Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rwanda, Swine Flu & Wolverine

Will be leaving to Germany next Tuesday before proceeding to Rwanda 2 weeks later. Family and friends are concerned with the situation there, Add ImageI’m curious about it too. Time to work again… Colleagues are assuring me of the peaceful and good living environment there, hope it is true. I wonder if I could adapt with this majority French speaking country.

The swine flu has alerted worldwide precaution of this mutated virus, stirring panic in many countries. What’s the cause of this mutation? Was that because of too much chemical substance in the feeds or injections on the pigs that mutating the DNA?

Watched the latest movie “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” yesterday… entertaining… but the fighting scenes are not enough!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Taiwan – Dan Shui (淡水)

Once important port city in the history for its geographical position. Just a short distance from Taipei, nowadays it is a pleasant weekend escape from the city. Foods are plentiful, and the Fisherman’s Wharf was a pleasant place shouldn’t be missed. The serene long boardwalk along the coast provides good venue for dating. A great place to see the sunset over Taiwan Strait.

Taiwan – Alishan Forest Recreation Area (阿里山)

Another top tourist attraction of Taiwan. The name was so famous and the song about the beautiful Alishan ladies was popular. Thought I would have chance to certify this statement, but I had no time. I stayed only 2 nights and it was raining. Without own transportation it was handicapped to travel to villages nearby.

To many tourists, it was a must to ride the small forest train from JiaYi (嘉义 – altitude 30m) to Alishan village (altitude 2200m). The journey took 3.5hr and passed through 3 climatic zones – tropical, subtropical and temperate. The train was 1 of the 3 most famous mountain trains in the world.

The Alishan village was small and packed with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. Starbucks was boasting its highest outlet in Taiwan here.

The common activity was to hiking in the forest. Plenty of centuries old trees around. The ordinary route was too easy and frequented by elder folks. So I tried challenging the TaShan (塔山 – altitude 2610m). Was regretful… I spent 4 hrs hiking on this route, but the thick fog and mist enveloped the whole mountain, not even the silhouette of nearer view could be traced. Worse, I injured my knee cap again, was painful to climb up and down the stairs on the way back.

Taiwan – Ken Ding (垦丁)

One of the favourite tourist spots in Taiwan, visitors come here for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, diving, hiking etc. The beaches around were not exceptionally good and the land rises fairly steep from the sea, but the water is clean. The view from the cliff over the coast was beautiful. The blue sky and the ocean were harmoniously integrated.

Tim brought me to here. We stayed at the small surfers’ hostel, right in front of the surfing beach JiaLeShui (佳乐水). Was good to try understanding surfing culture, but I didn’t pick up any lesson. Possibly having an unpleasant boat capsize experience in the past, have still a little phobia to swim in the sea.

There were plenty of go-kart racing circuits around though the fields were pretty small. It was my first trial, exciting!

The town center was transformed to night market after sunset. It was OK but I preferred the night life atmosphere in Phuket where tourists were throwing beer and music was blaring out loud from speakers.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Taiwan – Tainan (台南)

Tainan is the oldest and the 4th largest city. Among the places I have travelled in Taiwan, it has the most historical relics and temples, though the size, architecture and history are no way to compare with China.

The famous Matsu Temple was crowded with devotees praying for good luck in health, business, fortune, affair, safety etc… From the size of the crowd, one can tell if the deities had granted their wishes. To me, the concern is that, people would respect and believe in something and thus guiding their own behaviour in order and discipline.

The night market was really enjoying, huge and heavily packed. Local snacks were plentiful. Thank you Tim!

Taiwan – Yang Ming Shan National Park (阳明山)

It is said that the geological forces that frequently shake Taiwan have caused the island to be riddled with hot springs. The major attraction of Yang Ming Shan is the hot-spring baths. We sneaked into the forbidden area at BaYan (八烟) after 5pm. The meeting point of the two hot and cold streams was a perfect place for soaking. The water has a milky colour and mildly sulphurous odour. Though the water temperature of above 40C was slightly too warm, the feeling was real good.

