Tag Archives: taiwan

1999 Taiwan

At 1:47am on September 21st 1999, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Taiwan.  It killed over 2,400 people, injured over 11,000 and caused over US $10 billion in damages.

Why am I telling you about something that happened in Taiwan over 10 years ago when there are so many natural disasters striking other parts of the world on a regular basis (for instance the huge earthquake that just hit Turkey a couple days ago)?  When I was in Taiwan, I visited Jiji, a small town in Nantou province which was the epicenter of the earthquake.  Twelve years later of course, you don’t see the destruction the earthquake caused.  However, Jiji still has one reminder of the powerful earthquake.

The town has left one building, a temple, in the condition that it was in after the quake.  If you have never seen the power of mother nature it is quite the sight to see.

The town is building a new temple which is not yet completed, in a site right next to the old temple.  This is the new temple – and apparently the old temple was just as tall (about 3 stories).

May and me in front of the new temple

Behind it is the old temple.

The three stories of the old temple basically just collapsed onto the first floor.

The temple crushed by the earthquake.

You can walk all the way around the temple, see how the building fell and also the cables and ropes that have been added to keep the temple from continuing to fall apart.

Notice the concrete columns essentially broken in half

When you walk around the back of the temple, it is amazing to see up close the destruction from the strong force of the earthquake.  The concrete columns between the first and second floor of the temple have completely bent in half, as the top of the temple moved forward and collapsed down.

The concrete column between the first and second floor, crushed and the reinforcing (steel?) rods bent in half.

Another view - the second story - laying flat on top of the first story.

The statue in front of the temple

This is just one building that was affected by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck 8 kilometers underground.  I can’t fathom the original destruction caused by this quake, or the destruction caused by many of the recent quakes of an even larger scale.  This temple serves as a reminder that the destruction, loss and terror caused by mother nature doesn’t just go away with the news reports or when there is another story that hits the front page.  The disasters caused by mother nature can be indescribable, the healing and recovery can last for years.

My friend, Doug, who is living in Japan, wrote about this in his blog (http://www.dougbonham.com/) after he had the life changing opportunity to go volunteer with clean-up in Japan – six months after the tsunami.


One Fine Day in Taiwan

My Wednesday in Taiwan started out slowly, as did most of the days on my relaxed vacation.  We had wandered around the night market in Taichung (台中) until about midnight, so we slept late and weren’t in a huge rush to get moving.  We grabbed a quick breakfast near May’s house, then waited around for about 20 minutes for a bus before we decided to go looking for a taxi to get us into the city.  Apparently there aren’t many city buses going out near May’s family’s house – and taxi’s weren’t easy to find either.

Burning paper money in the street - stacks and stacks of it.

But I did get to snap a few shots of a couple burning paper money (a sacrifice to whichever god they were wanting a blessing from).  Apparently, the gods of Taoism enjoy when you burn paper money, cars, boats and other material goods for them. (Not actual items but paper representations of them.)

Round trip train tickets: $1.90

We made our way into the Taichung train station where we caught a slow-local train to Houli (后里) a small town in Taichung province.  It was a perfect, beautiful day.  Probably about 27-28 degrees Celsius or around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, blue skies and sunny.  As soon as we got to Houli, we were greeted by a woman eager to show us to her bicycle rental shop just about half a block from the station which is precisely what we were there to do.

Bike path this way...

Houli has a great cycling path on which you can explore the area, if you want to do the entire path it is around 35 kilometers I believe.

I wanted a picture with the bikes before we left the rental place. This is the better of the two and actually shows more of the bikes than the first one the woman at the shop took. I realized the first one perfectly framed the name and phone number of her store though... don't think that was on accident.

We followed her to her shop, tested out a couple bikes – including a tandem which we decided against, paid the daily rate to rent the bikes (200 New Taiwanese Dollars per bike for the day or about $6.50 US) and got directions to find coffee for the road (7-11) and a map.

That is what I call coffee to go!

Once we grabbed coffee for the road, we quickly were off the streets and onto the path where only bicycles were allowed.  Quickly we came to the large tunnel through a hill, an old railroad tunnel – at about a kilometer in length it was pretty impressive to ride through.  Out the other side was more impressive as the tunnel opened up to a large bridge over a creek, beautiful blue skies, and countryside.

May riding ahead of me in the LONG tunnel.

