. Vincent de Paul.  The Daughters of Charity  sisters also belong to the same Vincentian Family, and Sr. Betty is one of the 2 Daughters of Charity sisters in Toucheng.  She has dedicated her whole life to serving the poor, in all different places in Taiwan.  She told me that there are 2 conditions for old people to be able to be admitted to St. Francis Home, firstly to be registered as on a low income, and secondly unable to take care of themselves.  When finished, 40 old people will be able to live there, and there’ll be a day care centre as well.  We had a tour of the 9-story building currently under construction ~ it’s gonna be beautiful, and the views are amazing.  It was a dull overcast day, but still we could see the whole world from up there!

The Toucheng R. C. Church, right there at St. Francis Care Home, is modeled on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, a kind of mini-version.  It’s light, airy, and beautiful.  The church was built in the 1960’s and is still going strong, with about 45-50 at the regular Sunday Mass, many of whom work in Taipei but return at weekends to visit their elderly parents.  Next to the church is the place where the sisters live, and behind the church is the care home.  The original buildings were being used as a care home for the poor until they were declared unfit by the government a few years ago and closed down.  The residents were sent home. Some died, unable to take care of themselves, but others are ready to move back in as soon as they are allowed to.  They hope that it will be in a few months time.  Even though so far they’ve only raised NT$ 20 million of the NT$ 80 million that they need for the building project, they’ve gone ahead in faith, since there is such a need in the area.  Our contribution is tiny compared with how much they still need, but hey, every little helps!

And finally us all – in the church….


Grateful thanks to all those who contributed in any way to this year’s fund-raising project through donating money, time and /or energy.  It was all well-worth it, honest!  Let’s pray for the St. Francis Home and their ministry of love and compassion to the elderly in Toucheng.  And let’s give special thanks to Almighty God for blessing us all this year way beyond all our expectations ~ YES!

SJU Christmas Charity Bazaar 聖約翰科技大學 聖誕義賣!

Our annual St. John’s University Christmas Charity Bazaar ~ on at lunchtime yesterday YEAH!  All run by the SJU Chaplaincy Team, Advent Church staff and church members, students past and present, supported by everyone ~ and all in a good cause.

This year the cause is St. Francis’ Care Home in Yilan 宜蘭聖方濟老人長期照護中心‬, run by the Daughters of Charity sisters, who are completely dedicated to serving the poor.  One of the sisters, Sr. Betty,  came here last week along with their administrator to share with us about their care home ministry – here they are, with Rev. Lennon Chang!IMG_1264

They’re hoping to raise NT$ 80 million to build a whole new 9-floor building complex, and even though they’ve only reached NT$ 20 million so far, they’re already going ahead in faith.  When the old building was declared unfit for use, they had no choice but to close it down and send the old people back home, but for some it was very difficult and they died soon afterwards.  So the sisters decided to try to raise the money for a new building ~ and we’re going there at the end of the month to present a cheque for the money we’ve raised….

Donations have been trickling in all month ~ after all it’s Christmas, and it’s also the end of the financial year, so everyone’s getting their accounts in order.  For our students and staff, the fundraising highlight is our bazaar, and all proceeds go to the same cause.  We’ve been collecting all sorts of jumble and odds and ends for sale, and many people have been busy buying and cooking, preparing food to sell for lunch today.  And we’ve all been busy buying books of tokens that could be exchanged for goodies ~ including coffee and lunch at the SJU coffee shop – YES!

And so, with the help of 20+ students past and present, church members and friends, we had a mammoth day – cold, cold, cold, but hey no rain ~ thanks be to God!

StIMG_1724ill time for more money to come rolling in, and we hope for great results!

And I was so happy that my former student Tom came to visit, he’s back on a short holiday from his job in Mainland China ~ here he is with his father in the middle of the bazaar!

And finally a group photo of all the students, chaplaincy staff and friends who kindly gave so much energy and time to help!


YES!  A great day ~ and thanks be to God for His many blessings!