Category Archives: Travel

Rayliu1

Pastor Ray’s blog Raykliu is continued in Rayliu1.

Please go to http://rayliu1.wordpress.com/ for future posts.Pastor Ray’s blog

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National Palace Museum

We visited the National Palace Museum, established 90 years ago and holds a collection of about 700,000 pieces of exhibit. The bad thing is that no photos are allowed 😦 . This was also when we appreciated the fact that we were on a DIY tour, not a packaged one, as there were many buses herding tourists primarily from mainland China from one exhibit to the next.

The most popular exhibits are the Jadeite Cabbage and the Meat-shaped stone. The former is a piece of jade skillfully carved making use of its natural green and white colors into the shape of a cabbage. The latter is a piece of jasper the strata of which resembled pork slow-cooked in soy sauce. Hundreds lined up for half an hour to see them for a few minutes. We were expecting big pieces of precious stones, but were surprised that they were only a couple of inches in size. Often in life there are big promises but disappointment when you finally meet them. So much for hype!

Main entrance of National Palace Museum

Main entrance of National Palace Museum

It happened to be the 90th anniversary of the building of the museum.

It happened to be the 90th anniversary of the building of the museum.

Looking from the museum to the main gate

Looking from the museum to the main gate

Second and third building housing other exhibits, which most tourists skip.

Second and third building housing other exhibits, which most tourists skip.

Hall in basement with statute of Dr. Sun Yet San

Hall in basement with statute of Dr. Sun Yet San

Many also overlook Zhishan Garden, a nice Song and Ming Dynasty style garden.

Many also overlook Zhishan Garden, a nice Song and Ming Dynasty style garden.

Nice gold carp pond with fountain, pavilion, and bridges.

Nice gold carp pond with fountain, pavilion, and bridges.

Jadeite cabbage

Jadeite cabbage

Meat shaped stone

Meat shaped stone

Pastor Ray’s blog Raykliu is continued in Rayliu1. Please go to http://rayliu1.wordpress.com/ for future posts.

Tamsui

The next day we visited Tamsui (Fresh Water, 淡水) the sea-side district to the NW of New Taipei City. This is similar to Toronto’s Harbourfront, with many shops and full of tourists on weekends. Or like Scarborough Bluffs with its board walks. Many also bike along the waterfront bicycle paths. A good place to take your family for an outing or just a leisurely stroll.

Street performer "sitting" in this posture with no visible means of support. Seat hiding inside his pants?

Street performer “sitting” in this posture with no visible means of support. Seat hiding inside his pants?

Gold Coast, fronting Tamsui River and Taiwan Strait

Gold Coast, fronting Tamsui River and Taiwan Strait

Foot tall soft ice cream. Got to have steady hands when you eat.

Foot tall soft ice cream. Got to have steady hands when you eat.

Seafood restaurants along the waterfront, similar to Saigon in Hong Kong

Seafood restaurants along the waterfront, similar to Saigon in Hong Kong

Ferries take you across to Fisherman's Wharf, or Bali

Ferries take you across to Fisherman’s Wharf, or Bali

George Mackay, a Canadian missionary doctor went to Taiwan when he was 28.

George Mackay, a Canadian missionary doctor went to Taiwan when he was 28.

Mackay founded many church and is widely recognized as one of the most influential missionary to Taiwan. He died in Taiwan at age 57.

Mackay founded many church and is widely recognized as one of the most influential missionary to Taiwan. He died in Taiwan at age 57.

Tamsui Old Street, with many interesting eateries

Tamsui Old Street, with many interesting eateries

Fisherman's Wharf, a renovated, very clean tourist attraction

Fisherman’s Wharf, a renovated, very clean tourist attraction

Lover's Bridge, where many gather to watch the sunset

Lover’s Bridge, where many gather to watch the sunset

Crossing the bridge to the former fish market

Crossing the bridge to the former fish market

You can no longer buy fresh seafood at the "fish" market, only packaged delicacies.

You can no longer buy fresh seafood at the “fish” market, only packaged delicacies.

Taipei 101

After Wulai we visited Taipei 101 in the evening. With 101 floors above ground (plus 5 underground) and 509 m tall, it is Taiwan’s tallest building and #12 in the world. [Burj Khalifa in Dubai at 832 m is currently #1; Toronto’s CN Tower at 553 m is #6.] It also claims to have the fastest passenger elevator in the world, but at 16.8 m/s it is actually #3, behind CTF Finance Center in Guangzhou (20 m/sec) and Shanghai Tower (18 m/s). To reduce the tower’s vibration in typhoons, it has a damper 5.5 m in diameter and weighs 660 metric tons.