The end of the tunnel, opening to the bridge.

The bridge over the creek...

Or was it over a Greek?

Just off the bridge was the first tourist trap, most places were pretty dead as it was a Wednesday afternoon during a typical work week for the Taiwanese, but there was still someone standing out on the bike path to usher us in for free wine tasting at the Railway Valley Winery.  Several tastes of different wines, almost all of which were far to sweet for me, and we were back on the bikes.  (I didn’t try the Onion Red Wine, I’m just not sure what to think of onion wine.)  I believe all the fruit was local though, as we cycled along many grape vineyards, rice patties and other crops growing.

Railroad Valley Winery

Lots of tasting!

The bike path was a beautiful tree lined path which they have named the green tunnel as the trees completely envelope you, bringing you through the outskirts of a small Taiwanese town.

Green tunnel

Sorry, only bikes allowed on this path! (Signs of a small town)

Past a sugar refinery, the water treatment plant, the small businesses set up for tourists like restaurants, an ice cream stand and go-karts, along the creek until you reach the large dam.

The dam

Beautiful weather - standing on the dam.

Afternoon snack, meat sausage, rice sausage and ginger!

The path continues on to another bridge and more sights, but even after a quick snack of sausage and rice sausage, (and a pit stop at the squatter porta-potty) we decided to head back towards town.  School was getting out, and as we neared town the bike path was busy with high school students riding home.  We grabbed ice cream at 7-11 (the ice cream shop was closed) and I was the attraction of the day for all the elementary school students who stopped by the shop for a snack before heading home.

My very first squatter porta-potty! I had to get a picture.

After returning our bicycles, we hoped back on the train for our 20 minute ride back to Taichung.  From the station we walked through Taichung Park to May’s family’s business, a stationary store in downtown Taichung.  We grabbed a scooter (and unlike in China also grabbed helmets) and made our way to GB’s for a western dinner and cold beer.  (See my Taiwan = Food post.)

Taichung Park

Riding around 台中 behind May on the scooter.

A walk around the park like setting of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, where many others were relaxing, practicing Tai chi or getting their excercise dancing, completed our lovely day exploring beautiful Taiwan.  It might well have been my favorite day in Taiwan.

台湾 = Food!

Taiwan = Food!

October 1st is National Day in China, a celebration of the formation of the People Republic of China.  The whole county has (at least) three days off of work, but I hear the custom is to not return home to be with family for this holiday – as they do on Chinese New Year – but to go on vacation.  Either way, the 1.3 billion residences of China are on the move, ticket prices are high and everything is crowded.  I decided to spend this holiday away from the crowds and took a nice little trip to Taiwan.  (No, they do not celebrate the founding of the People’s Republic in Taiwan, they have their own national holiday on October 10th to celebrate the Republic of China.)

My dear friend May was in Taiwan for the holiday and I traveled mostly with her, but also spent time with some other Taiwanese Kid Castle co-workers and met up with several fellow MIM alum from Taiwan for dinner one night.  My theme for my 6 days in Taiwan – FOOD!  As my status message said on Facebook:

What did you do in Taiwan, Julia? Oh, you know… I ate, then ate some more, then we went and got some food and ate a little more. Oh, wait… then got a drink and decided we needed something to eat with it!

That was on my second day in Taiwan.  May and I had gone to Danshui (淡水), a section far north in Taipei that is right on the mouth of the Danshui river, normally a touristy place and very beautiful but it was raining the entire day. (We also learned that all of the tourist attractions closed the first Monday of every month, which happened to be when we were there.)

Soaking wet and nothing to see, so we continued to eat!

However, that didn’t stop us from trying all the famous local cuisines. My third day, I was a little nausea – but I only let it keep me away from all the delicious delicacies for sale from vendors lining the streets for a couple hours.

Here are some of the lovely foods I tried in Taiwan!  (With the MIMers I had the best hot pot ever at 無老養生鍋 – Elixir Healthy Pot, but didn’t get pics of the food.)

阿給 or A-Gei, tofu stuffed with rice noodles and deep fried

A-Gei served cut up and with a sweet/spicy sauce - I wasn't terribly impressed with it.

Possibly the best pork baozi I've ever had

One of Danshui's specialties. Iron Eggs - dark in color and hard (or chewy)

I was a bit hesitant to eat black eggs, but they weren't bad!