Depends on the season, different types of flower blossom could be seen over the park. Fields of white HaiYu (海芋, Alocasia Rhizome / Giant Taro / Giant Elephant Ear) adorn the fields.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Taiwan – JiuFen (九份)

Nestled against the mountains, this small village was once center of gold mining during the Japanese occupation. It was abandoned after the mining sources dried up. It was said more than 100km of underground mining tunnels were crisscrossing inside the mountain, unfortunately the authorities did not explore the advantage of it for adventurous tourism sake.

Nowadays the tourists are flocking here for the old teahouses and traditional narrow lanes. The old JiShan Street was packed with plenty of souvenirs and snacks stalls. Plenty of Japanese tourists came here to recall their memory.

Thks to the hospitality of Shelly and A-Ru, they were my guide for these 2 days. This was my best memory in Taiwan.

Taiwan – Taipei (台北)

The moment travelling from the Airport to Taipei City, I realized that my expectation of Taipei was utterly wrong - I meant physically comparing to Hong Kong. The atmosphere was more laid back, not many high rise buildings studded the skyline.

The highlight of Taipei was the National Palace Museum, which housing huge collection (world’s largest and finest) of invaluable Chinese Arts brought from mainland China during the retreat of KMT. Among the focuses are the “jade cabbage” and “jade pork”… they were smaller than I thought.

The iconic Freedom Square (previously known as “Zhong Zheng” Square, the name was changed a couple of years back) was my pick for photographing. The buildings were grand, and the atmosphere was good. The gigantic bronze statue of Taiwan’s first president in the “Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall” was sitting high up overlooking the square.

The politeness of the sales promoters in the shopping mall was overwhelming, sounds like the Japanese culture… I had to respond with a courtesy smile each time… eventually I hanged the smile on my face in the whole afternoon.

Who won’t go to see the current world tallest (current record) building “Taipei 101”? I didn’t go up to the observation floor. The lower floors are lined up with world top class boutiques, very spacious. Wonder how much cost they need to spend just to replacing a spot light on the sky high ceiling, or to pump a liter of water to the top floor?

The most famous Shi Lin night market was interesting, is a good place to savour local foods and shopping.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Hate to see dentist but no choice… have to make routine check up to avoid greater disaster in future… aih… so I went to visit him this morning. After x-ray scanning, he suggested to crown a molar which was amalgam filled long long time ago, it would be getting weak sooner or later… cost me EUR450!

I complained about the front teeth problem happened to me a yr ago… after x-ray… infection was found at the root. He strongly advised to make an operation to solve this problem. Simple, he said, first cut the bone of 2 front teeth, flip both teeth upwards, drill and clean the pus inside the gum, flip down the teeth, stitching… half an hour job… EUR200! He added, pls come tomorrow with full breakfast and lunch, you won’t be able to eat for the next hours!!!

Taiwan – General

Savouring the mouth watering foods was one of my main reasons to here. It was good… plenty of delicious snacks, not similar to the traditional recipes in China, but prepared with new material and new idea. Foods are cheap, EUR1 grants an ordinary meal. The night markets themselves are tourist attractions, fun to get lost in the crowd. The “smelly bean curd” was really terrible to me, dare not to savour this Taiwanese delicacy.

The traffic was congested but not terrible as in Bangkok or Manila. Lots of scooters but the traffic was much better organized compared to Vietnam. Public transportation within city was though convenient, without own transportation it was not easy to move around for sightseeing in the smaller towns. In consideration of Taiwan’s historical, cultural and geographical aspects, I shouldn’t expect great monuments or sceneries as those in China. As friend Shelly advised, I should adjust my expectation accordingly, then only I would enjoy and appreciate Taiwan beauty better. She’s right!

Radio stations were boring, I expected more English channels instead.

Lots of tuition center, reflecting the over concern about education and examination. It must be a huge business. The advertisements of the top students were displayed in large to gain public attentions.

I was told not to discuss politics in the public, just to avoid someone would get mad with personal opinion and sparking off unnecessary disputes.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Taiwan Trip

Will be leaving to Taiwan tomorrow. In fact this was not on my priority travelling list, was just trying to kill time rather than staying bored at home. 2 weeks… only 2 weeks…