Saturday, February 25, 2006

And now for a picture that needs no explanation...

Sorry about the lack of postings. I have been really busy preparing to leave for Thailand on the morning of March 2nd.

Oh boy.

I will post again before I leave.

I hope this picture makes up for it. HA.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Canada's Reputation on the World Stage

I was over at a friend's co-worker's house the other day when I heard the greatest thing.

A friend of the host - down from Taipei for a few beers - mentioned that he had "met 10000 Canadians" since he had come to Taiwan. The host being an American, I guess this friend assumed that company present were all American, because he went on to say "they're nothing but a bunch of negro lovin', tree hugging, Pepé Le Pew's."


I said, "10001."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

For Sale

I'm leaving Taiwan on the 2nd of March, but I need to sell all of my worldly possessions first.

If you are interested in buying anything, give me a call at 0910641538 mornings, afternoons, or after 9:30 pm. Customers in Canada should dial
011-886-910641538 to order and discuss shipping options.

Friends who notice that I am selling things that you gave me should know that I plan to use part of the profits to buy you a beer the next time I see you.

Everything is cleaned and ready to go.

Blender - 100 NT
Sampo Toaster Oven - 200 NT

A pot for instant noodles! - 50 NT
Wok with copper bottom - 100 NT
Tea Pot - 100 NT

Fan - 150 NT
Heater - 150 NT... just look at that heat!

A reading lamp with no lamp shade... you can make one! Think of it as an art project - 20 NT

Shower curtain and rod - 100 NT

As well, if you are looking for an apartment, mine will be available. It's a pretty new 2 bedroom split level apartment next to the LuoDong Sports Park (not the castle or GuanTianXia).

It is fully furnished and has a good sized kitchen, living room, 1.5 bathrooms and hardwood floors upstairs.

Rent is 6000 a month plus utilities, plus a two month damage deposit. The landlord is totally hands off. You will never hear from her. Let me know

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cycle Mountain, Cycle Sea - Part VI

And, finally...

Got up at 600 am for a quick bike/hike up to the summit of a little peak with a view of Jade Mountain (YuShan). At 3952 meters, it is the tallest mountain in north east Asia. At 2854 meters, we were still way under it. Above is a bad pic of the sunrise over a cloud covered Jade Mountain.

It was somewhere around zero that morning, and frost covered the ground.

From here we biked down the mountain towards PuLi, passing Sun Moon Lake - what must be Taiwan's number one tourist destination among local tourists - in the early afternoon.

From PuLi we took a bus made our way up to LuShan, an incredibly busy hot springs area (a little too close to TaiChung I guess). If you ever go there, I suggest you cross the river and head upstream on the path that clings to the cliffs along the right side of the river. In the back you will find this great little aboriginal village and a few quiet homestays.

This is a picture of the homestay we stayed at. What a great place. You can see the pools down near the river. A perfect place for a vacation I think. Quiet gardens, and a great Philippino couple with fluent english doing the cooking and cleaning.

And a picture of the springs...

Things got a little hairy the next day. We managed to head about 10 km up the road before discovering that we were on the wrong road. The road was crazy steep, and we had decided to hitch a ride with a blue truck. They chuckled when we explained that we were going to HeHuanShan... and down the mountain we went. We started the climb again on the right road, but by this time it was already past noon. We got to Tsing Ching Farm after a draining climb to about 2300 meters at around 3:00. HeHuanShan still being another 1000 meters higher, we started hitching again. Unsurprisingly, no one was heading up the mountain on that particular late Sunday afternoon.

In the end, the best thing to do was to abandon the plan and bike back down to PuLi and hop a bus.

And so it ends.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cycle Mountain, Cycle Sea - Part V

Friday was mostly work, though there was some play. As we got higher and higher, it got cooler, and then cold. Really cold.

Near 2000 meters, the betel palms started to give way to more and more tea fields and natural forest.

Finally in the early afternoon, we got to ALiShan. ALiShan is famous for it's huge old trees that the Japanese didn't quite get to cutting down. Some of these cypress trees are thousands of years old. Nice.

Mist engulfed Alishan in the late afternoon both times I have visited. It's a beautiful and mystical place.

They've built these great elevated walkways through a couple of the groves with the oldest and biggest trees.

From here we made for YuShan, because accommodation is crazy expensive in Alishan. It was 20 km up to the top of the road where another ShanZhuang awaited. We got there, just before dark. The aboriginal owners were really good to us, likely because they thought we were very stupid to be up on the mountain with no reservations, no food, and no parkas. We had already resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be dining on pao mien, but the owners managed to fit us in for dinner with a huge group of very nice Taiwanese tourists. They were really really nice. They prayed before eating dinner, which is one of the most strange and unexpected things I have ever seen in Taiwan (second only to strippers at temple dedications). Turns out they were all Jehovah's Witnesses. Very strange indeed. Fortunatley, no copies of the watchtower changed hands, and fine hot dinner was enjoyed by all.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cycle Mountain, Cycle Sea - Part IV

Kenting was the last stop of the the trip for the bicycle club, so on Thursday morning everyone got on the bus for a long trip up the west coast superhighway back to Taipei and eventually Ilan. We got off at Chaiyi in the early afternoon and started biking up to ALiShan.

We took a side road and were rewarded with a quiet, narrow, and freshly paved (though steep) road that hugged the mountain sides.

The entrance to a busy town with some famous temple or another. It made for a busy road the first 10 km or so.

Though he meant well, Brett offends local sensibilities by pointing at GuanYin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy. Ok, really he was indicating the road's course around that hump over GuanYin's left shoulder.

Buddha is laughing because go knows we are suckers for trying to bike up to YuShan. Locals joined him at times.

After that busy town, things got quiet. It was all betel nut plantations mixed in with tea fields. A perfect ride.

In this area, almost every mountain side was stripped of jungle and replaced with vast betel plantations. This is obviously a big environmental problem in Taiwan. Riding through a stand of betel palms you notice that the air is hot, dry, and quiet; In the jungle a couple hundred meters down the road the air is cooler, humid, and teeming with insects and birds.

Betel Palms in the foreground and tea fields in the back.

In the late afternoon, we found this great little ShanZhuang (Mountain Hostel) that let us camp for 100 NT each. The mountains in the background foreshadowed what Friday had in store.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Cycle Mountain, Cycle Sea - Part III

Kending (Kenting) is sometimes described as Taiwan's little Thailand. That being the case, I have to say that if Thailand is also like a big traffic jam in the middle of a night market, maybe I'll skip it. Being the Lunar New Year, it was a total gong show. Here are some pictures that conveniently ignore that fact.

Actually, it wasn't that bad. The weather was good, and most of the tourists stayed off the beaches and in the market (which consisted of stalls on the side of the highway).

In Taiwanese culture, death by drowning - along with being murdered or committing suicide - is one of the worst ways to go. People who succumb to such a horrible fate are doomed to wander as a hungry ghost in some kind of earthly purgatory. Suffice it to say Taiwanese people generally don't really like water. Getting a sun tan isn't good either (more to come on this later), so most people spend their time on the beach fully clothed sitting under umbrellas.

Most of the southern coastline is covered in this beautiful petrified coral. My co-worker Robert had to spend a couple nights in the hospital over Chinese New Year after he was thrown up against some of this stuff while surfing on the south-east coast. Ouch.

To be honest, most of these pictures were taken last year when I visited KenDing with my parents in early April. The sky was clearer, so the light was perfect. The second one really was taken this time though.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cycle Mountain, Cycle Sea - Part II

On Tuesday from TaiDong (22 73'69.23" N, 121 06'65.89" W), it was a 90 kilometer ride from the east coast, over the mountains, and down into Taiwan's little desert near KenDing (21 94'01.79" N, 120 79'77.68" W). It was a nice, uneventful ride with blue sky, sunscreen, and quiet Taiwanese towns. So, some of us raced.

AnDongNi and A-Chun up front on road bikes.

Way down south through banana fields and rice paddies.

Waiting around at an important intersection. The sign on the far left is our eventual destination.

A nice old house on the side of the road.

Sorry I'm so slow on these updates. There will be two more updates over the next few days.

Cycle Mountain, Cycle Sea

I'm now back from the Lunar New Year holiday, at work for the second day after an 8 day trip around Taiwan by bus and bike. It was a two part trip. The first half was spent with about 30 fellow riders from the Ironman Bike club in Ilan. For the second half, Brett "I'll have cabbage and white rice" Ratchford and I jumped off the bus to spend four days biking through the interior of Taiwan.

We started off crazy early Monday morning at the bike shop for a 300 km drive down Taiwan's east coast to Taidong. We planned to get to Taidong in the early afternoon and spend a few hours biking to our destination, but there was a hold up. Apparently there was a little 4.4 earthquake directly under us that blocked the tunnel ahead just north of Hualien. We were stranded in a tiny coastal town for about 3 hours while they fixed it up. You can see the tunnel and a few bored families in the pic above. That's our bus on the right.

An old structure on the edge of town.

Back on the road, I shot this pic shot through the bus window near the Chingshui Cliffs. Below are the train tunnels, and above the car tunnel. Like most days this time a year in the north east of Taiwan, it was cool and drizzly.

Anyway, solid traffic and the long delay meant we didn't get to our Shanzhuang until 8 in the evening. It was late, but we were happy to see the stars as the clouds broke up later that evening.

We woke up the next morning in our mountain dormitory to blue skies, a hot sun, and an amazing view. We were now south of the Tropic of Cancer and ready to ride.

More tomorrow.