Admission cost is NT$500 (C$20) per adult. The view is not bad but personally I much prefer ascending mountains than towers. When you claim to be the world’s tallest, or fastest, or best in anything, someone is bound to come along later that’s even taller, or faster, or better (一山还有一山高). Don’t focus on bragging rights. We have all been entrusted with this life. Focus on being faithful, because that’s what God required of us. 1 Co 4:2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.

Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taiwan.

Taipei 101, the tallest building in Taiwan.

Taipei 101, formerly known as Taipei  World Financial Center

Taipei 101, formerly known as Taipei World Financial Center

Taipei 101 claimed to have the world's fastest passenger elevator.

Taipei 101 claimed to have the world’s fastest passenger elevator.

The tower's vibration damper to protect from typhoons.

The tower’s vibration damper to protect from typhoons.

View from the top. Even tall buildings look like toys!

View from the top. Even tall buildings look like toys!

A corner of the floor is made of glass, so you can see through 91 floors to the ground.

A corner of the floor is made of glass, so you can see through 91 floors to the ground.

Wulai

Our first day trip is Wulai (烏來), famous for its hot springs year round and cherry blossoms in the Spring. The hot springs are colorless and odorless, mildly acidic with a pH of about 6.9, and supposedly good for the skin. It is the home of the Atayal tribe, former head-hunters but currently about 70% are Christians. Thank God for missionaries!

The place has several delicacies, notably wild boar skewers or sausages. A former railway for transporting raw materials during the Japanese occupation has been converted to tourist trams, taking people to the waterfall and hot springs.

Just to compare DIY to packaged tours, for the former you can take a bus from the Xindian MRT station, and walk through the old street all the way to the waterfall. The cost? About NT$100 (C$250) for a return trip. The alternative is to pay NT$1,200 (C$48) for air-conditioned tour buses, which includes taking you to the Neidong Forest Amusement Park, suspension bridge and cable car (rides extra) as well. Take your pick.

Wulai, the famous hot springs district south of New Taipei City

Wulai, the famous hot springs district south of New Taipei City

Amaya Tribal Museum. Atayal is the second largest tribe or aboriginal people in Taiwan, after Ami tribe.

Atayal Tribal Museum. Atayal is the second largest tribe or aboriginal people in Taiwan, after Ami tribe.

The Atayal used to be head-hunters.

The Atayal used to be head-hunters.

We lined up half an hour to try the famous Jacob Wild Boar sausage. Very fattening but tasty.

We lined up half an hour to try the famous Jacob Wild Boar sausage. Very fattening but tasty.

Being carried on the back now replaced by little trains, used to be mining carts.

Being carried on the back now replaced by little trains, used to be mining carts.

Pausing for breath half way up the hill.

Pausing for breath half way up the hill.

Walking up to the waterfall as little trains whizzed by.

Walking up to the waterfall as little trains whizzed by.

In front of Wulai train tunnel

In front of Wulai train tunnel

The 80 m high Wulai Waterfall. Volume substantially reduced by the drought.

The 80 m high Wulai Waterfall. Volume substantially reduced by the drought.

View of Wulai Village from train station

View of Wulai Village from train station

Taipei Tour, and Ximending

Taiwan is such an easy place to get around, whether by car or public transit, that we prefer a do-it-yourself (DIY) tour (自由行) at your own pace than a “herd the duckling” packaged tour. To begin with, the electric high speed rail (HSR) with a length of 345 km and speed of up to 300 km/hour, could take you from the capital Taipei in the north to Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan, in the south in under 100 minutes. The seats are wider, similar to business class in planes, and have more leg room, plus you can buy all kinds of snacks from push-carts or in dining cars.

Taiwan High Speed Rail

Taiwan High Speed Rail

Seats are similar to planes, but wider and with more leg room. There's push cart snacks for sale.

Seats are similar to planes, but wider and with more leg room. There’s push cart snacks for sale.

We like Taipei’s subway too. Taipei Metro (MRT) has 5 lines, 129 km of tracks, and 107 stations, taking you to most places in Greater Taipei Area (GTA) (metro population of 6.95 million) within 30 min. In contrast, Greater Toronto Area has a slightly smaller population of 5.58 million), yet its metro (TTC) has only 68 km of tracks and 68 stations in 4 lines, taking you to far fewer places.