Also delicious pork wrapped in carbs - these were juicy and delicious. Here they are being made.

They are then stuck to the walls on the inside of these ovens and scraped off when done!

I’m so glad May and I got to this little shop when we did because after we bought two the man told the next customers it would be 30 minutes before the next batch was ready!  Oooohh… they were juicy goodness!

Had to check out the local beer! Nothing exciting - but more flavor than Tsingdao (which doesn't say much).

Samples of many types of little cakes, flakey and crisp on the outside with a multitude of fillings.

After a wet afternoon in Danshui, we went to the Shilin (士林)night market.  Another Taiwanese specialty – night markets, sometimes even multiple night markets, in every town.  Where you can buy just about anything you want and where there is always tons of delicious food!

Cooking on and eating off of the counter - at the night market

Fried oysters and eggs (didn't eat this one)

A few other things I opted out of ordering - pig liver, brain, stomach and heart

I did eat this! Which is way tastier than it looks. Just a fried egg with veggies and special sauce.

Huge sausages!

Cut up and served with fresh garlic! Yummy!!

Whew… I feel fat just looking at all the pictures of foods I ate – and that was just the first DAY!  While in Taipei, we were staying at May’s aunt’s house in the Yonghe district.  Yonghe is famous for their soybean milk, so of course we had to start out with breakfast one day at the Yonghe Soybean Milk Magnate!  Where we had a traditional Taiwanese breakfast.

Two types of soy milk, sweet and salty (the salty had some bread like stuff in it as well) and fried dumplings.

We then left Taipei, where it was still rainy and traveled to Taichung (May’s home town) where it was sunny and warm!  That afternoon I didn’t feel so well, perhaps from all the new foods I had tried the day before.

My nausea kept me from trying the pork blood and rice dish May bought here, suprisingly the thought wasn't what made me sick!

By night fall I was ready to sample foods at the night market again!

Like my super tall ice cream cone!

The following day, after cycling around Houli, we decided to go western for dinner.  May learned from a friend that the “good burger place” she knew of in town also brewed their own beer.  So we decided to go for dinner!  Turns out it is an American chain brewery restaurant – but not one we have in Portland.

Beer! At Gorden Biersch in Taichung.


BBQ sauce, bacon and cheddar cheese on a burger and garlic fries! Oh yes, Taiwan has GOOD food.

The last stop on my trip was Nantou county – the only county in Taiwan which does not boarder the sea. We stayed with my friend Osteen’s family in Caotun and visited the town of Jiji.

Meat balls in Caotun - pork and some sort of starchy substance served in pink sauce

Jiji is famous for bananas!

Banana egg rolls - not the egg rolls you are thinking of, but more waffle cone like dough cooked and rolled - these were banana flavored. (We also had delicious local banana ice cream!)

I finally tried a tea egg! (Hard boiled eggs cooked and soaked in tea)

A Taiwanese classic - beef noodles

Food – that is what I saw in Taiwan!  Okay, there was a bit more than that, but I will save it for another time.  All in all, with enough walking and cycling, I only gained about one kilo in my week of eating my way through Taiwan!

Simple Chinese

I was asked before coming to China if I had considered Taiwan instead (of the mainland).  My answer – I don’t want to go to Taiwan because Chinese is difficult enough and I don’t want to have to learn the traditional characters.  You see – in terms of their language (despite both speaking Mandarin Chinese) Taiwan and China are worlds apart.  As to whether or not they are separate countries – I will just say “No comment” for the time being.

For a little lesson in the differences between Mainland China Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese Mandarin Chinese check out this article by BBC News: China and Taiwan

I would have to agree with the eight year old student in the article.  Writing Chinese characters (or 汉字)is very tiring and difficult.  I am still flabbergasted by the thought of having to learn and write traditional characters.  I will stick to Mainland China’s simple characters for now.

Simple… like the ones I learn in Chinese class.









Oh, those are just a few.  But speaking of Chinese characters, I think I impressed my students today when I wrote a sentence on the board in Chinese.  Go Julia! The English teacher can write in Chinese!!

Another side note… I managed to entertain a stranger at Starbucks by telling Roger (who is a Brit) that I was now teaching his former students “proper American English”.  The man sitting across from us burst into laughter as he too was British and found my claim quite entertaining.  🙂


%d bloggers like this: