Sunday, November 1, 2009

Mingchih (Yilan County)

First post for a very long time. There's not been so much to report in the last few weeks.

At the weekend, as it was our birthdays, we took a trip to Mingchih in Yilan County. It is actually just a few kilometers across the border from Taoyuan County, however we drove there via the freeway which skirts under Taipei (picture of a rainbow seen above the freeway), the 13 Km Xueshan Tunnel and Yilan on the East Coast.

After arriving at the first overnight stop, a B&B in Luodong, we discovered we had two punctures, we must have run over something on the road near the B&B. Such is the efficiency of things in Taiwan, we had 2 new tyres less than an hour a half later despite it being after 8 o'clock at night. The mechanic did a mini-service too and wouldn't accept a tip.

The next morning in heavy rain we set off for the steep, narrow and windy climb up to Mingchih.
Thankfully the weather up there was a lot better.

We visited the picturesque lake and heard the 'clarinet man' (some nice videos below). He performs twice a day on the banks of the lake, 5 days a week. A black swan lives on one of the islands and comes across when he plays, attracted by the music. The man said that generally the swan only paddles across for the morning performance. He kindly played a special song for Alice.

On the sunday we took an organised trip to see the 1000+ year old red cypress trees growing on the mountain. There are 62 trees in the area, 51 of which have been given names. The guided walk takes you on a 2-hour circuit amongst the trees, mostly up and down, good exercise with a 10.5 kg girl on your back for the second half. Just as we ended the tour the clouds descended and the rain started again.

On the way back, rather than retrace our steps and return home via Yilan and risk long traffic jams on Freeway 5 we continued on the narrow windy cross-island road and got back into Taoyuan County much more quickly. The rain discouraged people from coming up the mountain so there was very little traffic coming the other way, which was good as the road is quite narrow in places and two cars cannot pass.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


This weekend I took part in a 4 team cricket competition down in Chiayi. I only recently learned that cricket was played here at all on the island. There was a team of expats from Taipei and another from Kaoushiung, most of the players came from the UK, South Africa, Australia, NZ and India. There were also two teams of Pakistanis based in Taipei and Taichung. I was impressed at how high the standard of play was, some of the bowling and batting was of a very good standard.
Over the two days the teams all had to play each other in a round robin format with the top two reaching the final.
The competition took place inevitably at a baseball stadium with a few concessions made due to the circumstances. The baseball pitcher's mound was in the outfield on one side. The bowlers all bowled from the same end, so the batsmen had to swap over at the end of each over. The wicket was a green mat normally found in the nets laid out on the orange gravel.
The matches were 14 overs per innings - a shortened version of the shortened game which led to quite a bit of slogging and clambering over fences to retrieve balls hit for 6.
The only shame for me was despite there being many countries represented there weren't any Taiwanese players, it is a shame that none were invited to witness this alternative to baseball. One Canadian had divided loyalties, he sneaked across to join the baseball players practicing on the ground next door for a while.
Once again it was a very hot day (temperatures are very gradually starting to drop in Taiwan but it is still over 30 a lot of the time). My side had to play back to back matches and we ended up fielding in the first game and then going straight back in the field again for the next game.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It is amazing what they'll do to get elected. The elections aren't until December but the local KMT mayoral candidate is already out on his oil drum waving at cars. That's a particularly polluted junction which is always very busy. He spent hours waving at the passing cars.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


My journey to work this morning was delayed by a funeral procession. I managed to get past them eventually on the scooter and stopped to take a few photos. Not the usual line of black hearses as you would find in the west!


As you'll have seen from the news a severe typhoon hit Taiwan recently, causing a lot of death and destruction in the south of the island.

The north of the island was relatively unscathed, in Zhongli we had a lot of rain and some high winds for a while but nothing compared to further south. The high speed railway stopped operating for one day as a consequence of the bad weather. Video taken out of the apartment window.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Green Island

Last weekend I went down to Green Island off the south east coast of Taiwan. I flew down from Songshan Domestic Airport to Taitung and then took the choppy 50 minute catamaran journey across to the island. The last time Joanne and I were there it was in the winter (February), at that time of year there were hardly any tourists on the island. In August the place was crowded.
In February we had seen thousands of scooters parked up by the port, last weekend they were all rented out and were being driving on the 19 km road around the island.
I had an introduction to scuba diving in the beautiful crystal clear waters by
Although enjoyable, I opted to stick to snorkelling, the view of the reef and tropical fish is almost as good and the risks, should anything go wrong, are a lot less.
The weather was incredibly hot, the sun beat down mercilessly all day. On Saturday I neglected to put any sunblock on my shoulders and got a very bad sunburn, you just don't feel the sun when you're on the water surface. There have been a number of painful nights since then but thankfully the skin is slowly recovering.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Here in the north the rice is finally ready to be harvested. In the south where it's warmer they've already planted rice seedlings for the second harvest.


Yesterday at about 9.40 there was an eclipse in Asia. It was only about 82% in Taiwan but still worth taking an interest in. Several colleagues had glasses they'd kept after the last eclipse in Europe back in 1999, other used CDs to view the sun and one even used a shoe box with a small hole pierced in one end.
As the sun went behind the moon it got perceptively a little bit darker (but not much), you could certainly feel a drop in temperature standing out in the sun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Earthquake and World Games

The night before last at 2.05 am we were awoken by quite a significant earthquake. The epicentre was off the East Coast of Taiwan, the magnitude was 6.3. As we're on the 18th floor the building swayed and shuddered quite a bit and it made the wardrobe doors rattle. It was scary at the time. Thankfully it passed leaving the walls and ceiling in their original positions. Definitely the biggest earthquake I have experienced in my time here.
The World Games start tomorrow in Kaoushiung. It is a mini-Olympics for all the sports like squash that don't make it to the regular Olympics. The British singer Russell Watson will sing at the opening ceremony. At our local HSR station they have laid on a team of helpers and welcomers as a lot of spectators will fly in to the International Airport in Taoyuan here in the north and travel down to Kaoushiung on the high-speed train. Also pictured are the free shuttle buses that have been running for a few months now serving the cities of Zhongli and Taoyuan. I guess they'll be running for a few years until the MRT Blue Line is finished. Work has started on the MRT station opposite the HSR station in Taoyuan but it is very early days.
It is worth looking at the link below to the World Games website, there is a good video, albeit in Chinese.