But the biggest differences are in the price and the riders. MRT’s pricing is proportional to the distance traveled, charging a minimum of NT$16 (C$0.64) for the first 5 km, topping at NT$52 (C$2.08) for 31 km and over, if you use the Easycard (similar to Hong Kong’s Octopus card). TTC has a single cash fare of C$3 regardless of distance, even if you travel as little as one stop. Toronto just does not have a very equitable pricing scheme because it’s behind in technology.

We give a thumbs up to Taiwan’s public transit riders, who are more polite and friendly. People line up to get on public transportation. There are priority seats in buses and trains designated for seniors, pregnant women or those with young children, and the handicapped, both in Taiwan and Toronto. But unlike in Toronto where those signs are ignored, riders in Taiwan do reserve those seats for those they were intended for. One time we saw a young woman sat down in the priority seats. The senior beside her said, “There are vacant seats further away. Use those.” She replied, “What’s the big deal?” He answered, “It is a big deal to help those in need!” She quickly moved away. It’s the culture to respect elders and assist those needing help. Hats off to them!

Taipei Metro (MRT) with 5 lines reach many places in Greater Taipei Area (GTA)

Taipei Metro (MRT) with 5 lines reach many places in Greater Taipei Area (GTA)

Subway stations are generally bigger compared to Toronto or Hong Kong, but with very few ads.

Subway stations are generally bigger compared to Toronto or Hong Kong, but with very few ads.

Subway trains are open between "boxcars", and clean.

Subway trains are open between “boxcars”, and clean.

Taipei Station is the hub, like Toronto's Union Station

Taipei Station is the hub, like Toronto’s Union Station

Since it was already afternoon when we traveled from Taichung to Taipei, we had only half a day and decided to tour Ximending, a famed shopping district frequented by young people. Most pedestrians were born post-90’s. We guesstimated the average age to be 20-something. The block encompassed several streets and are closed to traffic as pedestrian walkways. Most shops sell either fashion clothing, or are restaurants. There are many street vendors, including artists painting caricatures, musicians, people selling arts and crafts etc. And the later it gets, the busier the streets become – truly a hangout for young people.

Ximending, a hangout for young people and shopping district

Ximending, a hangout for young people and shopping district

Ximending 1

Ximending 1

Ximending 2

Ximending 2

The famous Ah-chung Rice Noodle, where people wait in long lines for a bowl of noodles to eat while standing on the street.

The famous Ah-chung Rice Noodle, where people wait in long lines for a bowl of noodles to eat while standing on the street.

Street artists (painters, musicians) often perform on the block of streets closed to traffic.

Street artists (painters, musicians) often perform on the block of streets closed to traffic.

Sun Moon Lake

On our next Monday off our colleagues took us to Sun Moon Lake for team bonding. God was gracious as the forecast called for rain, but it turned out to be a mix of sun and cloud, not too hot, perfect weather for an outing. We left home early to avoid traffic, but got to Sun Moon Lake by 8 am, too early for the resort observation deck ticket counter to open. So we got a spectacular view for free! We then purchased a day pass for the ferry to take us from Shuishe Pier to 2 scenic spots (Xuanzang Temple and Ita Thao) across the lake. Since we were the first customers, the ferry operator offered us a 1/3 discount!

Lunch was at a restaurant recommended by a local souvenir store, with 7-course meal including local delicacies such as wild boar meat, president’s fish, wild mushrooms etc. at C$60 for 7 people. Not bad at all! We wrapped up the afternoon with ice cream at “Almost 18”, followed by a visit to Puli Brewery. The place gives away free coffee as a promotion. We didn’t exactly feel 18 again, but 18 years younger enjoying ice cream along with hundreds of happy customers under an open air canopy. God gave us not only a day of rest, an opportunity to enjoy His creation, but also good colleagues to encourage each other. Praise the Lord!

Sun Moon Lake, Nantou

Sun Moon Lake, Nantou

Observatory deck of Wen Wan Resort, overlooking Sun Moon Lake

Observatory deck of Wen Wan Resort, overlooking Sun Moon Lake

Glass bottom observatory deck of Wen Wan Resort

Glass bottom observatory deck of Wen Wan Resort

Chapel built by Chiang kai-shek, a Christian, at Sun Moon Lake in 1971

Chapel built by Chiang kai-shek, a Christian, at Sun Moon Lake in 1971

A ferry took us from Shuishe Pier to 2 scenic points Xuanzang Temple and Ita Thao across the lake.

A ferry took us from Shuishe Pier to 2 scenic points Xuanzang Temple and Ita Thao across the lake.

Ferries are like yachts. Daily pass costs NT$300 per adult, NT$200 (C$8) for early bird, not bad for C$8 a day.

Ferries are like yachts. Daily pass costs NT$300 per adult, NT$200 (C$8) for early bird. Not bad for C$8 a day.

View from Xuanzang Temple pier

View from Xuanzang Temple pier

Presbyterian Church at Sun Moon Lake. Church currently closed as there's no pastor. Want to apply?

Presbyterian Church at Sun Moon Lake. Church currently closed as there’s no pastor. Want to apply?

In traditional Thao tribal attire. Good day for team bonding.

In traditional Thao tribal attire. Good day for team bonding.

7 course meal, all local game, fish and vegetables for NT$1,500 (C$60). 7 people can hardly finish.

7 course meal, all local game, fish and vegetables for NT$1,500 (C$60). 7 people can hardly finish.

Ita Thao Pier

Ita Thao Pier

"Almost 18" Ice Cream, similar to Baskin Robbins with over 20 exotic flavors.

“Almost 18” Ice Cream, similar to Baskin Robbins with over 20 exotic flavors.

Puli Brewery, famous for Chinese wines.

Puli Brewery, famous for Chinese wines.

Alishan

Short-termers, like career missionaries, get a day off every week. The first Monday we were so tired from the week before that we all rested. The second week, however, our colleagues took us to Alishan (阿里山). Here are some photos:

Xiding  (隙頂) Scenic Area

Xiding (隙頂) Scenic Area

Alishan Post Office

Alishan Post Office

With our hosts Ed and Beth

With our hosts Ed and Beth

Scenic trail around mountain top

Scenic trail around mountain top

Many of these Cypress trees are over 1,000 years old, 30-45 meters tall, and have a circumference of over 6 meters.

Many of these Cypress trees are over 1,000 years old, 30-45 meters tall, and have a circumference of over 6 meters.

These pathways are newly constructed from a few years ago. This one leads from the Shenmu (神木) area to the railway station.

These pathways are newly constructed from a few years ago. This one leads from the Shenmu (神木) area to the railway station.

The

The “little train” that zigzags its way from Chiayi up Alishan. Tickets sold out quickly as the alternative is a long, gruelling bus or car ride through many twists and turns.

Alishan train station

Alishan train station

Carvings from tree stumps at train station

Carvings from tree stumps at train station

2216 m = 7270 ft high

2216 m = 7270 ft high

On the way to Fenqihu (奮起湖), one of 4 towns in the Alishan area.

On the way to Fenqihu (奮起湖), one of 4 towns in the Alishan area.

Fenqihu train station

Fenqihu train station

Too bad the ice cream in persimmon store was closed when we visited :-(

Too bad the ice cream in persimmon store was closed when we visited 😦

Family Conference scenic spots

We spent 3 days at our mission’s family conference, held at picturesque Pacific Green Bay Spring Resort in Xinbei, near Keelung in NE Taiwan. The beach was closed as there are strong undercurrents dangerous even for strong swimmers, but you can take a leisurely stroll and sun-bathe. We also visited Jiu Fen, a small town some 45 min. away by car, famous for its Old Street with many eateries. Here are a few video clips:

View from our hotel room:

Garden with chapel:

View of the beach with Turtle Island in the distance:

View 1 from Jiu Fen:

View 2 from Jiu Fen:

Our Mini Reunion (Part 3 of 3)

Day 6 we visited Cologne, Germany’s 4th largest city, with a guided walking tour of the old city. Cologne Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe, and took 632 years to build (from AD 1248 to 1880).

Cologne Cathedral's twin spires.

Cologne Cathedral’s twin spires.

The better half of our classmates.

The better half of our classmates.

The original 4711 Cologne maker.

The original 4711 Cologne maker.

Cologne's traffic-free shopping district.

Cologne’s traffic-free shopping district.

Back to being a freshman again.

Back to being a freshman again.

Day 7 we traveled to Kinderdijk, the Netherlands and visited a working windmill. When we crossed the dike from the ship to the windmills, the land was in fact below sea level and reclaimed from the sea. The primary purpose of the windmills was to pump out the sea water. Only later were they replaced by diesel and electric pumping stations.

Big shoes to fill.

Big shoes to fill.

With our team-leader who organized the reunion.

With our team-leader who organized the reunion.

One of 19 windmills in the area.

One of 19 windmills in the area.

Beautiful sunset background.

Beautiful sunset background.

Big kids - those were the days!

Big kids – those were the days!

Looking back, the trip was very memorable not so much for the places visited, but because of the company, friends we’ve known for nearly half a century. We look forward to the next one, as opportunities become fewer and fewer as time goes by. In the end, what we miss are the people. Treasure them while you can.